With the growth of the internet has come a blessed ability for a Bible teacher’s influence to spread out, beyond his local congregation. With this has also come the ability of pastors to watch other pastors. With this has come the growth of the “heresy” industry.
There is almost no better way to increase your video-clicks than to accuse another pastor of heresy. His followers will listen, your followers will listen, (few minds will be changed), and viewership will increase. While I seriously doubt this is the reason that most pastors get into the heresy trap, I have no doubt that pastors realize that viewership goes up when controversy goes up, and thus they grow comfortable with creating controversy.
Is everything heresy?
It seems that heresy has become anything I disagree with. In one sense, that is the meaning of the Greek word. The word αἵρεσις [hairesis] is used of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17) and of the Pharisees (Acts 15:5) and of the Christ-followers (Acts 24:5). The King James Version translates it with the English word sect in five of its nine uses. But we don’t speak Greek, we speak English.
In the English dictionary, a heresy is a belief that is “not orthodox,” thus something that is outside of the authoritative position of the church. But most of us are free-church advocates. We do not subscribe to church-based creeds as our standard of orthodoxy.
And furthermore, we don’t use heresy in the way of the English dictionary either! If we did, we could say, “that is heresy because it is against the ____ creed/confession.”
We use heresy to mean “if a person teaches heresy, he should be marked and avoided because he has so perverted the Gospel of Jesus Christ that one cannot be saved under that teaching.”
And if that is what heresy is, then most so-called heresy is not heresy at all.
Some non-heresy heresies
We could give a thousand examples of heretics who teach heresies that are not heresies at all. What they teach may be wrong, or even unbiblical, or perhaps unhelpful, or even unwise, but it is not heresy.
Perhaps it is heresy in the Greek sense: a sect, such as “Baptist.”
Perhaps it is heresy in the dictionary sense: opposed to a certain creed.
But is it heresy in the normal usage sense? Does it so pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ that one cannot be saved under that teaching.
Here are some things I’ve heard called heresy:
- The mid-trib rapture position
- The King James Only movement
- The teaching that some of Paul’s writings may be to the Jews alone
- The idea that the church is (or isn’t) the Bride of Christ.
- Church governance under a single (or multiple) elders.
Friend, these are areas in which people disagree. My local church may, in its study of the Word, determine that one of these is a “non-negotiable” for teaching, or even for membership. But none of these are such perversions of the Gospel nor the person and work of Jesus Christ that they would be called heresy in the normal usage of the word.
Every opposing teaching is not heresy
I hope I can be gracious enough (in this age of grace) to recognize that some teaching is wrong, but not throw that heresy stone at those who teach it.
I’ll call it wrong. I’ll teach (from the Word) why I think it is wrong. I’ll build my argumentation from good assumptions, good hermeneutics, and good logic, to defend my case and sway others to my way of thinking.
But I think I’ll reserve the heresy label for heretics.
Will you join me?