I am not a heresy hunter. In fact, I believe many heresy hunters are way off base. However, the Bible says there is a such a thing as heresy. If this is true, then we need heresy hunters. Even if they are off-base.
They’ve been called many things, like Discernment Bloggers or the Truth Police. They are reviled by some and hailed by others. My first encounter with heresy hunting took place in the early ’80’s. Dave Hunt’s controversial book The Seduction of Christianity was the catalyst. The church we were then attending removed numerous books from their library as a result of Hunt’s charges. All Catholic books were expunged as well as any author employing psycho-therapeutic techniques, which included the iconic James Dobson. Hunt took aim at faith healers, mystical prayer techniques, yoga, and self-help.
Heresy hunters are still very much at work today, and their list of heretics is quite long. Recent notable figures / groups who have been found on that list include, Brian McLaren, Benny Hinn, Rob Bell, Rick Warren, Harold Camping, John Piper (for believing in an Old Earth), Thomas Merton, Mother Theresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Crouch, TBN, every pope, and all Catholics.
Oftentimes, their charges are nit-picky, Pharisaical, and wildly melodramatic. For instance, in an article entitled Seven Tactics of the Heresy Hunters, Troy J. Edwards writes
In the beginning of the Pentecostal movement at Azusa street in 1906, the leaders of this movement, William J. Seymour and Charles Parham were labeled “rulers of spiritual Sodom.” Another person labeled them, “Satan’s preachers, jugglers, necromancers, enchanters, magicians, and all sorts of mendicants.” This same person also labeled the Pentecostal movement as “spiritualism.” Another well known preacher of that time labeled it, “the last vomit of Satan”…
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Pentecostals were also falsely labeled as “hypnotists,” “mentally unstable” and attributed the miraculous manifestations in the churches as “demonic power.”
I have my own issues with Pentecostals. But I have never considered them “the last vomit of Satan.” Either way, after watching all the charges fly, it’s led me to ask whether heresy hunting can become a sort of heresy all to itself.
But this post is entitled Why We Need Heresy Hunters, so let me explain my simple rationale. It goes like this:
- The Bible explicitly says that the Church must be on guard against heresy, against false teachers and false doctrine (I Tim. 4:1), and those who “secretly introduce destructive heresies” (II Pet. 2:1). Christians are called to “not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (Heb. 13:9) but to be vigilant and discerning. These biblical charges are very pointed and largely undeniable. There is such a thing as false doctrine and we must know where to draw the line.
- Those who vigorously oppose heresy hunting often have a hard time affirming and identifying what actually IS heresy. This is one of the most disturbing conclusions I’ve reached in the last couple of years. Those who are most adamant and resistant against the heresy hunters are often those with squishy theology. In fact, they usually spend a lot of time talking about love and unity. I dunno, but this makes me very suspicious.
- Thus, regarding possible heresy it’s better to err on the side of caution, than grace. Better to remove the entire leg than save the leg and risk letting the gangrene permeate the body. Better to have a theology that is too strict than too lax.
Which is why I believe it’s better to tolerate heresy hunters, even encourage their role, than to blow them off. Even though they may be fanatical, extreme, narrow-minded, and defamatory, they play an important role in the Church. Now, I just hope they don’t label me “the last vomit of Satan.”