≡ Menu

Friends Don’t Let Friends Become Heretics

I might be a heretic. At least that’s what some inferred after I mentioned I was leaning toward Inclusivism. Sure, some of the charges came in the form of finger-wagging. But for the most part, it was friends cautioning me heretic-nametagto be careful, to be faithful to Scripture, and to not be deceived by the spirit of the age.

You know what? I totally appreciate that.

It’s kind of like the dinner conversation I had with two Christian author / editors. One was finishing up a project with an outspoken religious progressive and championing ideas of questionable veracity. The passion escalated quickly as one of the individuals stated “I refuse to follow a god who commits genocide” (referring to the slaughter of the Amalekites). From there, they shambled into New-Age pantheistic blather about God possibly being a stone or a footstool. I eventually lost it and stormed away from the conversation. Once I calmed down, I tracked down these individuals and apologized, admitting that I was genuinely concerned for their souls and where these beliefs would take them. They agreed that this was serious stuff and we left on good terms.

Because that’s what friends do — they don’t let friends become heretics.

Of course, such theological challenges or inferences don’t always sit right.  Like the former pastor friend of mine who quoted something from former pastor Jim Palmer (what’s up with these “former pastors”?). It was an excerpt from Palmer’s project named the Religion-Free Bible. Palmer’s one of the myriad of “victims” of organized religion who are, apparently, treating their wounds with feel-good mumbo jumbo. Palmer undertakes to re-translate sections of the Bible through a “religion-free” lens. What comes out sounds remarkably like Deepak Chopra. Like this quote:

“Love gives. Love is what brought me into this world. I am a gift, offered in love. Love desires your freedom. Love desires your wholeness. Love wants you to know yourself as complete. Love wants you to be at peace. My life was an invitation to this freedom, wholeness, peace and love. But my invitation is a choice. You have also been fed a lie about yourself that will ultimately destroy you. The lie says you are bad and worthless, irreparably flawed, defective and unacceptable, and undeserving of love and acceptance, even from God. I’m here to say that’s not true, and I’m asking you to believe me. Even when everything in your head or everything n your life seems to be evidence of the lie, I’m asking that you believe me instead. I’m going to be gone soon, and I need you to get this because I need your life to be that invitation as mine was. You are as much a gift to the world as I am, and I want you to accept and own that for yourself. Love never stopped giving. Love keeps birthing new expressions of the truth to awaken those lost in the lie. First, you have to wake up yourself and then your life naturally becomes the smelling salts this world needs.”

– Jesus, John 3:16-17, RFB

Love desires your wholeness. Huh?

Love keeps birthing new expressions of the truth to awaken those lost in the lie. Say what?

First, you have to wake up yourself and then your life naturally becomes the smelling salts this world needs. Excuse me, while I kiss the sky.

Frankly, this sounds like something that was run through the New-Age Bullshit Generator.

What happened next was even more interesting. When a concerned party exhorted this guy to be cautious about embracing false doctrine and potential heresy, he got all defensive.

  • Stop judging me.
  • You’re not the theology police.
  • There’s more than one way to interpret the Bible.
  • God is Love, not Doctrine.
  • This is between me and God.

For folks who want to get back to the “real Message,” it’s funny how resistant they can be to reproof.

I love how the apostle Jude put it:

22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

We have a responsibility “to those who doubt,” to those who are dangerously close to “the fire.” We are to “save” them and “show mercy, mixed with fear” as we do so. This includes, I think, those who are drifting into false doctrine.

Their duty is to listen.

“True friends,” said Oscar Wilde, “stab you in the front.”

Perhaps the truest test of friendship is whether or not someone will “show mercy, mixed with fear” and question you about potential heresy. And perhaps the truest test of faith is whether or not we will shut up and listen.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on Reddit
{ 7 comments… add one }
  • David James April 17, 2014, 7:19 AM

    You know, the funny thing is that when you know God is Love, and when you understand what God’s intent was for humanity, then what the guy said is not that far off, but what I found crazy about it is how this was supposed to be a reinterpretation of John 3:16-17. I was reading along and then got to the end and saw which passage this was supposed to be.

    I had to look it up again my own self and read it to be sure of what I remembered for a moment there.

    I felt like I’m visiting with a foreign dignitary from China at a government function in D.C. and I say, “Hi, my name is David. How are you?” and the interpreter talks for the next five minutes so that the dignitary would know what I had said. Sometimes it’s just the simplicity of knowing that God sent His Son to save the world because He loved the world so much. 😉

    When I was a child, I read what everyone seemed to be reading and what every preacher seemed to be preaching from: The King James Version. I was aware of, and had read from, the Living Version, but it was the KJV which seemed the most “authoritative”.

    When I was a teenager, I came to realize that there were other versions that seemed to be as valid, if not more so, as the KJV. But I wanted to get as accurate as I could, so after looking over a few I picked the New International Version (which wasn’t too new at the time and may need a “new” name in another decade or so) and began reading that.

    In my 20’s I discovered The Message, and even though it took “liberties” with translation, I loved how it was able to turn what was said into a more modern speak without straying too far (a matter of opinion depending on the quoted passage) from the intent of the original authors. I never read it all the way through, but I liked having it to share the gospel with people that just didn’t “get” what the Bible was saying.

    Now, in my 30’s I have discovered a word for word literal translation (as opposed to interpretation which the above three fall into as well) which does the translation in a concordant fashion. By reading this I have had a fresh perspective that goes beyond anything I have read before. Sometimes it is like I am reading God’s Word for the first time. I am highly impressed with it.

    I will now share John 3:16-17 from the Concordant Literal New Testament and although I’m sure you’ll agree it’s different than what you are used to with the KJV (or whatever version you may usually read from), this is nowhere near the far cry the above quote Mike gave happens to be.

    “For thus God loves the world, so that He gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian. For God does not dispatch His Son into the world that He should be judging the world, but that the world may be saved through Him.”
    (John 3:16-17 CLNT)

  • Jill April 17, 2014, 8:53 AM

    So you were called a heretic. Did you agree with this assessment? There has to be some basis for what is heretical and what is not. That was the original purpose of the creeds–a summing up of the nonnegotiable tenets of the Christian faith. However, there is much that the creeds don’t address, and there are many Christians who don’t believe in creeds.

    • Mike Duran April 17, 2014, 9:17 AM

      Because I agree with the central tenets of historic Christianity regarding God, Man, and salvation, no, I don’t believe I’m a heretic. But I do feel that the category of heresy is being watered down. There seem to be less heretics these days, and I can’t help but see this as a bad thing.

      • D.M. Dutcher April 17, 2014, 11:53 AM

        I think this is because people are more likely to be with people they agree with. The book “The Big Sort” is a good treatment of that.

  • Suzan Robertson April 17, 2014, 11:37 AM

    Mike wrote:

    When a concerned party exhorted this guy to be cautious about embracing false doctrine and potential heresy, he got all defensive.

    Stop judging me.
    You’re not the theology police.
    There’s more than one way to interpret the Bible.
    God is Love, not Doctrine.
    This is between me and God.

    Well, that sounds all too painfully familiar.

    The insanity we call organized religion gives us wonderful opportunities for good, meaningful discussions. Sadly, there are many missed opportunities these days.

    Real discussions fall by the wayside in favor of:

    1. Refusal to discuss doctrine. (What does it matter?)
    2. Becoming incredulous, indignant, and derogatory.
    3. Using a straw man.
    4. Name calling and ridicule.
    5. Questioning motives. (Don’t judge.)
    6. Muddying the waters.
    7. Changing the subject.
    8. Emotionalizing.
    9. Manufacturing “new” truths
    10. Creating distractions
    11. Silencing critics

    Funny thing, the above list is taken from tactics used by propagandists to spread disinformation and push their agenda. The biggest things we (and I include myself in that “we”) might be mindful of in the face of this stuff is: listen first, think before speaking, and ask questions. I’ve found that the more questions you ask, the clearer it becomes that the person getting all indignant has no idea why he/she believes what he believes – they just “feel” that way.

  • Lyn Perry April 17, 2014, 11:54 AM

    Regarding this ‘God is Love’ blather, I always say, yep that’s true, but the reverse isn’t the case. Theology is not math – so while God is love, love is not God.

  • Jessica E. Thomas April 17, 2014, 12:06 PM

    Thank you! This is so timely for me. I greatly offended a Facebook friend for speaking out against Jim Palmer. It got pretty ugly, and I walked away with steam coming out of my ears. My friend felt I was angry and preaching (and, well, I was angry, so I wasn’t as eloquent as I ought to have been and I drew the conversation out much further than I ought to have), but I was genuinely concerned for this person.

    I’m like you, I want people to check me. If I’m saying things that sound too far afield, I want someone to tap me on my shoulder. I might not agree, but then again, eventually I might. (It might take me a decade to change my mind, lol.) However, this person isn’t in a place where they want to be checked, and that’s their choice. I should respect their choice, and I do.

    I think when opinions/worldviews are so starkly different among Christians, a decision has to be made whether to continue in Christian fellowship but a friendship relating to non-spiritual matters can still flourish. In other words, it doesn’t have to end in “You’re not a Christian anymore!” (and walking away in a huff without looking back) but instead, “Let’s not talk about matters of faith for awhile.”

Leave a Comment