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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Are you a heretic?

A heresy is a sect. A sect is a party formed for the purpose of separating some of God's children from the rest. Sects are formed by factionalists, those under the insidious influence of the party spirit. No one who is honestly mistaken about some matters of scriptural interpretation is a heretic. To be a heretic one must make a test of fellowship out of his opinion or interpretation and attempt to establish a party to promote or protect that view. Not only is the common view of 'heresy' held by the majority unscriptural, but it is inimical to the peace and harmony of the body of Christ, for many reasons.

1) It brands and stigmatizes humble seekers after truth whose character is above reproach and whose only crime is that they cannot concur in every view of opinion held by those who have assumed the role of infallible interpreters of the sacred scriptures.


2) It assumes that each faction or party has an infallible interpretation of the word of God at the same time that it denies the possibility of an infallible interpreter.


3) It makes real communication and interchange of ideas with other sincere students of the word in the Christian realm virtually impossible.


4) It breeds inconsistency of the worst kind. We are betrayed into rejecting those who have not attained unto a certain intellectual status at the same time that we receive those whose moral and ethical behavior is inferior. It rejects those whom God receives and receives those whom God rejects.


5) It denies the validity of the only law bound upon those in Christ Jesus--the law of love. It limits and restricts the real applicability of this law to those who conform to the party norm, and thus reduces it to a factional dispensation. If you doubt this, all you need to do is to read the various journals to learn that each has its own circumscribed 'brotherhood' and each of these brotherhoods is composed of those who conform to the party test.


(The brief comments above are from an article entitled "What Is Heresy?" by W. Carl Ketcherside. The article is contained in a journal, Sound Words, that was published in the mid 1980's.)

http://www.unity-in-diversity.org/frm_main.htm

8 comments:

amity said...

Amen. Yes I agree with this.

I could not pass very many people's test of fellowship either! But I am in excellent company.

clinch64 said...

It's getting to be that anyone who takes a certain stand on a particular doctrine issue,etc., is labeled a heretic. It's a dangerous sign when the accepted norm is just to blend in. If you notice that when someone espouses an unpopular view, they are just giving their interpretation. However, when someone declares a view accepted by the masses, they are just proclaiming truth. Would our founding fathers fit the definition of heretics?

Neil

amity said...

I want to modify my original comment some. I would have reservations about some points, actually.

Also, not clear on what exactly he means by "test of feelowship." Open communion?

R. L. Vaughn said...

I can't be certain what he meant, but usually among us Baptitss a test of fellowship is something that elevates to a disruption of church fellowship, communion, interchurch fellowship, etc.

Mark Osgatharp said...

This writer says, "No one who is honestly mistaken about some matters of scriptural interpretation is a heretic. To be a heretic one must make a test of fellowship out of his opinion or interpretation and attempt to establish a party to promote or protect that view."

So how far do you carry this philosphy? What if someone in your church honestly believes that Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin? What if some woman in your church honestly believes God called her to preach?

So long as they are willing to tolerate you believing the truth about these things, are you supposed to tolerate them in their error?

Mark Osgatharp

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bro. Osgatharp, you have a valid concern which Ketcherside's comments do not address (at least in what I have excerpted here).

Whether these are covered by the word "heresy" or not, does not necessarily bind us to fellowship them. IMO, if Ketcherside's definition of hairesis/heresy is correct, then these are not particularly "heresies". IOW, the way he defines it and the way we commonly use the word are really two different things. [As a side note, hairesis/hairetikos is used in the following New Testament verses: Acts 5:17, 15:5, 24:5, 24:14, 26:5, 28:22; I Cor. 11:9; Gal. 5:20; Titus 3:10; II Pet. 2:1; Most seem to fit the idea of sect/sectarian with a few possible exceptions. I'd welcome your thoughts on them.]

Of your two examples, it seems the first one -- denying the virgin birth -- would run quickly afoul of John's instructions; e.g. II John 1:7 - "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." Even with something like this, most of us would probably see a difference between a new believer who doesn't "believe" the virgin birth because it is a new concept and a believer who has come to reject the idea. Anyway, a "taught" person couldn't continue to juggle recognizing Jesus as the Son of God while denying the virgin birth. One requires the other.

On the second -- a woman in the church believes God has called her to preach: if this is an otherwise ok sister, perhaps it could be handled as I know of in a few cases where a brother believed himself to be called to preach. Though he believed it, the church did not recognize the call. The reason for not recognizing the call wouldn't be the same, but the effect would be. These cases usually "resolve themselves", with the person either eventually admitting the church was right, or (more commonly) moving on to another church that will recognize them for what they claim to be.

Just some thoughts that may or may not be worthwhile.

Mark Osgatharp said...

Brother Vaughn,

If we accept Mr. Ketcherside's philosophy at face value then we effectively destroy the ability of the church to deal with false teachings within it's membership. This philosophy was adopted by the Northern Baptists, and to some extent the Southern Baptists, decades ago and facilitated the wholesale disemination of false doctrine - heresy if you will - among them.

Not only so, it makes those who stand up against false teaching to be the heretics rather than those who promote false teaching. This was basically the charge levelled by Ahab against Elijah when he accused him of troubling Israel. Elijah's response to that accusation was that the real troublers - heretics if you will - were those who had departed from the Lord's commandments.

I do think it is evident that the New Testament uses the term "heresy" to refer to the divisions - sects - caused by false teachings rather than the false teachings themselves. But to oppose the modern use of the term on this basis is, in my opinion, the same sort of quibbling that would stop us from using the terms "trinity" or "providence" because those terms are not found in the Bible.

When you look at Acts chapter 15, for example, the term is used of the "sect" of the Pharisees. But it is evident that the reason this sect existed is because certain men in the church had embraced - and undoubtedly had "honestly" embraced - a teaching that was subversive of the gospel.

As for the matter of the virgin birth, there is no such thing as a "believer" who does not believe the virgin birth. To be a believer at all you must believe that Jesus is the Son of God which inherently involved believing in the virgin birth.

As for a man who thinks himself called to preach and a woman who thinks herself called to preach, those are two totally different things. Whether or not a man is called to preach is a somewhat subjective matter. But womanhood is purely objective matter and the Scriptures categorically condemn women as preachers. Therefore we have the perfect right to tell any woman who says she is called to preach that she is dead wrong - no matter how honestly she might believe herself to be called.

Mark Osgatharp





Whether these are covered by the word "heresy" or not, does not necessarily bind us to fellowship them. IMO, if Ketcherside's definition of hairesis/heresy is correct, then these are not particularly "heresies". IOW, the way he defines it and the way we commonly use the word are really two different things. [As a side note, hairesis/hairetikos is used in the following New Testament verses: Acts 5:17, 15:5, 24:5, 24:14, 26:5, 28:22; I Cor. 11:9; Gal. 5:20; Titus 3:10; II Pet. 2:1; Most seem to fit the idea of sect/sectarian with a few possible exceptions. I'd welcome your thoughts on them.]

Of your two examples, it seems the first one -- denying the virgin birth -- would run quickly afoul of John's instructions; e.g. II John 1:7 - "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." Even with something like this, most of us would probably see a difference between a new believer who doesn't "believe" the virgin birth because it is a new concept and a believer who has come to reject the idea. Anyway, a "taught" person couldn't continue to juggle recognizing Jesus as the Son of God while denying the virgin birth. One requires the other.

On the second -- a woman in the church believes God has called her to preach: if this is an otherwise ok sister, perhaps it could be handled as I know of in a few cases where a brother believed himself to be called to preach. Though he believed it, the church did not recognize the call. The reason for not recognizing the call wouldn't be the same, but the effect would be. These cases usually "resolve themselves", with the person either eventually admitting the church was right, or (more commonly) moving on to another church that will recognize them for what they claim to be.

Just some thoughts that may or may not be worthwhile.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bro. Osgatharp,

Perhaps you are right about accepting Mr. Ketcherside's philosophy at face value. But I didn't read it in reference to the basic principles of the faith. Certainly if that were true really everybody is a heretic, because we're all separated from somebody.

"But to oppose the modern use of the term on this basis is, in my opinion, the same sort of quibbling that would stop us from using the terms 'trinity' or 'providence' because those terms are not found in the Bible." I'm not sure I can agree that these are the same. One is using a word to define a concept found in Scripture, while the other is using a word differently than it is used in Scripture (if we are defining it correctly). Maybe that is a quibble, but then again perhaps we should be that careful.

When you write, "As for the matter of the virgin birth, there is no such thing as a 'believer' who does not believe the virgin birth" I ask that you be careful to understand what I said. One does not even have to have heard of the virgin birth to believe on Jesus Christ. Persons who are brought up in church are taught these things from their youth up. Unchurched people may hear of and believe in Jesus long before they are taught the virgin birth. BUT one who believes on Jesus will quite readily embrace the virgin birth when taught it. Others are deceivers and antichrist, according to the Apostle John.

Again, concerning a man who thinks himself called to preach and a woman who thinks herself called to preach -- there is no reason to imply that I don't think those are two totally different things. BUT what I said was they could be handled the same way. The church just doesn't recognize the call -- in the man because of some lack of evidence, qualification, etc. and in the woman because women can't be elders/preachers in any Biblical sense. It is not just a matter of telling her she is wrong - the church already holds that position (at least mine does). But if this is an otherwise acceptable sister, is that alone an offense worthy of exclusion? I would prefer to handle it as noted in my other post. She will either eventually hold the church in contempt (thereby flying her true colors) or she will with instruction acquiesce to the church's position. I don't think we disagree too much in principle, just application.

Probably not too many churches that do not believe in women preachers have much of a problem with them announcing a call to preach anyway! But tell me, Bro. Mark, how would your church handle this -- by telling the woman she was dead wrong, or by excluding her (or perhaps both), or something else?