A series on the mind and heart of the average Christian heretic
Just the sound of their name is enough to make your skin crawl. They carry disease and are so quiet and subtle that you may not even know you have become a victim before it is too late. They sink their teeth in and devour the life-giving nutrients from your body as the remove your blood.
Unfortunately, this is not about insects, but people who hold and teach others false doctrines. This post is written by one.
Okay, a former one, at least. In a previous series of posts, titled “Why I Criticize Christian Leaders,” I shared my journey from pain (coming from well-meaning Christians who told me that I was saved by grace alone, but then weekly challenged me to work hard enough to stay in God’s good graces) to heresy to orthodox Christian faith. While I hate to think of where I have been, I do and can appreciate the insight into what took me there.
It is not an uncommon story. For the remainder of the post I will talk about heresy, its heart, its intended destination, and some of the pitfalls that generate them.
Heretic: A Definition
A few months ago I had a long conversation with Doug Pagitt via Twitter. Admittedly it was not my most brilliant moment of discourse, and I have to say that much of the time I was steamed and so was not employing logic as I normally can. However, what struck me is that in using the term “heretic” there was a sharp difficulty in its understanding and definition.
Heresy is defined simply as opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine. There is nothing in the definition about a person’s character, intention, or the heart of why they may hold such a contrary belief. Where I unintentionally offended Doug Pagitt was my use of the term “heretic,” which he heard as a disparaging comment on a person’s character.
The term “heretic” strictly refers to a person’s set of beliefs. Very likely a heretic is a wonderful, kind, compassionate, and empathetic person so quite the opposite of what may be transfixed in the mind of some hideous beast from Greek mythology. Heresy is only about a belief structure and its departure from orthodoxy, not the motives or intentions that drive that belief.
As I will discuss in later posts in this series, rather than being saber-toothed, these men and women are actually some of the kindest people you may ever meet, which is precisely why they are heretics. No, being kind does not qualify you as a heretic, but it is that compassion for all people that drives them to steer away from biblical truths of sin, death, judgment, and hell for softer alternatives which all but eliminate those beliefs.