Before we get started a brief word about the tragedy in Oklahoma… I won’t offer any great theological position on the matter because others have written better things than I could. However, there is a prayer from the BCP that I would like to offer up. Increasingly this has been the response to tragedy that makes the most sense to me:
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
May God lighten the darkness of those going through this tough time
The history of Heresy is a rough one in Christian history. To put it simply, the established Christian Church has used the idea of history to do some of the worst violence. We Protestants can’t just blame the Catholic and Orthodox churches for that violence either. Protestants have been just as capable of committing awful crimes in order to fight heresy.
I do not wish to discount that violence and awfulness, however in the world today it seems as if we don’t want to talk about the subject at all anymore. I don’t think that is because Christians suddenly stopped caring about truth in 21st century. I actually thing we don’t talk about Heresy more because we can’t find it’s usefulness anymore. So here are two quick reasons why I think it is still a useful concept.
1. It’s hard to define who we are if we can’t say who we are not.
Despite the popular image, the concept of heresy is not an attempt at thought control. Sometimes, I will admit, the Church has tried to use the label “heresy” that way, but those attempts have usually failed in the end (see Galileo). When the Church is doing it’s job right the concept of heresy is about finding the limits of Christianity. Those limits are not supposed to be about who is in and who is out (or who God loves and who God doesn’t love). God’s love and grace are for all people. However, as the community of people who proclaim a message together so it is important to know what message we are not supposed to proclaim.
2. Hersey helps us tell when theology is wrong
Following from the previous point, there is frankly a lot of bad messages and bad theology out there. The problem is that what people believe really does affect their actions. Those people who stand outside declaring that God’s judgment on various groups (I won’t dignify these people with a picture) are directly acting on the theology that they believe. The concept of heresy is a good way to tell when theology is not just bad, but actively harmful.
So next week I hope to focus a little on what makes a teaching heretical.
Random note: Mike and I are pleased to announce that our good friend Brad will be joining us as a regular contributor.