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So, Am I a Heretic Or Not?

May 12, 2017

This coming Sunday my evening sermon is on 2 Tim 4:1-7, where Paul exhorts the young pastor Timothy to keep preaching the Word, because there will lots of false teachers in the church. This depressing warning made me think again about all the divisions within the Christian church, and how easy it seems to be to be called a false teacher by one branch or another. I for one would definitely earn that label from a variety of corners:

Some would say I’m dangerously deceived and possibly demon-possessed because I pray in tongues; others would question my salvation if I didn’t.

Some would insist that God can’t bless my ministry because I don’t support Israel; others would accuse me of condoning injustice if I did. (For the record, I don’t support the Palestinian authorities either – there, now everybody hates me.)

Some would say I’m rejecting God’s work when I’m critical of weird practices coming out of Bethel Redding; others would be suspicious of me because I still consider them part of the Christian family.

Some believe I deny babies the saving grace of God because I won’t baptise them; others would think I believed in salvation by magic if I did.

Some confidently proclaim that my preaching will never be effective as long as I’m not using the KJV; others probably accuse me of being a crypto-fundamentalist because of my conviction that the Bible (in any translation) is the infallible Word of God.

Some would be upset because I find serious fault with Catholic doctrine; others would accuse me of compromising the faith by participating in joint events with Catholics.

Some would say I’m legalistic because I preach holiness and discipleship; many more would accuse me of antinomianism because of my emphasis on grace and free forgiveness and (as Rend Collective sing) “countless second chances”.

And of course some would probably consign me to eternal damnation simply because of my taste in music…

I could go on, but you get the point: when you look at the wide spectrum of Christian sub-divisions, it’s sometimes difficult to determine what is permissible doctrinal variation, and what is genuinely false teaching. All the above positions (and many more) are held by Christians, people who believe in the same Jesus but who struggle to understand and listen to each other.

Now, I’m not going to say that anything goes or that doctrine is irrelevant – anyone who knows me would know I believe strongly in the concept of ‘truth’. Instead my plea would be:

Let’s read the Bible together to try and determine what is permissible variation and what is going too far.

Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, until it’s clear that someone has definitely departed from the core truths of the Gospel.

Let’s remember to be on our guard against Satan – he hates us and will happily disseminate false doctrine – but also that we’re saved by faith in Jesus, not by correct doctrine.

Let’s always stand up for the truth of the Bible – but let’s also try and understand each other, before we assume that we are the only ones who have truly understood the Gospel…

 

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From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

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