There are two groups of people who use the word heresy much too often. The first are so-called “heresy hunters” that spend all their time telling everyone why group A is right about doctrines one through one-thousand and why group B is incorrect about everything. These people have nothing edifying to say. In addition, these same people think they are beyond error themselves and therefore, as mini-Popes, they declares ex cathedra who is “in” and who is “out” (e.g. “Ken Silva, pastor-teacher“).

One of the things that bothers me the most about this group is how they blur the lines between differences and heresy. We ought to use the word “heresy” with caution. It is a serious word. It means that someone is teaching something that equates them with false doctrine. By “false doctrine” I do not mean what a Calvinist thinks of an Arminian or what a Baptist thinks of a Pentecostal. I mean something like Arianism; something condemned by a creed; something that received an anathema from the Apostle Paul; something that directly contradicts the core of the gospel.

These people become easy to ignore because everything is black and white to them. Brian McLaren is the same as Rob Bell who is the same as Erwin McManus who is the same as Robert Schuler who is the same as  Don Miller who is the same as you-name-it. Basically anyone who has a larger church or a different opinion is a heretic. The problem with that is if, for example, McLaren is beginning to teach some heretical you have already lumped him in with people who are not teaching heresy at all. So when you call example one a heretic people remember that you associated him with examples two through thirty. Suddenly, we don’t believe you about example one either.

The second are self-identified “heretics”. These people may be responding to group one, but it is really annoying. They call themselves a heretic, giggle a bit, wink at their friends, and give high-fives to other “heretics”. On Twitter they identify themselves as #outlawpreacher or #outlawtheologian. I am not sure if they think of themselves as legitimately heretical or if this is some sort of “I’m a new Reformer like Martin Luther”. These people do not take heresy serious either. These people are fascinated with their own cute novelties.

These people were address by G.K. Chesterton long ago when he wrote the following:

Nothing more strangely indicates an enormous and silent evil of modern society than the extraordinary use which is made nowadays of the word “orthodox”. In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of this world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. Their armies with their cruel security, the kings with their cold faces, the decorous process of the State, the reasonable process of law—all these like sheep had gone astray. The man was proud of being orthodox, proud of being right. If he stood alone in a howling wilderness he was more than a man; he was a church. He was the centre of the universe; it was round him that the stars swung. All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says, with a conscious laugh, “I suppose I am very heretical”, and looks round for applause. The word “heresy” not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word “orthodoxy” not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong. All this can mean one thing, and one thing only. It means people care less for whether they are philosophically right. For obvious a man ought to confess himself crazy before he confess himself heretical. The Bohemian, with a red tie, ought to pique himself on his orthodoxy. The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to feel that, whatever else he is, at least he is orthodox. [1]

If you are a heretic at least belief you are orthodox. What kind of heretic boast in his own heresy? This is narcissism at its worst. One thinks they are so important that their very being changes heresy from a bad to good thing. It is silly. What I enjoy seeing from a heretic is the response, “No, you are a heretic”. At least we can proceed from there and it sure beats those who just giggle and skip away.

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[1] Heretics, 11.