HERESY - THE DEFINITION
THE MEANING OF HERESY
Certain cults, such as The Mormons, The Jehovah's Witnesses and The Moonies, and certain so called "false churches" such as The Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox Churches, are in general held as heretical by most, if not large numbers, of Evangelical Born Again Christians. But what is the real meaning of heresy, and how can we define "heresies" or false teachings so serious they will result in a person not being saved? Let's take a look. But this is not a simple subject. I will be discussing a lot of different themes, including church discipline, shepherding, the dangers of "heavy shepherding", division causing, and the difference between the toleration of errors in "a babe in Christ" or new believer in comparison to an older brother or sister in the Faith who really ought to know better. It will also be necessary to discuss the subject of the heresy "once saved always saved, no matter what you think, do or say afterwards".
1) BIBLE DEFINITION versus THE SECULAR DEFINITION
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." 2 Peter 2:1
"For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." 1 Corinthians 11:19
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told youin time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:20
"A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself." Titus 3:11
I believe that there is a difference between an error in teaching, and an heresy. Peter uses the term "damnable heresies". A heresy is therefore a serious doctrinal error of a nature to lead to damnation of the soul, and he gives an example "even denying the Lord that bought them," an example of this being the Sabellianist heresy, that denies the existence of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, stating instead that God the Father (as it were) masquerades as them both.
they which are approved may be made manifest
Where you draw the line in defining heresy, how you discipline for actual hersey, and the difference between it and an error. will define a persons ministry, and if a pastor gets it wrong he may lead you into being needlessly isolationist. An "approved" pastor will in general, if not even always, draw the line in the right places, though even good pastors are only human and ocassionally might make mistakes and need to adjust their decision making.
Certain issues seem to be almost explosively controversial, examples being the use of modern versions of the bible, and drinking alcohol. Should we ban from church everyone who drinks any alcohol? Should a person be banned from carrying a modern version into the church? After the pastor you chose makes his decisions, are you being needlessly isolated away from fellowshipping with other believers? There is also the issue of partiality. Partiality is quote" unfair bias in favour of one person or thing; favouritism", in other words some pastors have dual standards where they discipline people they have a personal bias towards, and leave other people alone on the same subjects.
heresies......... shall not inherit the kingdom of God
Once again the word heresy is about a false teaching so seriously astray, (such as the teachings of Jezebel in the Book of Revelation) the person "shall not inherit the kingdom of God". I will try to give 3 examples where one is "heresy" and two other subjects of teaching are controversies, and/or errors of varying degree of seriousness, that do not constitute "damnable heresies".
a) HERESY - that a Christian man can divorce his wife if she commits adultery, and that he can afterwards remarry (because he is the innocent party in the divorce). This is without doubt a "damnable heresy" as the result is that he is committing adultery, and the bible is plain that all those who commi adultery without repenting will go into the Lake of Fire (Rev 21:8, Gal 5:19),
b) A SERIOUS CONTROVERSY, What is the exact definition of "heaven"? Believers are split over two main views.
1) One is that this Earth will be destroyed (and with it the first heaven or sky), and also the Second Heaven (or outerspace - all the iniverses, and the space in which they are contained) will be detroyed, and a scripture they quote is Isaiah 34:4. Then they say there is no longer any place to put the "new heaven and a new earth" now, other than in heaven itself, so the new Earth is in heaven. This is what leads many Christians to use loose and rather frivilous terminology such as "Mrs Jones is having breakfast in heaven" when someone dies. Incidentally such people might believe the new Earth might even be a flat Earth with a sky, as there is no specific description of its shape in the bible.
2) That God either destroys the stars, planets, asteroids etc in the universe, but not the space itself, or detroys the space also, but creates a new space, seperate from the 3rd Heaven (or dwelling place of Gods throne and angels) and that the "new heaven and a new earth" refers to the sky around the new Earth. This retains heaven and the new Earth as separate from each other, and would mean the 144,000 who follow Christ might need the capability to fly in order to follow Christ into Heaven, should he need or desire to go there.
c) A LESS SERIOUS CONTROVERSY. Men having long hair, and in comprison a woman covering her head in church, or even preachers wearing hats when they preach (the bible says praying and prophecy, not preaching), are in my view not heretical subjects, but are controversies and errors of a less serios nature than the exact definition of what heaven and Earth are or will one day be. Do not get me wrong. The bible teaches truth. All truth is important, But Jesus spoke of "weightier matters of the law". There is law in the new covenant, new law, different in many ways from the old Law of Moses. All truth is important, but there are also less weighty matters of the law, of a more trivial nature. If I am right about this, it certainly does not stop many pastors disfellowshipping over the subjects! In my view, such disfellowshipping is what might be termed an example of "heavy shepherding" where a pastor is too harsh in his disciplining, and is causing unnecessary division. Such men commit sins similar to Diotrephese (3 John) casting people from the church for no good reason. The person who gets it wrong is also being unnecessarily divisive. We must strive to get things correct in all areas of our walk with God.
So..... should I admonish two or three times a person who holds a different view of heaven, and then reject them? By this I mean one or other of the two views I just mentioned? I think not. I think it is a serious controversy, but not something that will not necessarily lead to damnation at all, unless that is getting it wrong is just another sign of gross insincerity. The bible after all is not absolutely explicitly clear on this subject as it might be on other subjects.
A CONCLUSION I DRAW FROM THIS......
Saying these things leads me to the following conclusion. Certain religious organisations are cults and sects, who are seriously heretical, preaching "damnable heresies". Others are churches who are being too divisive and too isolationist over controversies that they have decided to take a definite stand upon. The second category of believers (or rather pastors) are not ncessarily preaching heresy, but rather the error of a kind of needless isolationism. It has to be asked of course "is such isolationism itself an heresy?" That may be partly decided by the motivation for why the pastor is doing it. I believe some pastors see the world wide church (or born again believers) as a kind of cake that is divided up for personal profit, by the creation of such needless divisions (they want their slice of the cake), and deliberately become isolationist to create a false view of "holiness" that is rather the spirit of "holier than thou", and, as I say, their motivation is to "corner a market" for themselves. Beware of such division. But beware also of not taking a stand where it really matters.
It is indeed exceptionally ironic that, a person can get everything right doctrinally, to the point of being superlative, and yet spoil it all by being too caustic toward those who have gone a little more astray than them, and this is especially true of new believers sometimes called "babes in Christ" who have yet to find they feet, and do not need pushing over further by over discipline and shunning.
One very important scripture is:
"But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Matthew 5:22
8) MILLENNIUM KINGDOM note
One belief I have is very controversial indeed, and that is that I think it is very credible that children and babies who die will most likely go into the Millennium, to be tested and given the chance of salvation just as we are. After all, the children and babies who are ALIVE when Jesus returns will go into Millennium. Why not those who have died too? All of the alternative doctrines 1) All babies and children who die are saved and go into eternal life, 2) God choses some babies for Hell and some for eternal life (whether from a Calvinistic "you you and you" perspective, or a Free Will or Arnimianist perspective of God's foreknowledge of what they would have done). 3) All babies who die are damned. None of these alternative beliefs seems just or biblical, and so there is only one choice left, Millennium, perhaps resurrected in the state of Adam and Eve in Eden. This however is not a definite doctrine, just what I consider the most likely. This has been cynically compared to a belief in Purgatory, but the belief is not paying for sins by sufferng, it is a chance at salvation as we know it now. I do however feel almost sure about this. As Revelation 20:7-10 shows, not everyone in the Millennium Kingdom is saved, some are deceived. This treaching of mine is especially attacked by Calvinists, who like to believe many of the babies killed in the Old Testament will go to Hell, and this supposedly backs up their belief in "you you and you" arbitrary salvation.
"sin unto death" versus "in danger of Hell fire"
"sin unto death" versus "in danger of Hell fire"