I'm not so sure that isn't the reason I was unceremoniously booted off AOL 25 times - and ultimately banished forever as a customer - in the first 5 years of this online ministry. It could have had something to do with that as many Orthodox, mainline Christians were not able to stomach my beliefs regarding speaking in tongues, laying hands on the sick and casting out demons. In all fairness,these people ARE entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. These doctrines may be standard fare to many but others STILL refer to those beliefs as heresies. To this day, Subscribers who’ve read my articles for many years still bail out as soon as they read one sentence they disagree with (Good thing I don’t get paid for this ministry).
NEWS FLASH: If YOU have embraced anything seen as a “false doctrine,” you, too, are a heretic in the minds of many. Welcome to the club!
Lots of Christian people - mainly in the Western world; rarely in the persecuted church of the third world - are pointing fingers at one another these days, accusing each other of practicing Biblical heresy.
Frankly, I think we have waaaay too much time on our hands. Seems what we need is some good ol' fashioned, lay your life on the line for Christ, persecution.
Heresy is such an evil-sounding word. Can't you just hear the fire crackling at the stake?
What could be worse than being branded a heretic? Being called "intolerant" perhaps? How about being labeled a "Heresy HUNTER"?
I've been accused of embracing heresy just recently. Actually, twice THIS WEEK! I felt I was in good company as Martin Luther, Jon Hus - and many other martyrs - had also been convicted of heresy.
So, I opted to join their club. Became an honorary Member.
I'll never forget hearing a retired Church of Christ preacher say from the pulpit, "If you ministers believe for a moment that everyone attending your church believes what you WANT them to believe, you've got another thing coming. With that in mind, you might as well encourage fellowship with their brothers and sisters of other denominations. The love your congregation will remember from that kind of attitude will far outweigh any legalism they might remember if you forbid them to do so."
Preach it, brother! I've found it interesting that it always seems to be the "most learned" among us - the ministry types - who feel the most threatened by anything that sounds new or strange to their comfortable belief systems. Anything that doesn’t tickle their ears is immediately labeled in an effort to sort things out in their own minds. We MUST justify our existence, after all.
Then the segregation begins…
"Don't read The Shack!"
"Tongues are of the devil!"
Here come the rules and regulations. I call it crowd control. Systems management. Whatever it is, it keeps God in a box. He’d RATHER be in US!
By the way, I have several friends who tell amazing stories of personal encounters with the “heresy” of Speaking in Tongues, for example... as Baptists, Catholics and one as a member of the Church of Christ. The rank and file - the sheep, NOT the shepherds - seem the most open to God’s seemingly new stuff. That’s actually GOOD because shepherds don’t produce sheep. Sheep beget sheep. I know, like anything else, this can be both good and bad. My point is, it seems to be the seminarians and those in leadership who get so comfortable in their ways (like the Pharisees), they'd kill Jesus Himself if He walked into "their" church and muddied the waters.
It's understandable that we would flare-up when someone comes along and steps on our strong belief systems, especially when something new to our ears challenges that which seemingly defines us.
In the late 90s, I wrote an inflammatory article bad-mouthing a minister who was quite popular among many. He was on TBN all the time and spoke at many conferences. But he had embraced a doctrine that many orthodox Christians disagreed with and saw as outside the realm of traditional evangelicalism - most of whose affiliates didn't really see eye-to-eye on many OTHER issues. Despite this fact, it seemed the whole western Christian world was arrayed against that poor fellow, myself included. We’d found our scapegoat and we unleashed HELL!
These days, I’m more inclined to see that man more like a voice crying in the wilderness.
The article I wrote was praised by many and was soon posted on a well-traveled website and passed along from person to person. Today, I wish there was some way I could take that article OFF every computer in the world and ask that brother's forgiveness face-to-face. I'm quite ashamed of what I wrote and the spirit behind it. I grew to feel like Saul, holding everyone's cloaks so they could stone Stephen; so unloving of me.
Another man, an author - a brother I’ve come to love and respect as a friend - wrote a book on the House Church experience nearly 20 years ago. I recall at a men’s group meeting, several guys making fun of the concept, calling it heresy because, frankly, we didn’t get it. I was right there with them. A few years later, I bought his book for 50 cents at a garage sale and, one day, he appeared on the 700 club. Next thing I new, I met him at a House Church conference in Denver, we corresponded by E-Mail, spoke by phone, he bought Barb and me dinner... GEESH! If I’d known THEN what I know NOW! I’m really enjoying heresy with that guy!
One of those who recently accused me of being in heresy also claimed that his concern was based on his love for me. Love is a verb; an action word. Don’t TELL me; show me. Like a child scattering feathers from a pillow into the wind, E-mail “warnings” about me began to fly. Sorry, but I just didn’t feel the love.
Folks, I talk to LOTS of people every day and I've concluded that there's a very slim line between love and fear. For example, many who claim to "love God" actually FEAR being squashed by Him like a bug, losing their salvation and being burned forever by Him. So, they try to "be good." Keep a low profile. Lay low. Follow the rules.
It's all based on fear and intimidation.
Sure, we can call it "love" to appease our consciences. I call it fear and NOT the reverential kind.
Not only is there a demonic fear of God, but it's only natural to fear being ostracized, excom-municated, jobless, friendless, for making a statement. After counting the cost, we bow to timidity and choose to maintain the status quo. We dare not make waves, especially where it involves our pocketbooks.
Some revert to living a lie, wearing denomi-national masks in an effort to keep the peace. A Nazarene preacher once confessed to me that, even though he was teaching on spiritual gifts, he wasn't too sure that the Gift of Tongues wasn't still available today. How miserable. A Lutheran minister admitted to the dislike of his pastoral role but, being so close to retirement, he'd stick with it. Read "Shattered Vows" if you want to read the sad impact of this spiritual masquerade on many Catholic priests.
I have two friends whom I speak with often. One refers to himself as a "Partial Preterist." The other is a "Full Preterist."
I won't go into definitions but I WILL say that I find both perspectives interesting and intriguing. They challenge me. Both parties are godly, Jesus-loving folks. Lots of fruit. I CHOOSE to love them both no matter how their beliefs may differ from my own.
The test of everything - including our sweet fellowships - must come. Friendships, marriages, churches and organizations will be tested (Don't worry. We'll get to take that exact same test AGAIN if we fail). Lord knows, this test has presented itself to Christians over and over for 1700 years. The world is watching and, as a result, Christianity has become the #1 cause of atheism while they watch us beat up on one another.
Animal Planet has two programs I've watched: "I shouldn't be alive" and "Human Prey." Both shows are about humans being attacked by animals. I was reminded of a recent episode as I wrote this article. The victim of heresy may not be the poor deceived soul we might think of initially; the REAL victim of heresy may well be the heresy HUNTER who falls prey to the suspicion and subsequent insistence that everybody else isn't lining up with their OWN beliefs.
Now THAT could drive anybody crazy! Cain killed his brother Abel simply over an offering to the Lord. This Christian heresy hunting is nothing less than what I call “Cain and Abelism.” Say it fast and you might hear what it REALLY describes… CANNIBALISM! We Christians have been devouring our own kind mercilessly for generations, not to mention feasting on the blood of those of “false religions” who didn’t believe like us despite our not even believing like one another.
Weird. Proverbs 6:16-19 (NLT) lists the things the Lord hates and detests. Last but certainly not least on the list: “A false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.” Are we not the Family of God” Malachi 2:10 reminds us: “Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God? Then why do we betray each other, violating the covenant of our ancestors?”
I believe the early Christians were more concerned with Relationship than Religion. With millions of us wrapped up in becoming like the Simple Church these days, it's strange how quickly we seem willing to sacrifice our relationships at the altar of Theology.
When will we allow our love for Jesus to be our mutual focus, folks?
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Loved it Michael, loved it! The "early church" was about doing the will of the Father, following Jesus and prclaiming the kingdom at hand. Love abounded, gifts flowed, charity reigned and grace surrounded the church! Everyone in one accord, heart, soul and mind in doing the will of the Father. They where a beautful demostration of the kingdom of God! May His people wake up and reign, as they did then! In Jesus name I ask it! AMEN