Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fashionable Heresy

Fashionable: observant of or conforming to the prevailing custom of style of dress, etiquette, socializing, etc.

Heresy: any belief of theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs, customs, etc.

Fashionable Heresy: a belief or theory conforming to prevailing popular thought that is strongly at variance with established belief

I wish I did not have to write on this topic. I wish I didn't because it frustrates me and I am not quite sure how exactly I should go about it. But it is something that has been bugging me for a while now and I cannot ignore it any longer. Y'all...this thing I have named Fashionable Heresy is tearing the Christian faith apart at the seams. We have got to get a handle on this. It has been around since The Way of Christ began, it is never, ever stops. Like the lovely image above, it has no brakes.

Who is it that you follow when it comes to spiritual matters? I know there are some people that I do. I like what they say, how they say it, and the conviction behind their words. There are times where I disagree on some relatively minor points, but that's not a problem. I know where they stand and I know where I stand, and if we met somewhere one day I would not be afraid of speaking and discussing both our similarities and differences. I am sure we would both walk away better for it and happy to have met another member of the family of Christ. We even have Biblical evidence for doing so. In I Corinthians 11:1 Paul writes "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ."

So the question that must be asked, the question that must be answered, is this: do you follow someone, or do you follow them as they follow Christ?

It is very fashionable to hold certain positions in our society. Some of that is good, but some of that is bad. Furthermore, some is simply based on poor theology.

Take poverty for example. It is a real and pressing problem. A good position that is also fashionable is that we should take care of the poor around us. That is a Biblical, sound position to hold. No one who has the right idea of what Scripture says is going to argue against it (and they should be arguing for more of it).

A bad position that is also fashionable is that we must force everyone to take care of the poor by taking what they have and giving it to others. That is not a Biblical position to hold. Christians are told to take care of the poor and hurting, but we are not given leave to force others to against their will. Rather, it is our job to do what we can in following Christ the King as we walk through life.

A position that is based on poor theology would be "we can eradicate poverty!" Unfortunately, though it sounds great and wonderful, it is not Biblical. Jesus says explicitly in Matthew 26:11 that "you will always have the poor among you." There will always be those who are marginalized, exploited, and poor, and we must do all we can to help and aid those in that position. It is not a popular idea, but it is a truthful and sound one.

The problem with Fashionable Heresy is that it takes what is Biblical and inserts ideas that are in tune with the times but not with God. In doing so we either get watered down truth, or the truth is drowned out by the lie. Take the above example and put it together:

"God says we should take care of the poor, so we need to create new government programs and raise new taxes so that we can eradicate poverty."

It sounds nice. It is even couched in Biblical language. But it is not a position based in Scripture. The Bible says nothing about government programs, and specifically states we will never eradicate poverty. If you think it is the government's job to help the poor, that is fine, but you can't make the case through Scripture (that is what philosophy, social commentary, and politics are for).

But do you see how easy it is to inject Fashionable Heresy into a topic? You can make it sound nice, and even holy. But if it does not stand to the test of Scripture we need to be able to see that and call it out. Here is another one (this time a real example):

"If the fruit of doctrine regularly and consistently creates shame, self-harm, suicide & broken hearts, families, and churches, we should listen."

Again, we have Fashionable Heresy injected into a Biblical topic. It is laced with both truth and lie. It also makes an assumption by putting doctrine in the place of the failure of people. It is couched in Biblical language by talking about "the fruit of doctrine". It takes what Jesus says about being wary of false prophets by seeing their fruit in Matthew 7 and applies it to theology.

The problem, however, is that this statement places the blame on doctrine when it should be on people. The doctrine in this case (homosexuality is sin), is blamed as the cause of the bad fruit. But doctrine is nothing more than words on its own. People may use it poorly or produce bad fruit by it, but that does not mean the doctrine is wrong, it means the people are. I can take a hammer and use it to build a house for the homeless or kill someone with a quick whack to the head, but that is not the hammer's fault. I am at fault for how I used it, and no one else (not even the person who made the hammer).

And so we have lies mixed with truth that sounds great and wonderful and Biblical, but that cannot hold up to revealed Truth. The Bible states both implicitly and explicitly that homosexuality is sin, as is sex before marriage, cheating on your spouse, and any other type of sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman. It also states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are invited to come to Jesus, repent of their sins, and be washed in His blood to live a new life, no matter who they were or what they have done. The doctrine is sound and in line with what God has said. It is people who have messed it up from time to time.

Now yes, there is bad doctrine. It exists in spades in the religious world, even among believing Christians. If there were not we would not have to be warned against it in Scripture so often. But there is also good doctrine used badly. The point is we must be able to tell the difference.

You see, every doctrine, every scrap of it, must be parsed through the lens of the Truth. There are doctrinal truths that all of Christianity, regardless of time, place, and denomination (or lack thereof) has agreed upon for the last 2,000 years up until about 50-60 years ago. That should probably warn us that if we are going to change something, we had better be really, really sure of what we are doing and that it is in line with what Jesus, the Word of God, has revealed. If it is not, we need to run, not walk, away from it.

Please. Do not fall for Fashionable Heresy, no matter what the topic is. It shows up in every way and on every subject. It is so, so easy to get caught up in it because someone writes well, or speaks well, or has passion, or is doing so many other great things. But even Fashionable Heresy is still heresy, and it is still dangerous to our life and faith.

So be strong, stay faithful, and keep informed. :-)