We briefly address the issue of a Heretic in “The Salvation Myth.” I quote Tozer’s description in part: “Heresy is not so much rejecting as selecting. The heretic simply selects the parts of the Scripture he wants to emphasize and lets the rest go.” Matthew Henry said of Heresy, “How great an evil real heresy is, not lightly therefore to be charged upon any, though greatly to be taken heed of by all.” Trusting the validity of Tozer’s definition and the wise council of Henry’s warning, I wanted to more thoroughly understand Heresy so as not to “lightly charge” anyone with it.
Taking from our description that a Heretic “selects the parts of the Scripture he wants to emphasize and lets the rest go,” I start there. Deuteronomy hits it at least twice: “You must not add to or subtract from what I command you,” (4:2) and “See that you do everything I command you; do not add to it or subtract from it.” (23:32) From Deuteronomy to Revelations, “the Book” has plenty of references to the act of Heresy. “And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:19). So, why does the “Modern Christian” take it so lightly? Do they not believe it to be a “Great Evil?” Are they just “Intimidated” by the world around them? Or are they “Covetous” of the things the world has and, as such, full of worldly “Ambition”? As the motives for evil are many, I guess the same must be true of this “Great Evil.” Whatever the reason, God’s answer is always the same: “This is what God says: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has forsaken you.’ ” (2 Chr 24:20)
But Scripture says this “Great Evil” has a Sister, “If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book” (Rev 22:18). As we see in the previous quotes we are also warned about “adding” to what God says. Why does someone risk this second “Great Evil?” I would say all the same reasons apply, but would add that, too often, a common theme is present; “God is holding out on us, He’s just not telling us everything.” (This is the very lie that brought the fall of man, Gen 3:5) What does God say about this “holding back” concept? “I did not shrink back from declaring anything that was helpful to you” (Acts 20:20) and “I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole will of God.” (Acts 20:27) Again, many will defend and say “I would never!” Let me pull just a few examples we have already addressed in other posts. “God said He created, but He didn’t tell us how… ” so we ignore or “subtract” that He said, “He spoke and it was so…” and that “God… breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being… (Gen 2:7) (and from him) made a woman” (Gen 2:22) and we “add” that “He used the process of evolution over millions of years to create all living things.” Another? God says “Thou shalt not kill,” and we “add” that “a loving God would not risk the life of a mother for that of the child… so in that case, it’s okay.” Yet, God Himself, sacrificed His life, through Christ, for His Children.
While Tozer points out that “Heresy is to simply select the parts of the Scripture we want to emphasize and let the rest go,” the warning against Heresy and her evil sister have fallen victim to this same practice, having been thrown into the dustbin of the “Modern Church.” Still not convinced? How about one right on topic? God says, “Anyone who runs ahead without remaining in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Whoever remains in His teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you but does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home or even greet him. (some translations use “welcome”) Whoever greets such a person shares in his evil deeds.…” (2 John 1:9,10,11). Yet, almost every, if not all, major denomination has “subtracted” this instruction and warning and have “added” that “all are welcome” in the house of the Lord. As referenced before, some even add bright rainbow colors to this New Scripture, posting it boldly on their signs out front. Peter warned us that this would be true and what the penalty for those who “bring in (such) damnable heresies” is: “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).
Again, I know there are the “defenders” who will insist, saying, “God says to love thy neighbor…” On this subject God says, “Avoid a man who is a heretic after the first and second admonitions, and be aware that he who is such is perverse and a sinner and is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10,11). For someone who claims to be teaching the Word of God, we are to give the benefit-of-the-doubt to their intentions and offer them correction. We may even assume we have not communicated the issue well and try a second time. However, if they persist in their “adding or subtracting” to God’s Word, we are to do as Paul instructed Titus, because their stubbornness has condemned them. Henry lends a hand again, “Such a one is subverted or perverted—a metaphor from a building so ruined as to render it difficult if not impossible to repair and raise it up again. Real heretics have seldom been recovered to the true faith: not so much defect of judgment, as perverseness of the will, being in the case, through pride, or ambition, or self-willedness, or covetousness, or such like corruption, which therefore must be taken heed of” Henry’s solution: “Be humble, love the truth and practice it, and damning heresy will be escaped.” (Truth? See Truth Is)
Where do we go from here? As is always the case here at P.O.C.… application. Psalms says that “the heart” of those we have described is “not loyal” and their “spirit (is) not faithful to God.” It also says that we are to protect the children from the sins of their fathers by teaching them to “put their confidence in God.” “…that the coming generation might know—even children yet to be born—to arise and tell their children, that they should put their confidence in God, not forgetting His works, but keeping His commandments. Then they will not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose heart was not loyal, whose spirit was not faithful to God.…” (Psalm 78:6-8) How do we do this? “This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’s house and speak all the words I have commanded you to speak to all the cities of Judah who come to worship there. Do not omit a word” (Jer 26:2). Or as Jeremiah 1:17 says, “Get yourself ready. Stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not be intimidated by them, or I will terrify you before them.”
However, we are not to just hold other professing Christians to the Word, “For it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the Law who will be declared righteous” (Rom 2:13). James adds, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves” (1:22). Proverbs says, “A wise heart will receive commandments, but foolish lips will come to ruin” (10:8). And Christ said, “everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock” (Matt 7:24). He continues in Luke 6:46-48, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built.”
This brings us back to the “defenders.” If we are not to welcome Heretics and unbelievers into the House of God, then how are we to help them? Christ answers this as well, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:19,20). This is sometimes referred to as “The Great Commission.” We are to go out to the people and bring God to them, but not just parts of God, all of God. If we edit God, “add or subtract” to or from God, then what we’ve brought them is not God but something of our own making. If we assume the authority to “subtract” from God’s words, then we do a “Great Evil,” we are a “heretic.” If we assume the authority to “add” to God’s words, then we are heretic’s “Great Evil Sister” and we are no better; we have shown that the resulting words do not have God in them. Eventually, we will learn that those who “welcome” such evil doers into their homes will “share in (their) evil deeds” and those who practice such “Great Evils” will “bring upon themselves swift destruction.”
Let me end with the words of Solomon. After a period in his life where he had written his own rules, where he ignored the words of God, “subtracting” from them, an old and repentant Solomon sends us a message through time: “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 12:13). Do not be “Heretics.” Be “loyal” and “faithful” to God and His Word, for this is the purpose and “whole duty of mankind.”
© Scott A Caughel 2/19/2019