Monday, March 24, 2008

On Heresy

Followers of Jesus Christ are supposed to be united in the the truth of orthodox doctrine.
(Ephesians 4:1-6) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,
2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
If believers are united in this way, they can grow mature so they will not be "tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine." (Ephesians 4:14)

Heresies are the teachings that cause people to be tossed about.

Some heresies are teachings that are in direct conflict with the central teachings of Christianity. They attack doctrines like the inspiration and authority of scripture, the person and work of Jesus Christ, the nature of God, the basis of salvation, and so on.

Other heresies are divisions and dissensions over things that are not in the Bible at all.

Paul warned Timothy to study hard so that he would avoid stupid arguments over inane things. "Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness." (2Timothy 2:14-16)

In case he didn't get the point, Paul restates it. "But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient," (2Timothy 2:23-24)

Still later Paul charges Timothy to preach the inspired, profitable Word of God. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2Timothy 4:3-4)

When he wrote to Titus he said the same basic thing. "But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned." (Titus 3:9-11) The word translated, "divisive" here is "heretic."

Such heresies include legalistic rules about clothing, foods, and music. There are biblical principles that need to be applied, but an individual's good faith decision about application does not have the same force as scripture. The rules for such decisions are found in Romans 14.

In recent years the heresy of King James Onlyism has been blowing at gale force. The KJV has a long and distinguished history, but the whole spectrum of arguments that the KJV is the ONLY true Bible in the English language are at best "foolish disputes." At their worst they are a terrible betrayal of orthodox theology about the inspiration and authority of the Bible.

Heresies like these distract people from the clear teachings of the Bible about things of eternal importance. We should avoid such things and expose them whenever possible.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Be On Guard

We need to be on guard. Proverbs 4:23 is an excellent verse to keep in mind:
"Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life."

When I was a boy we lived on the family property in upstate New York. The old farmhouse had spring water that trickled into a reservoir in the basement from a pipe that began 300 yards away. Up on the mountainside, just below the dirt road, was the spring-house. It was a little cement cube with a wooden roof over it. Inside, the spring water bubbled up from the ground and flowed into the pipe that led to the house far below. The low wall was built up to prevent groundwater carrying dirt or pollutants from flowing into the spring from the road just up the hill. The roof kept the leaves from the forest from blowing in. The whole spring-house was supposed to keep bugs and animals out of the water that we wanted to use.

One day the water stopped flowing. I remember going with my dad to check out the spring-house. Dad took off the roof and looked down into the spring with a flashlight. He pointed out the pair of frog legs sticking out of the end of the pipe - blocking the flow. Dad reached down and pulled the frog free and the water was restored (though I imagined it was a bit fishy tasting for a while after that.) While we were there, dad fished out a few leaves and sticks that had fallen into the spring, then put the roof back on. He showed me where it would need some repairs later.

Our heart is like a spring of water. If you want it to flow clean and pure, you need to tend it. Clean out the leaves that fall in. Put up a wall high enough to stop groundwater from running in off the road. Repair the roof periodically to make it effective in keeping critters out.

Moral failure is all around us. It is celebrated in the media and modern entertainment. Lust throws out a snare in modern fashions, in advertisements, in magazines, on TV shows and certainly over the Internet. It is reaching out for us all with the promise that "stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." (Proverbs 9:17)

But the real problem is our hearts. We need to have pure hearts. The sin comes from inside of us, not from outside. The Bible says, "Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed." (James 1:14)

We need to be on guard - keeping our hearts as pure springs. Do what you need to do to protect yourself. Be careful what you read, what you click on, what you gaze at. Sometimes you need to close your eyes. Every day you need to pray for God's cleansing and protection.

(1Corinthians 10:12) Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Anything Goes

Do you ever wonder what on earth could motivate people to do the crazy, ugly, self-destructive things they do? I am thinking especially of the almost daily shooting incidents where someone opens fire on strangers in a public place, then shoots himself.

Here is my analysis.

1. America (where almost all of these shootings occur) has moved from separation of church and state (freedom of religion) to separation of church from public life (freedom from religion).

2. Public education has mandated teaching the theory of evolution which theory exists solely for the purpose of suggesting ways that the complex world we observe might have come about apart from supernatural creation. (Too bad they don't give as much attention to teaching actual science - e.g., the second law of thermodynamics & the scientific method for debunking bad theories.)

3. Because several generations have now been indoctrinated with the idea that there is no God, that the creation does not suggest a God, and that God should be banned from public displays and public discourse, many people have obliged by believing it.

4. Since they don't believe there is a God or anything beyond their life in this present world, they believe that they are free from moral dictates and free from the fear of Divine judgment or punishment. They are, in their view, animals ("meat machines" according to Dawkins) living among other animals and operating according to their instincts for survival and procreation.

5. Unfortunately, that view is tremendously unsatisfying for many people. They want to be more significant than mere animals. They want transcendent meaning and purpose. The difficulties of this life and their own sense of right and wrong are absurd if there is no God.

6. I suspect that their reasoning goes something like this. "My life is not fulfilling. My existence is absurd. I want to end it all and go out with a splash that will make the news." Killing people is no more significant than stepping on ants. Since I am killing myself I don't have to fear human judges. Since there is no God, I don't have to fear eternal judgment."

The question is not what makes them do it. I think that is pretty clear. The bigger question is why more people don't do it. I suspect there are lingering doubts - echoes of some religious training or some inborn suspicion that there is a Creator and Judge.

Christians are called to be salt and light. We need to be doing that more and more. Tell the world - every man, woman and child - that the Creator is calling everyone everywhere to repent, turn to Him and find significance and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.