Heresy

Joe McIntyre

Heresy.
Like a crazed dog that has clamped onto someone’s leg, this word can be very difficult
to shake off once it has been applied to a man, a teaching or a ministry. No one wants
to expose themselves to heretical teachings or sit under a ministry that is yoked with
the suspicion of heresy. While I was writing my book about E.W. Kenyon (E.W. Kenyon
and His Message of Faith: The True Story, Creation House, 1997) I was seized by the fact
that many Christians readily use this word to describe other Christians with whom they
disagree.

Kenyon has been called many things unjustly, heretic being just one of them. So I was
sensitive to this issue. As if to bring it home to me how easy it is to sling mud on our
brothers, two friends of mine in the ministry used the term heretic to describe someone
else with whom they disagreed. I was grieved to hear them use the term because what
they were upset by was not heresy. It was a perspective on a doctrine with which they
strongly disagreed. Having had to investigate the meaning of heresy for my book, I knew
they were using an inappropriate term that certainly misrepresented their brothers in
Christ.

This “name-calling” is a big problem in the Body of Christ. Clouds of suspicion have
been placed on valid ministries because of being labeled by other ministries. And so
much of this labeling is inaccurate and misleading. I found it heartbreaking to see the
lack of integrity in supposedly scholarly Christian authors when it came to accurately
representing the teachings and beliefs of those with whom they disagreed. The apostle
Paul left room for disagreement among brethren on non-essentials (Rom 14), but
demanded charity be the rule governing disagreements.

Some critics have seemingly “won” their arguments at the high cost of their own
integrity. With the goal of saving the Church from error, they have misrepresented
their brethren. They have sought to remove error by committing another error. These
misguided ministries have violated the commandment of God that says, “You shall not
bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex.20:16). To inaccurately present the views
of your opponent is to bear false witness against him. It is to violate the commandment
of God in order to “win” your argument. This practice of “apologetics” by Bible-believing
Christians reveals less ethical integrity than the unsaved scholarly world.

Godly, scholarly debate can result in “iron sharpening iron.” It can bring balance to
extremes and broaden our understanding of God’s Truth. But in order for this debate
to be godly, we must take great care to represent our opponent’s view with integrity.
Otherwise, as so often is the case, we merely set up a “straw man” and then blow him
over. No valid end is accomplished by this folly. Actually, much damage is done.

In reading Kenyon’s critics, I was deeply grieved that men who purported themselves
to be scholars (or at least scholarly) should so misrepresent Kenyon’s positions on the
various doctrines they attacked. If Kenyon believed what they claimed he did, he himself
would have opposed his teachings! The problem is acerbated by the fact that these
“truth defending” books are carefully footnoted, which give them a veneer of scholarly
respectability. Yet, their content is an exercise in bearing false witness and “straw man”
bashing.

The late Greg Bahsen, a Ph.D in philosophy who dedicated his life to defending the
Faith, wrote about this same issue:

It is difficult enough for us to gain a hearing in the unbelieving world because of
its hostility to the Lord Jesus Christ and its preconception of the lowly
intelligence of His followers. The difficulty is magnified many times over when
believers offer public, obvious evidence of their inability to treat each other’s
opinions with careful accuracy. Our “scholarship” is justly ridiculed by those who
have been educated in institutions which have no commitment to Christ or His
Word, but who have the ethical integrity to demand as a prerequisite to
acceptable scholarship that a student represent his opponent fairly before
proceeding to criticize or refute him.

I expose some of this “heresy hunting” as practiced by Christian “scholars”
as charitably as possible in my book on Kenyon. But I merely scratched the
surface of the inaccuracies and misrepresentations. And these books have
often been best sellers. I would not want to answer to God for the caricature of truth
contained in some of these books. It makes me think of how Jesus was perceived and
portrayed by the Pharisees. When they sought to condemn Him they quoted His words
in the worst possible light. They judged not only His words, but also read into His words
motivations that were totally inaccurate and condemning.

To quote someone out of context is to misrepresent what he or she teaches. Anyone
can be shown to be a heretic by stringing together their statements without regard for
the point they were making. This is done regularly on a national radio broadcast. I’m
sure it grieves the Father’s heart. Yet no one calls these ministries to accountability.

The book of Proverbs reveals that God hates those who bear false witness and sow
discord among brethren. It is quite possible to disagree and debate differing views
without bearing false witness or sowing discord. Our testimony demands that we learn
to do this. The world is watching how we treat our own. The view isn’t too great at the
moment. Let’s pray things change.

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