This is the blog that may really make some folks mad and I’m sorry for it. You can and will disagree if you like and that’s fine (and so you can create your own blogs) but I hope you will think about what I say.
Some issues are important but they don’t make a church heretical. They aren’t essential to being the church. They may have major consequences but they aren’t make or break issues. So what are they?
How did God create the world? Essential is that God is creator (otherwise we place God in a less than I AM view) but how God created the world is up for debate. Christians debate how to relate faith and science and it gets hot when this issue comes up but there are many views on creation and not all agree. Some Christians believe the world is thousands of years old and others have no problem with the earth being millions of years old. In the as long as we know God is creator it is not essential that we agree on how God did it.
There are many debates on how the world will end. You can search archieves on this blog site and read what I think and articles about this issue. Yet if my view and yours differ that is not a make or break issue. We may agree that the Second Coming is a Christian doctrine but we should realize that there are many views on what this means and how it will happen. I’m not saying this isn’t important but there is much diverse thought on this issue.
I believe the excesses of the charismatic movement can lead to some confusion and I’m concerend about it. I am not a charismatic (I’m Baptist) and yet a church can differ on this issue. Some churches are charismatic and others aren’t. I’ve heard some say that if you don’t speak in tongues you aren’t a Christian (this is not a overall view) and this is very wrong. We all have difference opinions on this issue. But I would not label an Assembly of God or Pentecostal church as heretical. I would say we have major/important differences but we are still brothers and sisters in faith. There are some charismatics that have drifted into heresey but not all. The prosperity gospel is a dangerous movement that plays with God’s purpose and teaches that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy and this has dangerous consequences in my opinion and violates what salvation is about (eternal life and not raises and good heath).
Women in Ministry
I believe personally that women can be deacons and pastors. I know many do not. This is not an issue to spill blood (not that any are). Some Christians want to say that those of us who have women deacons are not orthodox and to that I disagree.
Churches have deacons and pastors. Some have elders. Some are free churches. Others are connectional. This is a polity issue and no one system need to tear apart the other denominations. I prefer my own tradition but I’m not better than yours.
Some baptize infants. Some don’t. We believe in Believer’s Baptism (see my blog on Baptists) and this is important to me but those who do not are not heretics. I would argue that those who teach salvation is through baptism or that babies should be baptized to be saved are teaching dangerous doctrine and violating an essential doctrine. Many who baptize infants do so to dedicate and pledge commitment to raise the child in faith so that the child will one day grow and make a decision for her or himself. That is a different understanding then the Baptist (mine) but not heretical. We baptize to show others that we have accepted Christ. It’s a difference of opinion. So as long as you don’t see it as salvation or part of salvation then it is not heretical.
Free Will VS Predestination
Some churches stress free will and others are more calvinist and stress predestination. This is not the forum to debate the finer points of this debate but it has historically been a big one. My own tribe (Baptists) have both traditions in our history. Some denominations have stressed free will (Methodists) and others calvinism (reformed and Presbyterians). While I have strong opinions about this issue and see it is an important issue it is not one that makes the other side a heretic.
Who can take it? What exactly is going on? Some say it is a memorial and others something spiritual is happening. Yet as long as we stress the story/truth behind communion we are on the right track.
I know in all these blogs I’ve left out some issues like prayer and perhaps other issues that are important and I’m not dismissing. But I just wanted to lay out some food for thought. I’m sure I forgot some key issues and if you want to mention those to me I’ll be happy to comment on them.
Next week I’m going to talk about Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. You may be angry but I see these two groups as heretical. I’ll talk about each one individually but these are excellent case studies of groups that have doctrines that are clearly against historic Christianity.
I know some people are passionate about their view of creation, the end of the world, or some other issue. I’m not saying your views aren’t important or worth discussion. I’m just saying that orthodox Christians have mulitiple views over some of these issues. The previous blog lays out some key doctrines we must hold in common even if we have some issues within that we disagree. The Christian church has many denominations to practice church the best way we can. We come together accross denominational lines to do work together. Some issues though are crucial and must be dealt with. If someone claim Christ is just another man or that there is no Holy Spirit or that salvation is found in what we do we have a real problem. As you will see with movements like the Mormon church and Jehovah’s Witnesses some major beliefs are altered, challenged, and completely changed.
One final comment I would add. The Unitarian Universalist church is an example of historic Christian churches that over time drifted from orthodox teaching. Some churches became unitarian (denying the Trinity) and others universal (all are saved no matter what) and in time these streams came together. The UU church today is not a Christian movement and combines many religious traditions within it. This is an example of what going to far on crucial doctrines can result in. Another example on the opposite extreme are some strong Fundamentalist churches that make minor issues major all the time and divide over it. Some fundamentalist churches become very legalistic. Some make certain Bible translations (usually KJV) or label churches that are different over non-essentials (women in ministry, women wearing pants or make up) and call such Christians heretics! Many of us know legalistic churches in our communities that spend time blasting everything from how women dress, to television, or that if you belong to certain political parties you can’t be Christian. And so extremes are always dangerous. If you ignore the majors you do so to your own danger. If you major on the minors you can become misguided and forget what you are about.