Haunting heresies

Posted: 24th January 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

Graham Old of Leaving Münster made a post a week or so ago about “Heresies that Haunt me” in which he outlines some of the non-traditional, even heretical, ideas or beliefs about God and Christianity that he’s flirted with over the years. The post has spawned 50+ comments with some predictable mentions, but also good discussion.

Certainly the process of finding our mature Christian voice involves sorting through all sorts of different ideas and beliefs, some we discard, some we hold on to for a while, some we embrace tightly. I thought it would be interesting to also look at this topic and see what issues or questions I’m debating as I work out the reality of my salvation.

There are four “heresies” (or non-orthodox views) that seem to recur in my thought process:

  1. Full preterism. The exegetical argument for full preterism is an attractive one, but the application within orthodox creeds and tradition is troubling. Once exposed to the exegetical argument, it becomes difficult to ignore; I’m still looking for the exegetical rebuttal
  2. Scripture is inspired, not inerrant. Steve has a marvelous set of posts on Undeception right now about scriptural inspiration, inerrancy, and hermeneutics. Well worth your time to go through.
  3. The geopolitical state of Israel is irrelevant. This goes somewhat in hand with #1, but I’m perfectly comfortable with a backlash against the evangelicals’ economic and political support of Israel in this country. This Israel is a political state, not a covenantal people, and don’t feed me the hogwash about Israel being reestablished “in a day” as an eschatological event. It would be just as bad to say that the United States of America is New Jerusalem.
  4. God doesn’t have a will and a plan for your individual life. Garry Friesen did a marvelous job of debunking the concept of God’s will for individual lives in his book, “Decision Making and the Will of God”. It’s enlightening to read about God’s moral wisdom available to us through the Bible to aid in making decisions, but that God is not a puppet master. The concept of the elect and predestination still falls under the domain of God’s sovereign will for Creation.

What issues are you wrestling with?

  1. Bryan says:

    I don’t think I have any full on heresies that haunt me, but there are somethings that make me wonder.

    1. Full Preterism – I’m firmly a partial-preterist, so it doesn’t actually haunt me, as I said. I would like to see a rebuttal that doesn’t pull the Creed card first, or at all.

    2. English translation of OT Scriptures – It just seems like there is a lot guesswork going on here. Seeing as how I have no background in Hebrew, though, I don’t mind taking the brunt of this one on myself.

    As for the geopolitical state of Israel. I have no problem saying that it is irrelevant to eschatology– in the sense of dispensational thought and so forth. I think Romans 11 is speaking of the Jewish people, but that’s really as far as I’ll take it, because they will be brought in through Christ, just like everyone else.

  2. Steve says:

    Good grief, ElShaddai! Do you realize that I’m implicated in at least two of the “heresies” you mention?! :-Þ

    I really liked Graham’s post. This is an intriguing topic. Of course, defining “orthodoxy” is a vexed question indeed. Is it just what the creeds say? Because the creeds only outright disagree with full preterism — was there something special about the ecumenical councils that created the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds? Or does it more or less equal the commonly accepted beliefs in the larger tradition/sect of which I am a part? We’re not “orthodox” in Catholic ways, and some of their orthodoxy stems from beliefs that predate the creeds (the Didache springs to mind).

    What I’d like to know is what most people who herald orthodoxy think its value really is. Is orthodoxy actually indicative of truth or merely suggestive? Most evangelicals I know, even the most “orthodox” of them, don’t ever outright claim that if orthodoxy’s wrong in one area, then it’s useless; the Westminster Confession for instance makes it clear that all creeds, not excluding itself, err. Yet using orthodoxy as a blunt object against non-orthodox beliefs presupposes the all-or-nothing view of the accuracy of orthodoxy.

    I guess my question is whether there’s an all-or-nothing argument for orthodoxy’s value in critiquing ideas. I’m not an iconoclast — I love orthodoxy and presuppose its accuracy on areas I have not yet looked into. I do think the burden of proof lies on challengers of orthodoxy, however.

    I guess you could say I have a love-hate relationship with orthodoxy: I love it, but it hates me 🙂

  3. Dave says:

    El Shaddai,

    Your #4 is interesting as I have never thought about that. Not saying that you’re wrong, but if it is true, then what is the alternative? No plan at all, a more general revelation of principles to live by, or maybe sort of a group guidance (i.e. a plan for Christians as a group)?

  4. @Bryan: regarding translating OT scriptures… look up “literary equivalence” in the search box above to read some of my thoughts on the need for future translations to pay more attention to the semantic meaning of the text rather than formal equivalence.

    @Steve: you’ve implicated yourself, sir! The question I ask is whether orthodox equals tradition. There’s a significant tension now between those who raise up tradition as the way for Christianity to stay apart from the world, and those who want to put tradition aside as the way to get Christianity into the world. How do we keep from throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

    @Dave: yes, I think the general answer would be that God has revealed His moral will through the Bible and that it is our responsibility to study it and learn how to apply it to our individual decisions. The Bible isn’t going to tell us which socks to wear or even what job to take, but it will give us the framework of proper Christian life in which we evaluate our opportunities.

    Friesen’s point is that if we stop putting out a fleece to try and learn God’s will for our lives, then we free ourselves to make decisions and remove the guilt or frustration of not know what God supposedly has planned for us.

    I don’t think that Friesen would advocate even a specific will for Christianity as a whole (other than God’s sovereign will, which encompasses all of creation, history and beyond).

  5. Mike Beidler says:

    Hmmm … three for four, although I’m still sorting out the inerrancy/inspired/infallible question.

    I’m not familiar with this one:

    God doesn’t have a will and a plan for your individual life. Garry Friesen did a marvelous job of debunking the concept of God’s will for individual lives in his book, “Decision Making and the Will of God”.

    I’ll have to check this book out and see if I can’t go for 4 out of 4! 😉

    Seriously, as a Calvinist, I’ve struggled with how much God imposes His will on His creation. For the time being, I’m satisfied with predestination on a soteriological scale, but not on a day-to-day life decision scale. Of course, if God is indeed unbound by time … well, that just bakes my brain.