How not to be a heretic

The following is adapted from Pastor’s September 2018 Leaflet article.

“America’s problem,” writes Ross Douthat in his book Bad Religion, “isn’t too much religion, or too little of it. It’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of destructive pseudo-Christianities in its place.” Douthat, a columnist for The New York Times, goes further still. “For all its piety and fervor,” he writes, “today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.” 

Those are fighting words, to be sure. But would we dispute them? Are we even equipped to do so? Just as you can’t treat a disease that you don’t know exists, so also you can’t avoid or disavow a heresy if you don’t know what it is. Instead it goes undetected, doing its destructive work while remaining undiagnosed. 

Our Sunday Bible study for this fall will seek to remedy this. Entitled “How Not to Be a Heretic,” in this study we’ll be looking at the historic threats to orthodox Christian faith. Technically speaking, heresies are teachings that run contrary to biblical, creedal faith. Indeed, as we will see, much of what we think of as orthodoxy had to be defined and articulated as a result of threats to the integrity of the Christian message. 

“That sounds kind of dry,” you might be thinking. “What does ecclesiastical inside baseball from 1500 years ago have to do with us today?” Much in every way. But let me just give you two reasons for now. 

First, studying the heresies of old gives us a greater appreciation for the truths of our faith, and for the people who contended for them—often at cost of their lives. We’ll hear stories of intrepid apologists and faithful evangelists who will help us to see not only the truth but also the beauty of what we believe—what G.K. Chesterton called “the romance of orthodoxy.” 

Secondly, as Douthat’s comments suggest, these ancient heresies have a stubborn habit of hanging around. Even though the Church formally repudiated them all at various councils, they keep popping up like recalcitrant weeds. There are whole sects (such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses) that still subscribe to heretical beliefs, and for any Christian heresies lurk as a silent killer if not identified and consciously avoided. 

So join us on Sunday mornings at 9:15 starting September 9th, and learn how not to be a heretic. 

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