Heresy and God’s Word (Part 1)

It’s a strong, admittedly divisive word, sometimes used correctly, but more often than not, is defined slightly differently by Christians with so many nuances that it can be difficult to agree on what is and what is not, actual heresy.

I’ve often been asked how I really know that certain teachings are heresy when maybe, perhaps, they are simply ‘secondary issues’ that don’t require such strong language. More recently, I was asked “Who gets to define what heresy is?”

Let me tell you a little background on how I arrived at my understanding of it. After High School, the day finally arrived when I would be making my trek across country to the University. I remember vividly standing at the door of the house with my father, car running, loaded up and ready to go. One of the last things he said to me before my leaving was “Watch out for the dispensationalists.” Of course, he was warning me, in love, about all the theological dangers out there. I looked at him and told him, “Dad, I’m not believing anybody on anything (theologically) if it’s not in this Bible.”

That was not confidence nor arrogance on my part. It was more like fear, the healthy kind.

As a preacher’s kid, I’d grown up in the Church and had been around preachers my entire life, and I’d heard my fair share of discussions of why a particular teaching was a grave error, and heard the word ‘heresy’ used. The most profitable times that I was privy to such conversations were the ones that used Scripture, rightly or wrongly, to make the case. If nothing else, it drove home to me the fact that if something was going to be decided if it was heresy or not, would depend on what God said about the matter. That is truth, after all!

Michael Horton has a definition of heresy which he defines as “any teaching that directly contradicts the clear and direct witness of the Scriptures on a point of salvific importance.”

Man, that sounds good to me. Wonderful. Should we adapt it? Should we make this understanding the standard for our future discussions on all things doctrinal?

Not yet.

Do you know why? For the simple reason that if we do, we have accepted a man’s opinion, definition and understanding.

What about God’s Word? What does the Bible say heresy is? This is where it can get sticky for folks. We like a popular teacher, preacher, and BAM! whatever rolls off their tongue, if it sounds good, eat it.

Well not so fast. I’m not saying Horton is wrong, I’m just stressing our need to test all things by what God says.

That’s exactly what I hope to do in a later post. Show you, from God’s Word, not man’s, what God has to say about heresy, what it is, and how to recognize it. Yes, I’m going to dive into the Greek language, so get ready!

I hope you’ll benefit from it.