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Although I'm using the past-tense, "was" here, it is possible that a case could be made that heretics should still be killed but I'm not the one making that case. I guess we first must ask; What makes a person a heretic? Typically you will hear that heresy is simply going against the predominant view, in this case against whatever expression of Christianity is dominant. This is where a person may claim that everyone is a heretic to someone else over some issue or another; thus making relativistic the entire idea. This is especially true of how the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants have interacted. To this day, there are many Roman Catholics and many Protestants that do not consider the other group to even be Christians. But, I'm not trying to be ecumenical here.
So, let us try to define heresy a little tighter. Romans 16:17-18 is perhaps the clearest biblical expression of what it means to be a heretic.
After the Harold Camping debacle in 2011 where "pastor" Harold Camping predicted the end of the world -- which obviously failed to come true -- people should be asking what should they do when pastors go bad.
Or how about a local pastor who may have started out on the straight and narrow but at some point either embraces some radical individualistic view or begins supporting some blatant heresy.
Further, what if an entire ministry goes bad? What should the "lowly" Christian do? Often, we're told we just should move on. Vote with our feet per se.
In the Bible, there are very few examples of elders/pastors who go bad and eventually return to the Faith. Most examples are of elders/pastors going bad and never again returning to the Faith. The Bible has an of example of warnings of how to avoid installing a bad pastor. (1 Tim 3:1-7)
I'm always careful when I write articles about the condition of Christianity and the Church. I never want to come off as some wild-eyed Frank Viola radical, who appears to seek the overthrow of 2,000 years of historic Christianity. However, there are some issues with some presentations of Christianity For example, since the rise of Dispensationalism, many Christians at least in America have had a defeatist outlook rather than a more than conquerors, advancing the kingdom view. Further, when various heresies have appeared in the Church (think Arianismi), there have been otherwise solid Christians that seem too weak or confused to do the right thing.
Near the end of his life in the late 1800s, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, often called the "Prince of Preachers" was embroiled in a controversy that would cause him to lose many "friends" and allies.
In 1887, Spurgeon and and his friend and fellow pastor, Robert Shindler started a series in Spurgeon's monthly magazine, The Sword and the Trowel. The series was called The Down-Grade. It started as an observation that historically, after every revival within evangelical Christianity, it is typically followed by a "down-grade" or a drift away from sound doctrine.
With a title like the one of this article, perhaps you are expecting that I will berate everyone else for not being as "Christian" as I am -- since that is typically how such articles go. Next, such an article would outline how far modern Christianity has fallen and how we need to get back to some idealized practice or interpretation of Christianity. Indeed, many such articles are merely covers for the author to put forth some private interpretation of the Bible and claim it is the "real one".
Rather, I am NOT here to urge anyone to follow me in some fanciful "new" interpretation never expounded upon before by the theologians that have come before. Since my (and every Christian's) presupposition MUST be that God sustains basic understanding of His plan and truth, otherwise all who appeal to the "Bible alone" aren't being quite honest with themselves. The Bible didn't just drop from the sky, nor was it found on golden plates in a cave (Mormonism), nor was it "recited" to some cross-roads Arab trader in the 7th century (Islam). The Bible was given to Christians, using God's sustaining hand to bring it about, otherwise who is to say what we call the "Bible" is God's Word?
So, with the presupposition that God sustains the basic understanding of His plan and truth, we must ask WHAT IS A REAL CHRISTIAN?
As my family returned from church today, there were many questions. You see, the sermon was on homosexuality and how it is no worse a sin than any other sin. I mean, the Bible does say sin is sin right (Rom 3:23)? This confuses many people because then who are we to say anything about anyone's sins; specifically homosexuals if we are equally sinful? I mean, what about the Bible verse of removing the board out of your own eye before trying to help another person remove a speck (Mt 7:2-5)?
It irks me when supposed "experts" blather on and they are given a status that doesn't represent the typical. For instance, the entire Harold Camping issue or like an article I read today where a man named Ian Morgan Cron wrote on FoxNews.com, an article titled: Five Words That Could Save the Church (source). Save it from what? The author answers the question with this phrase: "Five words could prevent the public brawls between Christians who differ in their opinions on social and theological issues." Who says we Christians AREN'T supposed to "brawl" to some degree over doctrine? Actually, the Bible says just the opposite as the author of this piece concludes.
Athanasius was the 4th-century Christian theologian known for his epic and unwavering stance against anti-Trinitarians called Arians (source). But even more, Athanasius was often alone in his defense of the historic Christian Faith. I don't mean that Athanasius was a rebel who had a doctrine different than the rest of Christianity, rather that while Athanasius was consistently in line with the teachings of historic Christianity, there were times in his life that the "leaders" of the segment of the Church of which he was part abandoned the historic Christian doctrine.
On the other side of this is the TRUE rebel who reads the Bible and claims they alone have come to a conclusion different than every other Christian in history. Such a person often comes up with a doctrine never taught in historic Christianity and when people reject this doctrine and the person advocating it, the person may go into "Martyr Complex" mode -- woe is me, I'm being persecuted for Christ's sake -- when in reality they are being opposed for their OWN sake.
We have all experienced listening to a sermon where a sports analogy was used to make the point. There is certainly nothing wrong with trying to get a person to understand the point of the Bible by employing something a person can grasp from their everyday life. This is exactly what a parable is; a common truism. The apostle Paul even references "sports" when he compares our faith to a "race" (Acts 20:24, 1 Corinthians 9:24, 2 Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 12:1).
The problem isn't the use of analogies to elucidate the intent of Scripture but rather the problem comes from malformed analogies. For example, a fellow (who claims to be a pastor) has been a continued disputant against my position that he and folks such as Dr. Kenneth Talbot are "sell-outs" and "compromisers" when validate the heresy of hyperpreterismi.
So, we Christians have all been in the situation where we are either sitting under the guidance of or know of a pastor who is teaching bad or wrong doctrine. What is our obligation as "laymen"? Perhaps it depends on the severity of the bad doctrine. Maybe we will be told that we would need to go through an official process such as an elder board, but not all church structures even have an elder board. Sometimes the pastor is the end of line.
But is this really speaking of challenging a pastor on bad doctrine or rather on bad behavior. Verse 20 goes on to say:
So, clearly the "accusation against an elder" is in reference to his sinning.
We often hear preachers or people in general equating their Christian Faith as a "journey". It sounds accurate enough, since we are indeed being continuously conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). But how I often hear it is that our faith is unfinished or "unsettled". We have to be careful how we phrase this. There is certainly our individual faith, but there is also the Christian Faith. The Christian Faith is NOT unsettled.
Among the many topics the Reformer, Martin Luther addressed was the topic of marriage. Luther, as you know came out of a culture where Papalism said that priests should remain celibate. Eventually, Luther himself did get married. I want to take some time to review a treatise by Luther titled, The Estate of Marriage.
Luther discusses who should marry and whom to marry, per the Bible and further Luther discusses whom should be celibate and why. I will review his three-part treatment in even smaller segments. Please refer to this link to see Luther's actual treatise as translated into English by Walther I. Brandt.
We have all heard the supposed example of the bitter rivals, George Whitefield and John Wesley from whom we are supposed to consider how Christians should disagree yet remain friendly. But have you heard of Augustus Toplady? Toplady was a contemporary of George Whitefield, John Gill, and William Romaine. At age 15, Toplady converted via the preaching of an Arminian preacher but by the time Toplady was 18 and had read several Calvinistic works, he came to see Arminianism as an incorrect view.
While Whitefield constantly publicly refused to engage Wesely, even though Wesley had turned Whitefield's Calvinst ministry into an Arminian ministry, Toplady took Wesley head on. Toplady first published a work titled, The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted which upset Wesley. This 1769 work was actually a translation of the 1562 work which in great part helped Toplady become a Calvinist. (Confession of the Christian Religion).
No one said being a Christian was going to be one giant love-fest where everything is always cheery. Most of us Christians don't look or act anything like Ned Flanders from the Simpson's cartoon. Flanders seems to be the ideal Christian most non-Christians envision. It would certainly be very difficult to live up to that fictional character. Even Jesus drove out the money-changers with a whip in hand. Even Paul withstood Peter to the face and parted ways with John Mark.
Recently I followed a link to an article I saw on a liberal website. The article appeared on Newsweek's website on April 3rd 2010 under the title, A Woman's Place is in the Church with a tagline of "The cause of the Catholic clergy's sex-abuse scandal is no mystery: insular groups of men often do bad things. So why not break up the all-male club?"
So even the tagline informs what the article is going to contain. But let me be clear, as a Reformed/Protestant Christian, I have no admiration for what the Roman Catholic Church has become since Papalism took over. Nor do I want to appear to be defending the pedophiles plaguing the RCC. However, this Newsweek article isn't really about those issues. Those issues are just being used by the Newsweek author to advance more liberalism.
When men like Martin Luther opposed the Roman Catholic Church, for the most part, since he was in Europe he would have had scant options as to where to go Church. There was certainly the option to go to the Eastern/Greek Church if he left Germany. Or perhaps he could have joined with the Waldensians who had been in existence at least since about 9-10th century. Or he could have joined the Lollard movement in his own Germany. But, as we know neither Luther nor most of the Reformers such as Huldrych Zwingli had to make this choice. Each already had a position and therefore an instant ability to create a "new church". How much different it would have been had Luther, Zwingli and some of the other early reformers been mere laymen.
There was a time in Christianity when regional pastors, called "Bishops" would spend most of their time articulating the precepts of the Faith, defending against heretical encroachment, and all around general exposition of historic Christianity. But now, those days are all but gone. Instead pastors are too busy tending "local churches". It would be too disruptive, too messy for a pastor to take on the heresies that batter the Church. Instead, individual "laymen" who come across these heresies are either left to fall prey to them or to battle them on their own without much support from the local congregation.
A church in England preached Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18 and immediately many women members were so offended that they quit the congregation. So what does Eph 5:22 and Col 3:18 say that is so offensive?
Some of the women congregants said they were "disgusted" by the sermon which was accompanied by leaflets. Further, a woman member asked,
So we heard about the state of the Union, but what is the state of theology today? It is not a question to be asked by a politician but let each Christian ask him or herself. Let us base it on the biblical principle of 2 Cor 13:5 and 2 Peter 1:10. Is our theology a personal hodge-podge hobbled together or is it the faith of the community of saints? Is our faith a weak, beggarly faith more apt to be part of the Oprah or Dr. Phil show?
In the 21st century, Christianity is under attack not only from secularism, but from enemies within the gates; people who claim to be Christian but uphold everything but historic Christianity. Whether they are trying to make a "new kind of Christian", such as the Emergent/postmodernists have been attempting, or they fancy themselves as apologists or watchmen out to expose everyone and everything yet never seem to get around to applying 2 Cor 13:5 and 2 Peter 1:10 to themselves.
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