Necessary heresies?


It’s not really necessary to know your heretics, unless they’re doorknocking you.

Even then you can find ways to avoid them or annoy them. I keep a Greek New Testament on hand. When they deny that Jesus is God, I mention John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. I point out that in verse 14 of the same chapter, the Word becomes flesh—God becomes man, the man Jesus Christ.

When they scoff at the unreliability of modern translations of the Greek, and show me their special approved version which tells me that no, the word was not God but ‘a god’, I excuse myself and find my Greek New Testament. I confess that my knowledge of Greek grammar is, unlike my sinful soul, beyond redemption, and ask them to help me out by explaining themselves further. We carry on from there. It is an enormous amount of fun of the 2 John 10 variety, assuming you have a lazy half hour on your hands. And you are fulfilling the command to love your neighbour, because you are allowing them an extra half hour of sleeping in by detaining those who would disturb them (these heretics always seem to doorknock our house on Saturday mornings).

But while the Bible doesn’t particularly encourage us to know our heretics (see the aforementioned 2 John 10), at times it can be quite useful to be able to recognize them. So if you need a simple, useful spotter’s guide, check this series.

Here’s a good example on the subject of monothelitism, in which Justin Holcomb, the author of the series, explains how ‘Jesus is controlled by skynet’ is not a good or right way of looking at life.

If you find yourself needing to recognize a heresy, it’s recommended! (With thanks to Justin Taylor.)

5 thoughts on “Necessary heresies?

  1. I’ve done that myself Gordon.  It IS fun.  I’ve pulled out the Greek interlinear as well as an easy to use word dictionary and an easy to use Greek elements book and showed them how to look stuff up.  It doesn’t last more than one visit though.  Then I have to wait until the next group arrives who doesn’t have my house pegged.  :^)

  2. But are the main heresies of the past the ones our churches are struggling with today, or do we have our own?  What about the ‘new clericalism’, the prosperity gospel, the still-dodgy understanding of guidance, notwithstanding Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne’s excellent book?

  3. Hi Gordon,

    Thanks for those links you provided to the resurgence website.  Worth checking out!

  4. Hi Gordo,

    I have looked at Justin H’s Monothelitism article and keep wondering about this statement:

    there are two wills and two centers of action in Christ, but not two persons:

    I wonder what it means? I don’t think it is the exact wording of the council and it looks suspiciously like there are two “willing subjects” at work. It might not be Nestorian (the “one person” bit is meant to guard agains this), but it certainly has overtones of the peculiarly Antiochene idea that Christ had one person and two hypostases (hypostasis here meaning a particular expression of a nature).

    A quick search shows me Migliore (Faith Seeking Understanding p. 173) saying something like this – I winder if this where JH got it. But Migliore also says “the Antiochene concern was more prominent” at this council.” I think this is correct and should make us cautious.

    Sorry. You got me on my thing.

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