Heretics: a rant
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
The unprecedented display of hypocrisy surrounding the whole Theresa Schiavo thing has put me in the mood for polemic. I want to denounce the heretics. I don't want to burn them at the stake, just denounce them. You can kill a heretic but you can't kill a heresy. It doesn't help to get government involved, nor the Church. Codifying dogma in the form of creeds, confessions, canons doesn't work either. Nor does indoctrinating children by making them memorize dogma. History shows none of that works, so today we have tolerance and the separation of Church and State. The only thing that works is education in the true sense (for Christians: the Holy Spirit) and that just can't be legislated or mass-marketed.
Still, I'm for tolerance, but I'm against appeasement. Tolerance means respecting their right to hold their own view. Appeasement means standing back and letting them impose their views on others. Take Creationism, for example. If people want to hold such views, fine. If they want to teach them to their own children in their own schools, fine. If they want to teach them to my children in public schools, then I say "No". If they want me to "respect" their views by acknowledging that they may be "as valid" as real science, they can forget about it. I don't oppose Creationism because it's not scientific (though of course it isn't). I oppose Creationism on religious grounds. Confusing the Bible with revelation, a mere book with the Holy Spirit, is "idolatry": a heresy. Pretending that the Bible is a magic book that will give you the Secrets of the Universe, that's "sorcery", another heresy.
There's a difference between heresy and just being "wrong". A heresy is proclaimed by a heretic as the Word of God. Heresy deludes or repulses other people; it keeps others from knowing the Truth, by masquerading as the Truth. (As Jesus would have said, were he an Englishman in the times of James: "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." Matthew 23:13).
That having been said, here is my (preliminary) list of modern heretics, and by way of contrast, people who are just "wrong".
Creationists: We weren't there when God created the world, the behemoth, or the the leviathan. Christians don't presume to know God's whole Plan, let alone the details of his methods. Pretending that the Bible reveals secrets, like the origin of species, is the worst kind of Gnosticism or sorcery: it's not a magic talisman, it's just a book. (I also include in this category people who use the word "prophecy" with respect to current events).
Legalists: anyone who argues from the Bible to justify slavery, poverty, the death penalty, war, or any kind of institutional persecution, injustice, or tyranny. Includes:
The self-styled "Saved": People who think they are among "the elect", or think they can tell who is "saved", misunderstand God's Judgment. (I'm tempted to say they have a big surprise coming for them, but I'd just be joking.) When Jesus denounced "sin" he wasn't just talking about "those people", he was talking about you. Includes:
- anyone who calls themselves "saved", or refers to others as "unsaved"
- people who talk about being "born again" as if it were a past event, over and done with, rather than a continual struggle
- anyone who puts a fish on their car, or otherwise tries to indicate that they are one of the Elect
People I disagree with, but arguably aren't "heretics"
- the Roman Catholic Church (re: priests, sex and sexuality)
- Calvinists (re: predestination, hell)
- people who insist abortion should be illegal
- people who insist that public, corporate religious expressions should be legal
- people who will not accept Universalism (that everyone is "saved" and no one is going to Hell) at least as a working hypothesis for dealing with their fellow man, if not the ultimate truth (people who won't leave Judgment to God)