November 26, 2014

If It Walks Like A Duck …

Ozzie Guillen is an idiot. The manager of the Miami Marlins was interviewed by Time magazine for an online article, released last week. In the interview, Guillen—again, a baseball manager, not a foreign diplomat or spokesman—spoke about how he feels about Fidel Castro.

“I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [SOB] is still here.”

Nice. Really nice. Especially when your brand-new $675 million stadium rests in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. Especially when many of your ticket-buyers fled from Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Guillen basically told those fans, “Hey, you know how your parents and grandparents starved and lived in cardboard boxes? Well, I really respect the man who brought that about because none of your people could kill him.”

That is why I say Ozzie Guillen is an idiot. But, you say, isn’t it his right to say what he did? Your opinion of what he said is just that—your opinion. No, I would reply. What Ozzie said are not just words. They are damaging words. They have caused harm to the team he leads, the organization he is employed by, and the community his team represents. He is held to a higher standard. This very well could cost him his job.

Words.

Words are very powerful things. God spoke words and the universe came into being. In Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, a word was spoken that brought about the end of a world. In real life, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Words matter. I think we can all agree on this. James devotes almost an entire chapter of his short epistle on the topic of words. He begins by saying it’s best to think twice about becoming a teacher—one who uses words to reveal Jesus to others—because teachers will be held to a higher standard.

Only we don’t.

Preachers can get away with saying the craziest things. They seemingly get a free ride. If they are questioned, it’s not long before the “touch not God’s anointed” verse is misused as a shield. I know this to be true from personal experience. The church I grew up in as a believer was led by a man who announced he was God’s anointed and we were not to question him. Of course I thought it kind of silly when he railed against Catholics for (as he claimed) elevating the Pope’s words to the level of Holy Scripture when he did the same thing with his own words. Anyone who questioned him in the least was considered to be a son of Korah and was to be shunned. Spiritual abuse at its best.

Today the game is a played a little differently. Our pastor genuinely thought he was leading—he would have considered it discipling—the congregation in the way of the Lord. He backed up everything with at least three scriptures and quoted them from the Greek. Today’s “anointed” preachers are, for the most part, out to build their own brand, not lead people—even in a warped way—to lead Christlike lives. And we let them get away with it. They will say something crazy regarding money or sex or politics and we just smile and nod our heads. We don’t hold them accountable for their words out of fear of being accused of touching God’s anointed. Or maybe we really do consider big-time preachers infallible. Why are we so afraid to call someone who is not preaching Jesus Christ incarnate, crucified and risen again a heretic?

There. I said it. Heretic. It is a strong word, and not one to be used carelessly or casually. But it should be used when appropriate. To better understand just what we mean by heretic, let’s go to that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia:

Heresy (from Greek αἵρεσις, which originally meant “choice”) is an accusation levied against members of another group which has beliefs which conflict with those of the accusers. It is usually used to discuss violations of religious or traditional laws or codes, although it is used by some political extremists to refer to their opponents. It carries the connotation of behaviors or beliefs likely to undermine accepted morality and cause tangible evils, damnation, or other punishment. In some religions, it also implies that the heretic is in alliance with the religion’s symbol of evil, such as Satan or chaos. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one’s religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion. The founder or leader of a heretical movement is called a heresiarch, while individuals who espouse heresy or commit heresy, are known as heretics.Heresiology is the study of heresy.

By this definition, Ozzie Guillen is a heretic. (Or, as leader of the “I respect Fidel Castro” movement, maybe he is a heresiarch.) He is speaking something that violates traditional laws or codes (we don’t admire cruel dictators) and something that can cause tangible damage (people may stop spending money at the Marlins’ ballpark, his team may no longer follow his leadership, etc.).  We are free to call Guillen a heretic. And an idiot. Yet, after he sits out a five-game suspension (five games out of 162 barely counts as a tap on the wrist), he will be back in the dugout, saying other stupid things (he also admitted in the Time interview that he gets drunk after every game, win or lose). And people will say, “Well, that’s just Ozzie being Ozzie.”

Paul Daugherty, sports columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, explains why he thinks people get away with saying whatever they want.

Conventional wisdom is that we – fans, media, Twits – like guys like Ozzie Guillen. They have controversial opinions, they express them quickly. Guillen’s utterances are the social media version of French fries. Our media heroes now – Rush and Glenn Beck and locally Bill Cunningham – are all like that.

They’re held accountable, kind of, but not long, because our attention spans fly like canaries from a cage. We move forward. They stay famous. We’re so busy listening to the current crazy thing they say, we can’t recall the last crazy thing they said.

Can we not lump many celebrity preachers in that same barrel? We may stop for a second when we hear another Gospel being preached, but not for much longer than that. We move forward, they stay famous. Or, more than likely, we don’t even flinch. Joel Osteen says he had enough faith so that God arranged for him to have a parking spot up close at the mall, and we just merrily hum along. Anyone who would jump to his or her feet and shout, Heresy!, would be escorted out of the former basketball arena. A disciple of Kenneth Hagin teaches that God had to have faith to send Jesus because God didn’t know if anyone would believe him (I have actually heard this taught by several different people) is rewarded with nodding heads, not people walking out. We are all together way too polite when it comes to those espousing heresy.

This is not a call to go on a witch hunt for heretics. More than likely you would just focus on those who you disagree with, not true teachers of a false Gospel. There are plenty of finger-pointers who feel everyone should line up with their way of thinking. Ken Ham followers, for instance. Or many Reformed Theology pastors and teachers. Protestants and Catholics have called each other heretics for centuries. No, we don’t need to start a “Heretic-of-the-Month” club. Yet neither should we ignore heresy when we hear it. Just how do we know something is heresy?

I had a talk with the Synonymous Rambler about this yesterday. (Yes, the SR is a real person. Trust me on this.) SR said, “There has to be a foundation on which all true teaching rests.” After some discussion, we both agreed on this as a baseline: Jesus, as revealed in Scripture, is the determining factor whether a teaching is true or false. Does the teaching lift up Jesus as he is revealed in Scripture? If so, then work from that starting point to make your arguments about the particulars. If the Jesus of the whole Bible (Old and New Covenants) is not being shown, or if Jesus isn’t mentioned at all, you may be dealing with heresy. The same holds true with traditions of the Church. If they line up with Jesus as revealed in Scripture, great. If not, then they are a unneeded distraction.

Most teachers and preachers, even when they get things wrong, are not heretics. They just need to work harder on how they present Jesus. Pastors of large and small churches are, for the most part, men and women who love Jesus and want to see him lived out in their own lives and the lives of those they are charged with leading. There really are not many heretics out there. But there are some, and it is wrong of us to close our eyes and ears to their false teaching. It is very wrong to let someone teach a false Gospel and we just say, “Well, that’s their opinion.”

When the Da Vinci Code novel was released, I read it and thought, “No one is fool enough to believe this.” I was very wrong. A few months later I told the board of the publisher I worked for that we needed to respond to Dan Brown’s book because I was hearing story after story of people who now believed that Jesus and Mary Magdelene were lovers and had a child, or those who said, “What would it matter if Jesus were married and had a child?” Some said, “Well, it’s just a work of fiction. Who cares what it says?” Only the author, before the story began, wrote that all the facts he was using were true. Of course, they weren’t. Not even close. Damage was being done by this heresy. We wrote and released a book that explored the heresies presented and why it was important to believe the right things about Jesus. We focused on lifting up Jesus as he is seen in the Bible, not in tearing down Dan Brown. And that is how we should respond to those who are sitting under heretical teaching. We are not to simply “cluck cluck” the false teacher. We must lift up Jesus. And in order to do that, we must know Jesus as he is presented in Scripture. And in order to do that, well, we have to live and walk with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

As I said, we are way too polite when it comes to heretics. Peter, in his second letter, didn’t hesitate to call out the wolves in sheep’s clothing. 2 Peter 2:1-3, from The Message:

But there were also lying prophets among the people then, just as there will be lying religious teachers among you. They’ll smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting you against each other—biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back! They’ve put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can’t tell right from wrong.

They give the way of truth a bad name. They’re only out for themselves. They’ll say anything, anything, that sounds good to exploit you. They won’t, of course, get by with it. They’ll come to a bad end, for God has never just stood by and let that kind of thing go on.

I am not worried about these false teachers. I’m more worried about the “crowd of mixed-up followers who can’t tell right from wrong.” That is why Internet Monk will continue to point out heresy, and heretics, when it comes to our attention. Not because we want to point the finger and say, “I found another!” No, it is to try to protect the mixed-up followers of the heretics.

And I’m starting today with Ozzie Guillen. Don’t be a mixed-up follower of that heretic.

Comments

  1. Can you ask a leopard to change it’s spots?

    The real idiots are the ones who hired him…knowing full well his track record for being a loose cannon.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I know I’m being nitpicky, but I don’t recall Joel Osteen bragging about a parking spot because he had enough faith. He said that God had given him favor by giving him a good parking spot, and I don’t see what’s heretical about that.

    • sarahmorgan says:

      Jesus said that God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt 5:45). So, anyone claiming that God is favoring him with a good parking spot is making a pretty huge presumption.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I think it’s OK to take God’s good gifts personally! He loves us personally! :)

        • petrushka1611 says:

          God lets people all over the world be tortured, killed, starved, gassed, raped, abused…shall I go on? I don’t think he’s too worried about a parking space.

          • amen petrushka611!

            I should hold back… But, I can’t. God allowed my beautiful CHRISTIAN daughter to be raped… And God gives Joel a parking space… PLEAZZEEE. The question is will you still praise Him even if the most horrible thing happens… Screw the parking space, I’m sorry that makes me sick…

          • Gail,

            My heart goes out to you and your daughter….

  3. br. thomas says:

    “Words”
    “Words are very powerful things.”
    “Words matter.”

    But you begin your rant with calling someone you probably have never met an “idiot”? Is that pleasing to God? What about Ephesians 4:29? Could you not express your disagreement in a way that does not involve calling someone names? And what does this man’s statement have to do with heresy? Public figures and celebrities make all kinds of foolish statements and express their opinions on a whole range of subjects all the time. This surprises you? I have to assume that this somehow has offended you in a significant way – more than it should, in my opinion. And, in my opinion, this particular post does not honor Michael Spencer’s legacy or what I’ve come to appreciate about Internet Monk.

    • I really don’t care one way or another about Guillen. I used him as an illustration to show how we let people get away with saying things that are damaging. Whether or not you agree with him regarding Castro, what he said damaged his employer and those he leads.

      That is the point I’m making. Preachers who do not stick to Jesus are damaging the flocks they have been given to lead. And it is right and necessary for some to stand up and say this.

      Oh, and Michael would have been on Ozzie Guillen a lot more than I was.

      • I thought that was a pretty funny opening line. If you have followed Ozzie at all you have to be an idiot not to know he’s an idiot.

    • So is it calling names if the word has a specific meaning that applies to the person? I mean really, did you think about what he wrote and really read the article or just react?

      Idiot: An idiot, dolt, or dullard is a mentally deficient person, or someone who acts in a self-defeating or significantly counterproductive way.

      Idiot:
      2
      : a foolish or stupid person
      — idiot adjective

  4. Jeff

    Sorry to say, but you are also quite selective in your treatment of the history of Cuba.

    • Indeed–Casto’s excesses have to be viewed in the context of U.S. imperialism.

      • Batista was corrupt…I agree. But Castro and communism is still evil becuase it prevents people from living their own lives and denies them freedom to work, gathor, talk, publish, and worship as they want. I may disagree with fundagelicalism…but in a democracy people should have the right to worship as they please. It’s hard to say this…even about faiths like the Mormons given my LDS expereince….but freedom also has the bad as well. People need to learn to discern,. And since communism prevents that, that is why it is evil.

        • Not to mention the number of souls who never got a chance to know or worship God in freedom and truth because of the communist system.

          And for our younger readers….let’s not forget that life as we know it almost ended in 1961 due to Cuba.

          • “let’s not forget that life as we know it almost ended in 1961 due to Cuba.”

            Only partly true.

            The “Cuban missile crisis” was a result of the poor foreign policy of the Kennedy admin.. The goof in the Kremlin got away with placing barbed wire fencing through Berlin, so why wouldn’t he get away with putting ICBM’s in Cuba? Reminiscent of Hitler moving troops into the Rhine in the 30’s…

            JFK was indecisive which produced mixed signals.

            T

          • …a bit of hair splitting, Tom.

            The issue revolved around Cuba no matter what politics and policies got tangled to get there.

            Too many folks under fifty don’t remember it happened and/or learned in history books, not through gripping fear that the world was going to end.

    • Explain…?

      • The US has a very long history of supporting bad guys south of the border. For mostly economic reasons. And I’ll limit my statement to events prior to 1960.

        But that doesn’t make Castro a good guy.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Indeed. I was brought up short by the parenthetical “we don’t admire cruel dictators”. Don’t we? It seems to me that our opinion of cruel dictators is far more influenced by tribal considerations. As an experiment, try pointing out to someone with a bit of a historical bent and Reformed leanings that Oliver Cromwell was an extralegal military dictator prone to acts of atrocity.

    • First, this disclaimer. I am a big time opponent of the U.S. foreign policy of nation building and our interference in the affairs of other countries.

      Are you saying that somehow Castro is not at fault for all of the Cubans that his regime has murdered?

  5. A couple years ago, I was equating the term “heretic” in regard to Christianity as meaning the person was actually not Christian. But a wise Christian author pointed out that this is incorrect and that a Christian heretic is someone who has beliefs about Christianity that are non-orthodox. So, people who believe that in the end everyone will be with God are considered by some to be heretics (even though some very wise Christian men throughout history have believed that this is what the Bible actually says). Personally, with that definition of heresy, I would say that people who say that Jesus did not physically resurrect are heretics. Some may go further than that and say that they are not Christian because there has to be some central beliefs that designate what a Christian is and the physical resurrection is the main central belief. I am heretical in some aspects of my beliefs, but I can’t pretend to be otherwise without being dishonest. I am open to correction, though.

  6. Jeff, is it Saturday already? You seem…uh…rambling…

    Castro is not so bad as world leaders go. He’s probably better than the previous one that Cuba had, Batista, whom the US supported.

    The difference between a good brutal dictator and a bad brutal dictator is whether we like them or not. This can be summed up in the phrase by FDR about Nicaragua’s Somoza (or possibly about the Dominican Republic’s Trujillo, it seems to be a generic phrase): “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

    Castro wasn’t our son of a bitch, that was his problem.

    I can get away with saying things like this. I don’t hang out in Florida, and I’m self-employed. I also have a Che Guevara coffee mug that I’m rather fond of.

    ¡Hasta la victoria, siempre!

    • Ted, that’s what very little sleep will do to one. And my point wasn’t Castro. It’s that what Guillen said about Castro did not adhere to orthodoxy, and thus it was damaging. Preachers who do not adhere to orthodox theology (Jesus as revealed in Scripture) also do great damage.

      I’d like to see your coffee mug collection!

      • Jeff, my mug collection isn’t so spectacular. My daughter bought that one for me while we were in Ecuador in February with the medical mission.

        Speaking of Che Guevara, and Fidel (with whom I’m not really on a first-name basis), last year in Ecuador when our team was welcomed by the hospital administrator in his office, there was a large framed portrait of Che on the wall behind the administrator’s desk (NOT making this up). And in one of the clinics where we worked there was a framed picture of Fidel Castro.

        They really don’t fear the beast in Latin America like they’re supposed to, largely because Cuba has done a lot for them medically by sending doctors and supplies. In fact, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, the country that Ozzie Guillen hails from, has received cancer treatment recently from the Cubans. Their medical system is first-world, whether anything else is or not.

      • Whadda ya mean my comment is awaiting moderation? Sheesh, mention three leftist Latin American leaders and this is what happens. Is this any way to win them over to our democratic freedoms???

    • Radagast says:

      Ted… you are still the 60’s guy…. Where is Abbie Hoffman…..

      • I didn’t become a 60s guy until the 80s, probably about halfway through Reagan’s second term. I voted for him, by the way, TWICE, but by the end of the 80s enough was enough.

        But the music of the 60s has always been on top.

        • CSN& Y play kansas city this summer, but I doubt I have the $$$ to go; not sure their live performance would be just that, might be more retrospective longing than anything….

          • I believe Neil had a stroke and i believe Crosby has been out of it for the last number of years….

    • Che? Oh yeah, he’s the guy who was in charge of Castro’s firing squad. He liked his job so much that he had a window put in his office that overlooked the execution grounds so that he could be sure his orders were carried out. And when his brutality was no longer needed in Cuba he moved on to other southerly climes to try for a redux on “revolution”.

      Guevara is one of the most misplaced “icons” of free societies everywhere. He wasn’t a democrat, he was a butcher.

  7. Oh Ted, the trouble you’re getting yourself into…

  8. U.S. policy relative to Cuba and Castro has been and continues to be absolutely bone-headed.

    Trade with the USSR played a significant role in subverting Soviet communism. The same has been employed elsewhere. Why not with Cuba and Castro? (Rhetorical question…)

    T

    • Agreed, now look how Russia has become a free democratic society with respect of human rights….

      Wait…

      Ok, well look how China has become a free democratic…

      hmmm….

      • David Cornwell says:

        We are usually satisfied if they just turn to some form of capitalism. It seems we view this as progress regardless of what else they do or get away with. Let our companies in, provide cheap labor, etc. and all is relatively well. Then no harm if they shoot a few dissenters.

    • The USSR ended almost to the month that Russia ran out of gold to sell to prop things up. Trade allowed them to last longer.

  9. Isn’t “orthodoxy” in sports winning the game at any cost??

    T

  10. Kelby Carlson says:

    Are we ever going to get off the “diss reformed theology constantly” bandwagon? Ever? Seriously, I go to a reformed evangelical church and I’m halfway to discontinuing my reading of this blog because I’m tired of seeing all Reformed theology equated with John McArthur. And … is this baseball manager an Orthodox Christian? I sure hope he is, because if not your accusations of “heresy” are beyond pointless.

    • It’s a very specific breed that gets “dissed” here if you pay attention. Besides, searching this post only reveals one critical mention of reformed theology, right next to Protestants and Catholics, so pretty much everyone takes their lumps in this essay. I gather that rushing to the defense here reveals a lesson in missing the point.

      • I agree with you about this particular post, Sean, but Kelby does bring up a good point. IM tends to focus more on the loud, obnoxious Reformed types who probably ought to be criticized, than on the more Jesus-shaped Reformed pastors that we could really benefit from hearing (Tim Keller comes swiftly to mind).

        • As RC I have no dog in this fight, but maybe the spotlight NEEDS to be on those who are off the track and leading others down the garden path and away from God???

          If you turn yourself into a public figure (celebrity even?) then your heresies and lack of focus are fair game to those of us who don’t want Mars Hill to be what other think of when they hear the word “Christian”.

          • I’m RC too. And if someone’s full of it, by all means, call them out, whether Reformed, Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, or whatever. I’m NOT saying that we shouldn’t criticize something that ought to be criticized. But it seems like the only Reformed perspectives that we hear at IM lately are the ones that ought to be criticized.

          • Radagast says:

            Pattie and Michael,

            I guess we could always bring Father Corapi into the mix since in his last days when he was called to task he wasn’t very obedient and said some pretty goofy things too… might even out having one group picked on all the time…

        • Michael, I hear that, but Keller is not lacking for an audience. He hardly needs promotion….not to mention he has his warts just like the rest of us.

          IM has always seemed to me, at least, about the Jesus-shaped underdog that doesn’t have (or necessarily need or desires) a platform.

          And fwiw, there is a link on the sidebar to Keller, along with Jared Wilson, Modern Reformation, Steve Brown, and Mockingbird, which all have at least some Reformed ties.

        • Kelby Carlson says:

          Point taken. Although it’s a little ironic that the post does in fact diss Reformed theology fairly bluntly, just a day or so after a post about how constantly criticizing other evangelicals all the time was not the point of the sight. Look, I’m no more of a fan of some of these Reformed pastors than other folks here, but I’m also no longer heavily invested in raving against them. I honestly don’t feel terribly welcome here anymore, now that I’m actually fairly comfortable with the label “Reformed evangelical”.

          • Radagast says:

            Kelby,

            I don’t think its a reformed thing as much as a Cult of Personality thing. You don’t see as much of it in the higher Liturgical Churches but it is there partly I believe because the focus is split between word and Eucharist. I know in the RC if a personality becomes too big for his britches he’s usually re-assigned and then there’s a lot of grumbling for a while.

            And remember – you don’t have the whole Medjigore thing going on ; ) so hang around ….

          • Kelby, you think you don’t feel terribly welcome around here anymore… I’m a member at everyone’s favorite detested church, Mars Hill. I’ve been reading imonk for several years, but feel I have to put a cup on before reading lately (especially the comments). It use to not be so bad (see here or here). I will grant that there is a lot not perfect about Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill church and some of the scrutiny and criticism is well founded, but a lot of the anger being focused our way I think is due to ignorance, misunderstanding, and transference of issues from other churches that are stereotyped as the same sort. Not all, but some.

            But I prefer not to waste too much of my time defending my church. It’s not that important. I really appreciated Jeff’s post today, because it argues for what I have always loved about imonk: keep the focus on Jesus, and that is important.

    • Kelby, LOL. I always find it amusing when those in the majority complain about being persecuted. I find it refreshing that IM allows dessenting opinions, such as yours, in the comments.

      Try being in my camp and reading Justin Taylor’s blog. Over there, If you aren’t a full 5 pointer and in you happen to be on the wrong side of the infralapsarian / supralapsarian debate, then you’re pretty much a heretic. Oh, and try commenting over there if you disagree with anything.

    • I recall at least a few articles here quite positive about guys like J.I. Packer. I have one of CJ Mahaney’s books, which I absolutely love; I don’t know what happen to him. Bryan Chapell is another great guy from the reformed camp.

      The problem is that the term, “reformed” has been hijacked. Since when did reformed theology have anything to do with complementarianism or young-earth creationism? But I feel the same way about Lutheranism; It’s core message has equally been subverted by the invasion of church growth nonesense on one side and a rebirth of dead orthodoxy on the other. I know plenty of Ken Ham fan boys in Lutheran circles, too.

      When things go wrong in one Christian circle, that wrongness polutes the ground waters in neighboring Church groups – be it Osteen, Warren, Driscoll, or Piper. I get angry when I see bad reformed teaching brought into non-reformed churches; I never have heard someone say, “Let’s study Packer’s ‘Knowing God'”; instead, it’s “Hey, let’s get purpose-driven!”.

      • As I have commented several times before, the monergism website has in their archives early sermons of Piper which are quite good. Again, I ask, what happened?

  11. Perfect illustration of what I try to pound into my students’ heads all the time: choose your words deliberately, because words mean things!

  12. Radagast says:

    It just goes back to the old addage ‘With freedom comes responsibility”….

    We are free to do and say what we want as long as its not breaking the law or defaming to the point of libel… but we also have a responsibility to view our actions and their possible affect on the people around us.

    I wonder sometimes if its as though people just don’t want to grow up and be responsible… the whole “I can do what I want and there’s nothing you can do about nyah nyah” kind of immaturity.

    Also – history has a short memory so as we move forward through the generations events we considered to be horrific, bad for the nation etc will be down played.

    Of course, Ted, 30 years ago I thought I was born a bit too late having missed participating in the protesting, love-ins and all around long haired partying that went on in the sixtees. 30 years later my view is more of “them darn idealistic kids were just a bunch of upstarts and trouble makers… because there were just too many of em and they had no life experience ; ) …. but I still love the music…

  13. It’s a very good point, but that’s a terrible example. It’s entirely possible to respect a persons skills and capabilities and still consider them a complete monster. Respect does not equal admiration.

    • I don’t respect loud and fearless public sinners, no matter their “skills”……which IMHO is restricted to people who DO something for the world, and playing a GAME for a living ain’t it to this ole’ girl, and NEVER will be.

      Which is why I root loudly for Tiger Woods to LOSE, and I really am not that into golf.

      So, it is true that respect does not equal admiration, but if I lose respect for a person then their skills are meaningless to me.

      • Radagast says:

        “…I don’t respect loud and fearless public sinners, no matter their “skills”……which IMHO is restricted to people who DO something for the world, and playing a GAME for a living ain’t it to this ole’ girl, and NEVER will be….”

        With the possible exception of the Pittsburgh Steelers… but then ya have to experience them….

        And it was fun to watch Tiger throw a tantrum this past weekend….

  14. I was talking with a friend on Tuesday who’s an Episcopal priest, and asked, “So, what’s the big deal with the apostolic succession, anyways?” As a member of a generation that grew up averse to all authority, that just didn’t make sense to me.

    His answer was that as a priest, he finds comfort in knowing 1) that he is there because someone else ordained him, not because he ordained himself, 2) that he is under the authority and oversight of someone else, and 3) that he is trying to preach the Gospel as handed down from the first apostles and to be faithful to their message, instead of inventing a purely modern Gospel. That, combined with the influence of the liturgy and traditional hymns, provide a theological ballast that is absent in many non-denominational settings.

    • “Theoligical ballast”…love it!

    • Randy Thompson says:

      That Episcopal priest made a lot of sense.

      Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church is good evidence that apostolic succession, tradition, and liturgy can be merely a facade for other agendas. In other words, there are Episcopal bishops who are as off track as the Pastor Bubbas out in the fundamentalist hinterlands!

      • If someone outright contradicts what’s in one of the ecumenical creeds of the early church, I’d call that “heresy.” But I wouldn’t call “heresy” a difference of opinion on anything that is less central to our faith. Faithful, biblical, orthodox Christians have a variety of stances on quite a few different moral and political issues. That doesn’t make any of them heretics.

    • Your short post is getting printed and thought upon; I recently went Anglican and found your last paragraph reassuring in about a 1000 ways; many thanx.

      GregR

  15. I guess I have mixed feelings about this post. The thing that stuck out to me was the quote by Paul Daugherty, who seems to be saying that people having the ability to say whatever they want is a bad thing. Certainly, we all censor ourselves to some degree, and not everything that pops into our head needs to be said aloud. But I also don’t like any environment that promotes the idea that if people have an opinion that differs from the supposed majority view, they shouldn’t be allowed to express it.

    I’ve known many pastors in different denominations who deep down probably held views that if expressed would have put them at odds with denominational leadership, but because they knew expressing those views would lead to trouble, they kept quiet. Now I’m not talking about fundamental issues, but rather things that are really secondary (a belief in theistic evolution would be a good example). Personally, I think we’d be better off if we were able to openly talk about these things rather than simply bury them and put on a facade of agreement.

    I don’t know, I guess my experience isn’t that too few people are willing to call out people for being heretics. It’s that there’s too many self-proclaimed heresy hunters seeing heretics hiding behind every tree.

    • Ironically, and sadly, we live in an age of BOTH; some need to give the “heresy warning !!! ….’ thing a long break and go play with their grandkids. Others need to remind themselves that when Jesus warned against false prophets and wolves, HE wasn’t just talking about 2000 yrs ago.

      There are ditches on both sides of this road, we need to steer clear of both.

      • Josh in FW says:

        I like this ditch analogy and foresee it occurring in future conversation with some of my more animated friends.

  16. I love the example of how the heretical pastor backs up his position with words from the original Greek… then the Wikipedia definition of “heretic” is immediately backed up with the word from the original Greek. LOL

  17. Joseph (the original) says:

    there are church leaders that do indeed abuse their position by insisting their viewpoints are sacrosanct. but is it more of a power play & manipulation than being bombastic, pendatic and/or dogmatic???

    their viewpoints considered authoritative are more authoritarian than they try to convince those that do ‘listen’ & fawn over & quote, buy the literature, or in the more depricating analogy, “drink the Kool-Aid”…

    tickling ears is an art form from ancient times & will not loose its fascination in our lifetime or anytime soon i suppose. as for those that do seem to ‘speak first; insert foot second’, i believe that human characteristic also with us until the end of the age…

    {sigh}

    i suppose speaking out about Castro at an inappropriate place/time would garner the same response as speaking up about any controversial figure at different places/times. depending on one’s particular political/national/religious/theological inclination the results could span the spectrum of worship on one end, to brutal death on the other…

    so, choosing words & when & how to deliver them is going to be a matter of personal conviction if one is willing to suffer the consequences, good or bad…

    for every one authoritarian celebrity preacher, regardless of their theological bent, i hope there continues to be those voices out in the broader Christian wilderness questioning, probing, encouraging, clarifying, dismissing, supporting, correcting, reproving, etc. there are so many ‘words’ being thrown at us daily thru all forms of media we need voices of reason & comfort where the Word is proclaimed as clearly as the herald can without ulterior motive…

    Lord…have mercy on us… :(

  18. I get it Jeff and I think you used a good analogy.

    Within the last week I said to someone that it amazes me the way Christians will enable the behaviour of some leaders.
    By analogy imagine something that is black, has a puffy tail, a white stripe and stinks. Oh, Jesus you say? Sounds like a skunk. But we will insist that everything is okay in spite of very obvious observations.

    Most of my Christian life (since 1973) I have seen an incredible amount of gullibility. Just the other day I wondered if it was because we can stretch the exhortation to ‘believe the best’ too far.

    I sat for 10 years in a fellowship where various leaders just craved attention and building their own empire. Personalities bigger than life, sometimes I could not see Jesus because every time he wanted to show up they jumped in front and obscured the view. And I doubt they could even see it, and no one seemed to challenge them.
    A big part of this is that our culture is celebrity hungry, and celebs have to market themselves shamelessly.

    I think I would like it if we can go deeper on this. Internet Monk is very good at diagnosing and pointing out problems. But the real questions are really

    Why do these things happen and leaders get away with it?
    Why do the leader(s) do what they do?

    • The gullibility factor in the modern Church is astounding. I have a hard time recommending any Evangelical church to send my agnostic father to. Even though I’m a “happy enough prostestant” and a “happy enough evangelical” I seriously trying to get him back into the Catholic Church.

      My father is definitely not into circus acts.

  19. Couldn’t resist…

    “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” – Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

  20. I like the way Jeff seems to frame heresy here, if I’m reading right: saying (a verb not to be glossed over) ridiculous, hurtful, and untrue things, and backing it up or silencing others with your “authority.”

    This seems like the first time that Ozzie has felt the weight of the ridiculous things that he has said. And once he felt that weight, he apologized. He couldn’t hide, delete blog pages or tweets, erase sermons, fire those who heard it…

    Can we use this example as framework for how to deal with our more religious heretics in the future?

  21. I think this is the first piece of trash I’ve read on this blog. I won’t call Jeff names – that would not be Christ-like. Heresy is not the issue here – its sin. I guess that is something bloggers get away with too easily.

    • ??????

      Heresy is the type of sin he’s defining.

    • Jim:

      I will admit at first I was thinking the same thing. Being born in the GWN (Great White North) I am not sure which came out first, the hockey stick or me, so I was thinking ‘baseball – what next?’

      As I read on I realised he was talking about something significant and using baseball as the in.

      I don’t know if all heresy is sin, it may be just someone being confused but wrong nonetheless.

  22. Christ-centered is everything. Listen to what people are saying. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” If the conversation is not centered around Jesus — who He is, what He did, why He is important — then the doctrine will soon become heretical.

    Since it has come up, it was the Reformed teachers that brought Christ-centeredness to my attention. Like anyone else, they have their flaws (God chose to put His treasure in clay pots) but I am thankful for the ones that pointed me to Christ. Yes, that includes MacArthur, Piper, and even Driscoll . . . much of what they say has to do with Jesus and His gospel. May God be merciful to us all as we seek His Son . . .

    • Kelby Carlson says:

      This is precisely what I was attempting to get at in the post above. All theologians have their problems, and I’m not denying that certain parts of American calvinism have definite issues. What I am saying is that i’m genuinely uncomfortable saying that I agree with any teachings by Mahaney, Piper, Driscoll and the like even if I do because of the way Reformed evangelicalism is discussed on this blog. With all due respect, all the talk in the world about a Jesus-shaped spirituality won’t cover up graceless conduct towards other Christians. (And believe me, I’m not just talking about this blog–I read other blogs that have this problem a lot worse.)

      • But graceless conduct by Mahaney towards all the people abused by SGM is totally fine, right?

        • Kelby Carlson says:

          Absolutely not. Personally, SGM and Mars Hill both worry me from an ecclesiological standpoint. I’m not afraid of public criticism of those I agree with (and, to be honest, I probably disagree with Mahaney as much as I agree with him.) But saying “well, he’s more graceless than I am” isn’t a terribly good excuse.

  23. Randy Thompson says:

    Aim a TV camera at someone, and then put a microphone in front of them.

    At that moment, that poor soul learns that he is an “expert,” and starts talking. The camera and the microphone tell him that everything he thinks matters.

    When (not if) this poor soul gets used to the cameras and the microphones and being an “expert,” he becomes an idiot. The sad thing is, everyone else figures this out before he does.Guillen, a great manager by the way, illustrates a variation of Murphy’s Law: TV cameras and microphones speed people to their level of incompetence.

    I’m not sure this is a matter of heresy, but, if it is, it is replacing “Blessed are the poor in Spirit. . . ” with “Blessed are those who have microphones and TV coverage. . . “

    • Actually that is the “Peter Principle”…..promoting someone to their level of incompetence!

      (Business Major the first time in school, before becoming a nurse.)

      • Randy Thompson says:

        Thanks for your kind correction.

        Peter and Murphy explain a lot, don’t they!

    • “The camera and the microphone tell him that everything he thinks matters.”

      +1

      • Blogs like this can have the same effect. I often think what I post here matters. Mercy.

  24. Marc Cortez recently had a great blog series exploring the historic definitions of heresy in Christianity. Here’s his summary of how people have defined it differently:
    1. The Conciliar Answer: Heresy is whatever one of the seven ecumenical councils said it was.
    2. The Power Struggle: Heresy is just the position of the “loser” in the debate.
    3. The “Other” Answer: Heresy is an exclusionary process used to establish the identity of some group.
    4. Sugar in My Coffee: Heresy is whatever corrupts the essence of Christianity.
    5. Just Shut Up!: Heresy is rejecting church authority.
    6. Final Answer: Heresy is any form of Christianity that undermines the gospel.

    http://marccortez(dot)com/2012/03/12/heresy-and-a-call-for-humility-random-reading/

  25. It makes me think of Paul being brought by the Jews before Gallio in Corinth (Acts 18). No matter how pundits try to spin it, the United States is a secular state. Unlike the Holy Roman Empire of old, no government is going to enforce laws against heresy (outside the Middle East); rather, freedom of religion means that everyone has a right to their own wrong opinion. There is no modern synod of Christians that can be assembled to agree that Osteen’s teaching is wrong. The Southern Baptists in 2009 couldn’t even agree to pass resolutions to investigate Mark Driscoll.

    What vehicle will stop heresy? This sounds a lot like the previous article on pornography or even the illegal drug trade or gambling: it’s difficult to stop that which has a public demand. It’s like the cultural war: you can’t make people be what they are not – especially when we don’t represent our morals or doctrine by our actions ourselves.

    So, I think the answer, yes, is Jesus; however, it is up to us to be that example – not expecting Osteen or Copeland to be anything but what they are. We need to make the contrast in our love, grace, acceptance, and love for truth be the shining contrast. I guarantee we will not attract bigger audiences than these other guys, but perhaps we should be thankful for those to do come. Think of the parable of the tares: truth will be revealed at harvest, not before. Take it easy on yourself.

  26. Every time some Pastor says “Don’t touch the Lord’s anointed!” in defense of his own power, Chuck Smith get’s a dollar, because he friggin trademarked that heretical cliche. That and the doctrine of congregational autonomy are pretty much the theological equivalent of “Nobody gets to tell ME what to do! I give orders, but I don’t take them.” Take this to the bank: Anyone who denounces accountability as “restricting structures” that “inhibit their freedom in Christ” is hell bent on imposing such demands on other people. Following Jesus is the way of mutual submission.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Another piece in the puzzle as to why Calvary Chapel has always given me bad vibes…

  27. This actually a timely article. NPR just did an interview with Ross Douthat about his new book, “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics”. He blames much of the heresy in American religion on the fall of institutional religion (you know, that supposed great evil against a “personal” relationship with God). Douthat gave the following recommendation:

    “I don’t have sort of a five-point plan for rebuilding Christianity in America. … The main point that I’m trying to make is that whatever happens to the institutional churches, individual Christians can try to essentially be better Christians, and honor the complications and paradoxes and tensions of this ancient faith a little better, and not just go as quickly to the easy answer.”

    I agree, but did you catch the implication? Your local mega-church is not going to teach you about the “complications and paradoxes and tensions of this ancient faith”, so we have to do it ourselves. That’s like saying the corner gas station can’t be trusted to sell us fuel, so we’ll have to refine our own. What could possibly go wrong?

    • Since when is Christianity primarily a “personal” experience? Douthat lists Oprah’s “Eat, Pray, Love” style of religion among his list of heresies, stating, “It’s less that God wants you to be rich and more that God is there to make you feel happy about yourself. And that the point of spiritual wisdom is not necessarily strenuous prayer and fasting and moral transformation. It’s more sort of blessing impulses you already have. … This ends up putting a kind of Christian stamp on narcissism, where the things we already want to do, we tell ourselves, are things that God wants us to do, too.” How can anyone be too hard on Oprah, when it seems that same narcissism can be found at the heart of evangelicalism’s emphasis on a “personal” relationship?