Hearty Heresy

Thank God Only 4% of Adults Have a Biblical Worldview
July 31, 2007, 5:46 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, God, Jesus, Religion, Theology

I’ve been meaning to post on this for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to it. But now that I’ve added the Clipmarks “Blog This Clip” feature to my Firefox browser, I thought I’d make this my test clip. It’s from a 2003 article from the Barna Group entitled “A Biblical Worldview Has a Radical Effect on a Person’s Life,” and all I can say is, “Yikes! This is Brand Xianity in it’s most egregious form.” Believing the six specific religious views Barna lists would most definitely have a “radical effect on a person’s life.” But so does becoming addicted to oxycontin. For a up close and personal account of what I’m talking about, check out Jesus Camp. Mrs. Heretic and I just watched it last night, and we’re still shuddering. I repeat: Yikes!

clipped from www.barna.org
For the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.

  blog it

Seems I’m Emergent/Postmodern
July 26, 2007, 6:17 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, God, Hell, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Theology, Uncategorized

I can’t remember which blog first tipped me off to this, but here are my results from the “What’s your theological worldview?” quiz at QuizFarm:

You scored as a Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Modern Liberal
Classical Liberal
Roman Catholic
Neo orthodox
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
Reformed Evangelical

What’s your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

I’m pretty cool with this, given the number of Brand Xians running around calling the Emergent Church heretical. Still, I hesitate to associate myself to closely with any single theological point of view.

Jesus and the Early Christian Movement Practiced Non-Violence
July 19, 2007, 1:46 am
Filed under: Christianity, Faith, Heresy, Jesus, Peace, Religion

Sort of a no brainer, isn’t it? But I’m beginning to think that the peace and non-violence perspective in this day and age is the most heretical one a person can take. Actually, it may have been the most heretical point of view one could have taken in the first century as well–which is why Jesus is my favorite heretic of all time. I’m thinking of this peace business right now because: 1.) this whole Iraq mess is turning out to be more horrible than anyone could have ever imagined (especially in terms of innocent loss of life), and 2.) the whole “In God We Trust” license plate thing I wrote about the other day. (BTW, it turns out that Minnesota has enacted tough new anti-specialty plate legislation, so it would cost around $30,000 to get a “peace” plate proposal looked at by the legislature; oh, well…one can always get bumper stickers printed up.)

So in that post, I mentioned the Every Church a Peace Church movement. I took a closer look at their site, and SURPRISE! My favorite biblical scholars and theologians endorse the concept. Here are a few quotes:

One of the most certain results of historical scholarship is that Jesus and the early Christian movement of the first three centuries practiced non-violence. One of the most encouraging developments in our time is that an increasing number of Christians are willing to take seriously the non-violent stance of Jesus and early Christianity. Marcus Borg

I have learned from a lifetime of research, first, that the historical Jesus would have worn a T-shirt with WWJD on the front and WHAT WOULD JUSTICE DEMAND on the back; second, that peace is the necessary result of justice, of structural, systemic, distributive justice in a world that belongs to God and not to us; third, that peace without justice is the quiet of the desert or the grave; and fourth, that non-violence is never enough since non-violent RESISTANCE to evil, injustice, and violence was the way of Jesus, the incarnation of God. John Dominic Crossan

With the exception of the historic peace churches, the churches of America have never repudiated violence or domination. Every Church A Peace Church is a prophetic attempt to bend the churches toward the spirit of Jesus and say ‘Yes’ to a vocation of peacemaking. Walter Wink

If Borg, Crossan, and Wink are in favor of it, you know I’m going to take it seriously. It doesn’t hurt to be married to a Mennonite, either. I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve come around to seeing the practice of non-violence resistance as the ultimate heresy. It threatens everything those with political, economic, and religious power believe in–that God rewards some and punishes others; that one’s income level and accumulated wealth are indications of God’s blessing (Prayer of Jabez, anyone?); that poverty is a sign of moral bankruptcy; and that the “righteous” are well within their God-given rights to use violence in order to maintain the domination system that favors those in power. How anyone can arrive at these conclusions and claim to follow Jesus is beyond me. But that’s exactly what Brand Xians do. Ugh!

In God We Trust, So I Don’t Need Any Insurance
July 15, 2007, 1:15 am
Filed under: Faith, God, Jesus, Peace, Religion

Mrs. Heretic, Hearty, Jr. and I are visiting the Hoosier state, our ancestral homeland. (I’ve heard it said that home is where your people are buried–both Mrs. Heretic’s mother and my father are interred in Elkhart County, so it pretty much qualifies as home for us). At any rate, we noticed that there were a TON of these new license plates on the cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks here:
In God We Trust
This seemed a little odd to us since it’s not the regular Indiana plate and since we didn’t see any of these plates around when we were home for Christmas. How could a specialty plate become so popular in just about six months? Well, we found out that while the plates are indeed specialty plates, they’re free, unlike all of the other specialty plates. What’s more, if you want a new plate rather than a renewal tab for your car, you have to get the “In God We Trust” design. They’re also coming out with a free “Support Our Troops” plate. To be honest, I’m a little disgusted with both plates because they’re free. I mean my current Blue state of residence has had a “Support Our Troops” plate for years, and it costs you money, and the “contribution is split between the Department of Military Affairs for financial support of military families and the Department of Veteran Affairs for grant programs for homeless and needy veterans.” Makes the Indiana plate look like cheap grace to me.

But the real reason I’m writing about this here is because I’ve been thinking that what we need more of in this world–and especially in this country–are reminders of peace. And I’ve been thinking about trying to get a “Peace” specialty place in Minnesota. Like all respectable specialty plates, you’d have to pay more for it, and the money would go to a worthy cause. I’m not quite sure how to proceed, but I’ve been searching the web for months looking for a precedent, and I’ve finally found one. The state of Virgina (once Red, now looking Bluer every day) has started to offer this plate:
Part of the money collected for this plate goes to the Virginia Association for Community Conflict Resolution. Wonderful, eh? So I’ve got a couple of questions for you: 1.) Where would be a good place for Peace plate contributions to go? and 2.) Which plate do you think Jesus would choose? And by the way, if you’ve never heard of Every Church a Peace Church, check them out!

Heretic of the Month
July 9, 2007, 1:46 am
Filed under: Faith, Heresy, Judaism, Religion

No, it’s not a new feature of this blog. It’s “a new series” in the magazine American Jewish Life “detailing those famous Jews who broke with the faith.” You’ve probably noticed that my view of heresy tends to be from a Christian perspective. In fact, I’ve heard it said that heresy really is a Christian concept, and that other faiths are much more tolerant of heterodox views. The “Heretic of the Month” series in AJL has a different take on herersy. Jay Michaelson (who writes the series) says that “Jews…have a uniquely love/hate relationship with their heretical brothers and sisters.” And even though theirs “is not a top-down theological tradition, with an omniscient earthly leader telling us what scripture says,” it seems that there are some Jews who still merit the tag “heretic.”

Michaelson started the series with the January/February 2007 issue of AJL, and he chose for his inaugural heretic Shabbetai Tzvi (below), who’s little known today (even among Jews), but may well be the biggest Jewish heretic of all time. He claimed to be the Messiah, retained a number of adherents even after he converted to Islam, and seems to still have followers to this day. Not bad for “an idiosyncratic, possibly bipolar mystic.” I’ll say a word or two about the other heretics Michaelson’s covered so far in upcoming posts. And I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the series in the future. Maybe a “Heretic of the Month” for this blog isn’t so bad of an idea after all….

Shabbetai Tzvi

Heresy Goes Bad
July 6, 2007, 12:06 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, God, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology

Now here’s a quote that warms my heartily heretical heart:

What we have today, because of the development of orthodoxy, is a worldwide church with which the apostles would not identify and in which they would not feel at home. In reality, that orthodoxy is yet another heresy.

That’s what Peter Nathan says in “Orthodoxy: Just Another Heresy?” He asks, “…just who decides what is orthodox belief and what is heretical?” And his answer, from a heretic’s point of view, is absolutely correct. Here’s what happened, according to Nathan: The early followers of Jesus were defined by what they believed and by how they lived their lives. It was really pretty simple. “They believed that Jesus was the Messiah, had been resurrected from the dead, and had called people to walk as He walked. When they did, they became followers of’ ‘the Way’ of God.” “The Way,” by the way, had to do with following the basic tenents of Judaism, as interpreted by Jesus (all together now!), love God and love your neighbors.

Orthodoxy, which doesn’t show up until 135 C.E., is about “intellectual agreement,” with the emphasis on agreement. Walking as Jesus walked is no longer necessary in order to be saved. According to Nathan,

For religion, the result was the development of creeds—authoritative statements to be memorized and used as strict standards of belief by which a certain uniformity could be established. Under this system, whether a person understood underlying concepts was immaterial. Because orthodoxy is a matter of thought and knowledge rather than behavior, it is primarily concerned with philosophy, and it relegates behavior to a secondary position.

This is why the Humble Orthodoxy folks (bless their hearts) feel the need to modify the word orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is all about the creeds, baby. At any rate, heresy was not a negative term originally. In the first century, it was more or less the equivalent of “sect,” and followers of “the Way” were just another Jewish sect. But, says Nathan,

…if we fast-forward to the late second century, we find the term heresy taking on a new meaning. Now it has acquired the sense of false teaching and is used to characterize those who teach contrary to the emerging “orthodox” understanding.

And that, boys and girls, is when heresy went bad. Okay, so Nathan’s article is very short and by no means thorough. It is, however, pretty much in sync with what I’ve been reading lately. “Strange as it may seem, orthodoxy, as it is discussed in church history, was not a feature of the early church. It was foreign to the world of Jesus and His disciples, and of those who followed them.”

Heresies and How to Avoid Them
July 4, 2007, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Christianity, Faith, God, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology

What don’t Christians believe? Is Jesus really divine? Is Jesus really human? Can God suffer? Can people be saved by their own efforts? These are the burning questions, aren’t they? That’s what Ben Quash and Michael Ward, editors of Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why It Matters What Christians Believe, would have you believe. That’s why they’ve written this modest (160 pages) textbook. To help Christians from slipping into heresy by believing the wrong thing about God, Jesus, salvation, etc. Here are the topics the book covers:

  • Adoptionism–did Jesus become the Son of God at his baptism?
  • Docetism–was Jesus really human or did he just appear to be so?
  • Nestorianism–was Christ one Person or a hybrid with a divine dimension and a human dimension?
  • Arianism–was Christ divine and eternal or was there a time when he did not exist?
  • Marcionism–is the God of the New Testament the same as the God of the Old?
  • Theopaschitism–is it possible for God to suffer in His divine nature?
  • Destroying the Trinity–does God have a simple or a complex nature?
  • Pelagianism–can people save themselves by their own efforts?
  • `The Free Spirit’–are there two kinds of Church membership, one for the elite and one for the rest?
  • Donatism–do Christian ministers need to be faultless for their ministrations to be effective

Yes, these are, indeed, the issues Christians should be worried about, aren’t they? Forget the suffering in Iraq, or the crucifixion of Mother Earth in the name of rampant capitalism, or the steady erosion of civil liberties in the United States. Unless you are 100% Chalcedon Compliant my friend, the flames of hell await you. So run, don’t walk, to your nearest Brand Xian bookstore and pick up a copy before you do something eternally stupid, like trying to follow the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus. You know, his dead-on prophetic riffing on Micah’s “do justice, love mercy, walk humbly”: love God, love your neighbor, forgive each other. (Of course, Brand Xians will say: “You can do all that and be orthodox, too.” To which I reply, “You and do all that and be heretical, too. Only difference is, I feel no need to include eternal damnation in the equation. And I don’t think Jesus did, either.”)