Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Emerging heretics?

There's something that worries me about some emerging church types.

They don't all do it, but many do. It's seems pretty popular of late to talk about how "our" orthodoxy is simply the philosophy that won out, and that we should continue to look at "minority" positions (i.e., heresies). To these folks, the differences between the orthodox and Arians (and maybe gnostics) are no different than those between protestants and Roman Catholics or even Baptists and Church of Christ.

In their search for "humble" orthodoxy they seem willing to give up too much ground. Our spiritual ancestors fought long and hard to develop and preserve doctrines that are consistent with the biblical data as well as philosophically/logically sound.

While I do want to us read the old heresies, we have to keep in mind that they are heresies. It is altogether too easy to fall into heresy, and as we move further away from the truth, the lies become more dangerous.

Here's an example. If we give up the deity of Christ the atonement no longer makes sense – it looks like "divine child abuse." So to save God, we have to give up the atonement. The cross becomes meaningless.

So what do we do about the cross? The usual response is that God didn't know Christ would die and/or didn't save Him – meaning God doesn't know the future and can't or won't stop evil from happening to His own son.

The next step, of course, says since there is no atonement, there'd better be no sin – or at least no punishment for it. So we have a "nice" God who is not just and is simply trying to keep the world from falling apart as we race along screwing stuff up.

This is a reasonable, natural progression from giving up the deity of Christ to a mishmash of open theology and antinomianism (i.e., it doesn't matter how you live). Not only is this not a God I'd want to worship, it's a religion that has nothing to offer.

I'd like to recommend this piece from Scriptorium Daily on the Council of Chalcedon and this personal story of the dangers of leaving orthodoxy at Crossroads.


Anonymous said...

I think you've made an error when you assume that a doctrine of the cross with a different meaning than your meaning is meaningLESS. Without the cosmic child abuse theory of atonement, the cross has MORE meaning. Instead of sounding like a doctrine from a bad science fiction movie, the cross can be an important icon that reminds us exactly what Empire always does to the peolple who oppose it.

Empires always kill the people that oppose them and the important meaning of the cross is that we must take up the burden to oppose the values of empire (greed, individualism, oppression, and violence) at the expense of our own lives. We must die to our own individual agenda to own and control others. We must be born again into a life of community with a vision for a transformed world of peace and justice.

ChrisB said...


"the cross can be an important icon that reminds us exactly what Empire always does to the peolple who oppose it."

This has more meaning than atonement? I'm...stunned.

I would never say that the cross was only about substitutionary atonement, but I think the Bible clearly teaches that it was primarily about that (eg, Is 53:5-7 as applied by the apostles in Acts; Matt 20:28, 2Cor 5:21).

That said, I think the new idea (coming from McLaren?) that the cross was to show us that "empire" is bad is ludicrous. Stop and think about all that Jesus gave up to become human (I'm going to post a great quote about this soon) as well as all He went through on the cross. Would He really do that to show us that "empire" hurts people and that we need to oppose that? I think that is more than just a stretch. (There were certainly plenty of crucified people around to show people the dangers of empire.)

Really, this is a great example of my point: if someone teaches that the cross was about empires and political systems and serving others, and if the truth turns out to be that it was about redeeming us from our sins, then that deviation from the orthodox message may well cost people their souls.

So whether we're studying an old heresy or someone who's trying to get creative with the Bible, we have to be cautious. These things were hammered out over a long period of time and are what they are for good reason. It's not perfect, but it should not be cast aside lightly.