You might be a heretic if you believe that:
… people who recant their beliefs because of persecution can never be restored to fellowship with the church. (Novatianism – 3rd century)
… a pastor who sins can never be forgiven, or allowed to serve in that capacity again, because he is not pure enough to give people communion or baptism. (Donatism – 4th century)
… physical matter is evil, spirit is good. (Gnosticism – all centuries)
… Melchisedech was an incarnation of the Holy Spirit. (Melchisedechians – 4th century)
… Christ exists as two persons, the man Jesus and the divine Son of God, or Logos, rather than as two natures (True God and True Man) of one divine person. (Nestorianism – 5th century) (huh?)
… Jesus Christ had two natures but only one will. (Monothelitism – 7th century) (double huh!?!)
… the Bible is the sole rule of faith, not the directions of the man at the head of the church; that you should personally study the Bible for yourself; and that all may preach. (Waldensians – 12th century)
… among other things, you can communicate with God directly, without the necessity of the church’s intercession. (Free Spirit – 14th century)
… salvation is only by grace, not by works of repentance or repetitive prayers or anything humans can do; that only God is worthy of worship, not angels or departed saints; that the Bible is the ultimate authority for Christian life; and that Christ is the head of His church, not any man. (Protestantism – 16th century)
… since faith itself alone is sufficient to attain salvation, adherence to religious law is not necessary. (Antinomianism – 16, 17th centuries)
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An interesting mix, huh?
This is, of course, a (partial) list of heresies from the viewpoint of the Catholic church. Doubtless other churches and denominations have their own lists. (Heresy is the rejection of one or more established beliefs of a particular religious body, and most of those bodies have serious penalties for heretics.)
The interesting thing, to me, is that we have somehow, sometime, decided that we have the right, the responsibility to decide what God has said in Scripture, and what He is saying now; to decide what is a ‘right’ belief and what is a wrong one.
Yet, in reading the Bible, I find few places where we are told to kick people out of fellowship because they don’t believe exactly the way we do about something. Sure, there are passages discussing how to handle church discipline issues; what to do with someone who is blatantly living in sin; and guidelines for choosing overseers for the flock. But where does it say, ‘if someone does not believe all 14 tenets of the Apostle’s Creed, throw them out!’?
When the subject of ‘Gentile’ believers came up in Acts 15, the original disciples, who had all personally known Jesus, decided there were only a few rules these new believers needed to heed. And none of them are doctrinal!
In fact, Romans 14 talks about living in peace with those who have the same faith, but a different understanding of it.
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In John 17:3, Jesus said that eternal life is knowing God and Jesus Christ. Knowing Him as a Person, not knowing a list of beliefs about Him, is what this new life is about. In other words, eternal life is relationship with God and Jesus.
And is my relationship with Him the same as yours? Probably not, as we are different people. If you look around, you will see that every relationship is different – take three friends, of any sort, and the relationship between two of them will be different than the relationship between either one of those and the third friend.
So why do we think every Christian will have the exact same relationship with God as every other Christian?
Do we think God is so small that He can’t handle it if one thinks He speaks to us today in ‘a still small voice’, while another thinks He only speaks through Scripture?
And who cares what people believe about Melchisedech? Is that worth throwing them out of church for?
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The history of the church follows the pattern of human growth – infancy, childhood, teen years, adulthood. As He begins, in this new millennium, to prepare His bride for the wedding, it would seem that she should be mature enough to allow each individual member to be unique, to have a unique relationship with Him. There should be room in His body for all His children, no matter what they believe about Him. It’s the relationship that counts, not the rules.
So, if you find ‘you might be a heretic’, because you agree with something from that list above, don’t sweat it. You’re in good company on some of them, and anyway, He is big enough to remain Himself, no matter what you think.
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May you grow ever deeper in knowledge of Him who loves us, and sent His Son to save us.
May your understanding broaden, and your ability to accept difference in others expand as your knowledge of Him does.
And may you allow Holy Spirit to be the one to tell people whether their doctrines are right or wrong.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 13:34