In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul (The last living Apostle of Jesus, though some might dispute this!?) writes this:
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
There is a vast amount going on here – and yet I want to ponder, nay wonder, about just one thing.
I wonder, often, about that phrase in verse 14 – about being tossed back and forth, about winds of teaching, and the cunning and craftiness of people.
I wonder whether you’ve heard the word ‘Heresy’. It’s often thrown around – rarely understood – and only very rarely accurately applied.
Heretics, historically speaking, remain those who we (in the future) did not hear from. Much of what we know of what heretics taught and thought is through the words and arguments of those who condemned them noted in the two popular books I recommend below). So far, so sensible. Why would we keep the words and thoughts of those who chose to leave the fraternity of Christian unity in the pursuit of some greater or other power?
Heresy, originally put (according to the Cambridge Dictionary: “a belief that is against the principles of a particular religion”) is an idea or posture (often linked to practice and power, perhaps?) that is a choice, an opinion chosen that leads away from truth and relationship, and the easiest communication of an idea that leads to death.
Heresy, in this writer’s opinion, is barely noticed at the time of preaching – indeed, it may well be laughed at or ignored – but is also of the utmost importance.
Heresy, when it goes wrong, or goes worst, is a devastating blight on the true vine of the Church.
Or, on the other hand (and we should always listen to heretics, as it is by their words that they reveal themselves and their thoughts), maybe what people say doesn’t really matter, and doesn’t have that big an impact?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Most heresy starts with wondering, outside of community, about who God is. Here are some reading recommendations on The Trinity. My friend Justin Holcomb wrote a great book about knowing people who are heretics. For a wider view of heresy, from an ecumenical perspective, I’d heartily recommend this book.