Apologeet.nlHeresies all Around us – Introduction
Part 1 – What is heresy?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are like the Dutch people… You’ll find them all around the world. Please don’t complain about this comparison. I myself am Dutch. And I know, the Dutch mostly go around the world to do business, which can be good, right? The Jehovah’s Witnesses mostly go around to promote a kind of Christianity which strongly differs from orthodoxy.
So, why did I come up with Jehovah’s Witnesses? Well, as I said, you’ll find them everywhere. Even here, in the somewhat bigger towns on Madagascar, they come to your door. I have got my own couple who visits me ones so many weeks. I know enough to say that their version of Christianity is heretical. But, what is heresy anyway, you might ask.
Well, I am going to try to answer that. This is part 1, in which I like to explain what heresy is. In the following parts, we are going to have a look at specific heresies.
Heresy is False Teaching
Basically, a heresy is an idea or belief which goes against orthodoxy. Especially within Christianity, we have established a set of agreements about the faith. In the first few hundred years after Christ, many very knowledgeable church leaders discussed and debated about what Jesus and His apostles taught us about the faith. The results were written down as orthodoxy or agreements within the faith.
Some of the ideas they had to discuss were whether Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection or not; whether we could be saved by works; and whether we worshipped one or more gods.
As I already said, the early Church battled these ideas and came up with a sound and Biblical teaching concerning Christ and His teachings. However, up till today, many of the false teachings still pop up around us. The earlier mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity, deny the deity of Christ, and deny salvation by grace alone through faith alone. But let’s not discount Mormonism. They teach that Satan is Jesus’ brother, and that God is actually an exalted man from another planet and that we, ourselves, can become gods too.
We can find many warnings in the Bible.
1 Corinthians 11:19
For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Apparently, it was not uncommon to find heresies in the first churches. Interestingly, the word ‘heresy’ comes from the Greek ‘hairesis’ which means ‘choice,’ ‘opinion’ or ‘parties.’ In the first church, this word wasn’t as negative as it is now. We see ‘parties’ in Judaism, and we see ‘opinions’ in the early church as well. However, these parties and opinions grew more and more controversial. It wasn’t about drinking grape-juice or real wine during communion. The parties started to propose different ideas about the fundamentals like salvation, the person of Christ, the Holy Spirit.
It became sneaky, like the grievous wolves, not sparing the flock. Irenaeus, a Greek bishop who lived from c.130– c. 202 AD, noted this sneakiness in his book ‘Against Heresies’.i
Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself.
When the Going gets Tough
The parties started to sway away from the original teachings. Gnostics didn’t believe that Jesus was God who became flesh; a party called Docetists said that Jesus wasn’t a real human; some taught that Jesus was a created being; and so on and so forth.
After a while, most church fathers agreed that they had to come up with a good and solid statement of faith. Or in other words, the Church, with a capital C, had to decide what was orthodoxy and what not. This meant that they started to label wrong teachings as heretical.
These debates weren’t always friendly and brotherly. You can say many things about our early church fathers, but they weren’t pacifists! Sometimes, those with the wrong ideas got banished or even killed. This may shock us, because we live in a time when the slightest negative responds are frowned upon. But the time of the early church fathers was quite different. They lived in very difficult times. A time in which it was easy to be killed for your faith. I think that it might well be that, during these debates, many became frustrated, angry, or even jealous. I think—and this is just a guess—that some really wanted to see the Church unite in that time of harsh persecution. You see, a false teaching or heresy can easily be misused in the church. We can see that rather often in modern day heretical groups. They will damn those who do not belong to them. They can do this because their false teaching confuses the real Gospel. This confusion renders the Gospel of Jesus powerless. Can it be that they, the church fathers, in their zeal, started to force this hard needed unity by getting rid of those who caused division.
No, I am not saying that it was good the way some handled the situation! I just wanted to point out that even our early church fathers made mistakes. God is not happy with the mistakes that were made and the mistakes we are still making today. However, He is not depended on our perfect conduct. I would rather say that, despite our blunders, God will always reach His goal.
And indeed, God’s goal, providing us with some good orthodoxy, succeeded.
Primary and Secondary Doctrines
Finally, I think that it would be good to say something about the primary and secondary doctrines, or teachings if you like. We need to be very careful not to dismiss a person as a brother or sister too quickly. I have seen churches and Christians who were almost eager to tell other denominations or Christians that they weren’t pure in their faith. That would not have been a big problem if only they had not based their rejection on secondary teachings.
Be careful rejecting others over topics like pre, mid or post-tribulation. Really! Do you think that someone who believes in the rapture would lose his salvation if he is wrong? Also, don’t turn your back on someone who believes that the Spirit of God only worked miracles in the apostolic time. You might argue that this person is missing out, but honestly? Do you think he will be sent to hell for this idea? How about which day we worship? How we worship and with what instruments? I would even like to argue that infant baptism, women in leading roles, the use of a different Bible than the King James, are not primary teachings. If someone goes to a church where you can step in on your flip-flops and in shorts, then that person is still your full-blown brother or sister!
However, things can take a different turn when people deny salvation by grace and the deity of Jesus, our Lord. Early in our history, our predecessors already establish, under guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, what orthodoxy is. God is a Triune God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. Jesus died on the cross and bodily rose from the grave on the third day. Primary is also the teaching on Jesus’ nature, He is both man and God.
To be Continued
Well, I hope this first part made you curious. I also hope that you understand the importance of apologetics when it comes to false teachings. We need to understand and know our faith In Jesus Christ, our Lord. How do you want to defend or protect the church against heresies if you don’t know what you believe?
In the next part, I want to make a start with discussing some of these heresies. Some of these heresies are still around and pose a real threat to orthodox Christianity.
In any case, let me know what you think in the comments. Maybe you disagree on certain things? Just leave a comment. Remember! I am mostly active on my Odysee channel. You’ll find a link to that channel in the description of this video or on my website. Don’t forget to subscribe if you want to receive a notification every time I upload a new video!
I very much appreciate your prayers and support! Please have a look in the description of this video to find out how you can help me. Also, I’ll place a link there to both the Dutch and English transcripts of this video.
God bless you, thank you for watching, and, Lord willing, we’ll see each other in the next video!
i Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 1 chapter 2.