The Key Take Away - So what's our point?

Very simply, the way that countless Christians pull the lever of the H-bomb (heresy) on their fellow brethren today violates both the way the first-century Christians understood heresy as well as the later usage of the term in church history.

As we noted earlier, instead of reserving the word “heresy” for those who activity work against the church, and instead of accepting the Ecumenical creeds as the ultimate criteria of orthodoxy, many today set up their own particular belief systems as the standard of “orthodoxy” and then drop the H-bomb on any who merely believe differently.

Sadly, most of those who are wrongly called "heretics" by some fellow Christians today are people who are completely orthodox according to the historic Christian creeds and they are not dividing local assemblies. But some people have called them “heretics” simply because they hold to a particular view of Christ's coming, of ecclesiology, or of the gifts of the Spirit.

young woman praisingOthers have been labeled “heretics” because they hold to a certain interpretation of Genesis 1, or to a particular understanding of God’s sovereignty, or of election, free will, or the nature of the future.

So our argument really boils down to this:
If a person holds to beliefs that are in line with the historical Christian creeds (Nicene, Apostles, Chalcedon) and they are not dividing a local assembly of believers, then to call them a heretic is a gross and perverted use of the term. And this kind of dubious branding grieves the Holy Spirit.

Our call, then, is for sisters and brothers in the body of Christ to align their use of the word “heretic” to the definitions of the New Testament and the early church. In so doing, we will see a whole lot less H-bomb dropping, and a whole lot less bloodletting in the body of Christ. And that would give joy to the Holy Spirit!


Notes

*For example, those who were creating division in the church in Corinth over their favorite apostle in 1 Corinthians 1 ("I'm of Peter," "I'm of Apollos," "I'm of Paul," etc.) were acting heretically with something that was good and approved by God (viz. apostles). While Paul doesn't use the word "heresy" or "heretical" to describe these specific divisions, he does use the term schismata in 1 Corinthians 1:10, which carries the same essential meaning.

**Keep in mind that we aren't saying that simply leaving a church (especially if it's truly a sect or is teaching false doctrine) isn't acting divisely. Nor is it divisive for a church to excommunicate someone based on unrepentant continued sin after many attempts have been made to urge them to repent (see Matt. 18). We aren't speaking about such situations.