The MacMillan Encylopedia says about heresy, in part: “Owing to such factors as the rise of theological liberalism and the ecumenical movement, the term ‘heresy’ is rarely used in modern Church circles”
To say the least, this is most certainly true! And yet, as Pastor Todd Wilken of Issues ETC. says, “false teaching hurts people”.
And here is the kicker:
The biggest problem with heretical speech is that it is often always right.
In the words which are uttered, there is often nothing spoken which is, in itself, wrong. In fact heretical speech is often comprised of many true statements. The problem however – which is related to the definition of the word heresy itself – is that the picture that they paint with their statements is completely wrong at worst and incomplete at best. And dangerously so.
It is not so much what is said that makes the heretic. It is what is not said.
A heretic is someone who does not wish to embrace all that one is given to embrace. They are “choosy”. Literally, a heresy means to “pick and choose”.[i]
Another major problem with heretical speech however, is that so often it does not come from hardened heretics. In fact, in all likelihood (we cannot know human hearts!), it rarely does. No doubt the famous second century Christian heretic, Marcion, (pictured above) seemed quite genuine in his profession of Christianity. And, perhaps, as seems to be the case with Eugene Peterson, those who fall into heresy are more like reeds shaken by the wind then they are those who consciously “masquerade as an angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14).
Speaking of which, I am very glad that Eugene Peterson has recanted. I hope that the recantation is genuine, from his heart. I definitely hope to see him in heaven!
That said, I don’t think I will be paying much attention to his books anymore. Around the time of the news last week a man on a Facebook group I am on said the following (used with permission):
Peterson’s “thing” in evangelical circles was to highlight the introspective, meditative, and mystical elements. So those who wanted a “deeper” faith circled around him like moths to the flame. Peterson was in evangelical precincts what Nouwen was for Roman Catholics and Liberal Protestants. Most of his nearly three dozen books were well received among evangelicals. Then, when he was in his early 60s, he did a stint as Professor of Spiritual Theology at highly regarded Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, for another decade and a half. But, his “circle” of evangelical admirers expanded to take in a very different constituency among American evangelicals: the church growth types. They LOVED his “The Message” paraphrase of the Bible because it was so “accessible,” and did not employ “churchy” language. I could never understand how a mainline Presbyterian in the PCUSA garnered such a large following among theologically conservative evangelicals. But, for Peterson, much of his writing exalted the interior spiritual experience. Experience often seems to trump doctrine among some segments of evangelicalism and that carried him a very long way in the evangelical camp. Notice how his criterion for acceptance of homosexuality was the fact that “gay Christians” seemed to have “as good a spiritual life as I do.”
“Experience often seems to trump doctrine.”
Mark and note that friends.
Trust in the Word — the living Word and His living words in Scripture — and pray that your faith would be deep and strong, like a nail driven into a board. That is the experience you need.