I think we use the word Heresy too much.
Grace has posted an open conversation on yet another controversy regarding the comments of one Mark Driscoll. Mark, talking to a group of pastors in the states, uses the platform to ‘constructively criticise’ some of the more prominent US ‘emerging church ‘ voices. Mmmm…
I haven’t heard the podcast, and I haven’t even read the books of the people concerned. I’m not going to get drawn into a ‘who’s right, who’s wrong’ thing here. If you are interested in the issues, then the conversation going on in Grace’s comments stream is (relatively) balanced. My point in postsing on this, is because I disagree with the principle behind it, and this is something that is happening way too often at the moment.
The Church, globally, is big, colourful, and very, very diverse. There is a wide range of perspectives, opinions, theologies and approaches between countries, and that diversity often extends within countries as well. In the West we have many, many different churches and a celebrated history of freedom of thought and expression, that fully extends into the church. We may have burned people for believing the wrong thing a few hundred years ago, but we’ve stopped doing that now…
Except that, especially in the American Christian blogosphere, we seem to be regaining a passion for (un)healthy criticism. It seems that a section of the Western church that has issues with freedom of religious thought is getting rather vocal. I’m not going to say that Mark Driscoll is heading this up, or even a bad offender in this regard, but his actions in this talk are symptomatic. He took the stage in a public forum (its podcasted on iTunes!) and denounced some of his fellow ministers as having ‘incorrect’ beliefs.
There is such a thing as Heresy. You can’t read the New Testament and not understand that some beliefs cross the line into what becomes un-Christian. But what constitutes Heresy is things like the denial of Jesus as Christ, it’s promoting another saviour, not whether or not someone uses rabbinical sources to help them understand the bible!
We don’t get to point at people in that way and shout ‘you’re wrong!’ Our faith is bigger and more complex and more mysterious than can be fit into a systematic theology book; there has always been space for differences in approach and understanding. That’s why we have so many different churches.
It is fine to disagree, even strongly, on what constitutes the right expression of our faith. But I really don’t think it is fine to stand up in a public forum and say, effectively ‘I am righter than these other people’. It is not fine to promote and perpetuate this form of badly researched antagonistic criticism.
If Mark Driscoll has a problem with the other pastors he mentions, he should talk to them about it. If someone comes up and asks him “what do you think of X’s teaching on this” he can go “I disagree with them and see it this way”. But I really don’t think its right to stand up and say “this person has it wrong” in a public forum like that.
But then, maybe I’m just the pot calling the kettle black… 😉