Monday, June 06, 2005

Make Heresy History?

Midge Ure was interviewed on Radio Five Live this morning about the Live8 concert. In a slip of the tongue he said that their cause was "Make Government History". Got me thinking about things I've love to see irradicated.

Meanwhile in recent days I've had several of my students come and talk to me about concerns in their churches. Things they are being taught that don't seem to match up with scripture. On the one hand I'm concerned - the church ought to seek to be true. On the other I'm not surprised. The church has always been riddled with error.

I'm not so much talking about slip of the tongue error. Error that counts is the stuff that distorts the good news of Jesus. Every Bible teacher is fallible so there must be generosity and teachability. And indeed when error is identified, in word or deed the Christian goals is always restoration. We seek to be set back on the truth, to stop the drift.

Truth always exists alongside error. Little teaching is merely stating truth. Much is also concerned with the prosecution of error. When you learn to stop at a red light you're also learning not to go at a red light. When our sinful hearts hear truth they will often long for error. Truth fights sin. Error tolerates and permits it.

Jesus talks about his kingdom (Matthew 13v24-30), saying that weeds would grow up among the good crops. And at the right time, his return, they can be separated. Til then we live in a mixed bag. It has always been this way. A good quantity of the New Testament exists to refute error. Or at least to state truth because error has arisen.

The same errors afflict the church generation after generation. A few years ago I stood on the streets of Reading talking with Mormons. Painfully aware that I was confronting "Colossian-Heretics". People whose false teaching should have been refuted when it first appeared. Joseph Smith' visions should have be subjected to scriptural testing and would then have been found wanting.

It would be easy for us to become heresy hunters. And that surely is not the intent of God's word. Instead we ought to be truth seekers. People who are keen always to have Jesus look good, in accordance with his revealed written word. When our hearts and minds are full of truth then errors will be exposed as the cheap immitations they are.

The same errors keep coming back. Almost always errors that offer radical breakthroughs against sin, greater experiences of truth or greater insights. All things we would long to have. All things we will one day have. Some errors are obvious. Many, the great many, are dressed up in evangelical clothing. On the surface they look like, smell like and even seem to taste like truth. But they are a shell with a hollow interior. They have no real power.

We must test ourselves and others. We must hold each other accountable to the truth. With the help of the Holy Spirit we must keep reminding ourselves of the good news of Jesus. As a preacher I am glad to speak into a congregation that will test my words. There are few greater pleasures in preaching than a "Berean" audience who will test everything they hear against scripture - looking for truth to believe about Jesus.

We must heed David Gibson's warning against assuming the gospel. We must become explicit evangelicals. Always coming back to the good news of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Longing to see Jesus. Longing to be transformed by the Spirit.
"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." Colossians 2v6-7, ESV

There is nothing new to find, but only more depth and more height to explore within Christ. There is nothing better than to remain faithful. And what is the result? Abounding thankfulness!