I recently attended a heresy luncheon. That wasn’t the official title, but I’m pretty sure the speaker would have been burned at the stake in another age. Doctrines such as original sin, substitutionary atonement and election were tossed aside along with inerrancy of scripture. This was the Super Bowl of revisionism. One of the wrappers for the belief system espoused was “alternative orthodoxy,” which is a little like “modified monogamy”; I’m fairly sure the alternative to orthodoxy is apostasy. By the end of the meeting my conservative nerves were frayed from not shouting, “The Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it.” (Which is a phrase I hope to never utter out loud.)
Since the luncheon I have been debating the speaker in my head. I’ve read every Wikipedia article about him and his core philosophies (because I’m just that deep), and I’ve googled everyone who has written an article calling him a heretic. The reality is he’s way smarter than I am, so I’m looking for intelligent people to affirm my shock and dismay. I fall asleep debating him, I wake up having triumphed in my pretend theology match. I didn’t argue with him face-to-face, but I’m 10-0 in my imagination.
At the same time I am digging deep into his theological arguments. I am reading and re-reading scripture depicting Christ as the sacrificial lamb. I’m examining the difference between what I know and what I think I know about original sin. I am revisiting the tension between:
2 Cor 5:15 (NIV) And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Acts 13:48 (NIV) When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
I haven’t been this engaged in theology since my freshman year of Bible college when I found out the KJV Bible wasn’t handed directly from God to Paul. (Council of Carthage? What???) Nothing brings doctrine to life like someone who completely disagrees.
What I’m realizing is that when I shelter myself from people with a different understanding of God, and label them heretics, my thinking becomes very shallow. From a distance it is easy to put others in boxes without wresting with my own understanding of the universe and how it works. When, however, I sit across a lunch table and listen to understand, rather than refute, I can learn and grow.
The bottom line is I need more heretics in my life.