I’ve been reading Roger Olson’s new book Counterfeit Christianity: The Persistence of Errors in the Church, a book about Christian heresies that is vastly superior to my own writing on them. Nonetheless, I thought this would be the perfect time to pull my ‘Top Ten Heresies‘ posts from 4 years ago out of the vault.
Heresy = Beliefs considered anathema by the ecumenical councils of the Christian Church
If Orthodoxy = ‘right praise’ then heresy = ‘wrong praise.’
*Leviticus 10: wrong praise = a very big deal
If Stanley Hauerwas is correct to assert that most Christians in America today are ‘functional atheists;’ that is, most Christians live in such a way that it makes no difference that God raised Jesus from the dead, then surely even more Christians today are inadvertent heretics, trodding paths of belief the ancient Church long ago labeled dangerous detours.
Today these ancient errors of the faith can be found wearing many different guises. For all you know, you might be wearing one too.
By pointing out what Christians DO NOT believe, we can get one step closer to what we do.
Heresy #9: Arianism
What Is It
The belief that the God the Son is subordinate to God the Father, effectively dismantling any coherent doctrine of the Trinity.
Arianism was the provocation for and is the context behind all that ‘begotten not made…one being with the Father’ jargon in the otherwise beautiful Nicene Creed.
Arianism was also the provocation for the real St Nick to pimp-slap another delegate at the Council of Nicea.
Who Screwed Up First
Attributed to Arius, a Christian leader from Alexander, Egypt (250-360). Arius taught that the Son of God was neither pre-existent nor eternal despite what John 1 and Colossians 1 testify.
Rather, Arius held, the Son was created by the Father for God’s redemptive purposes; therefore, the God Christians worship is not an eternal community of coequal persons exchanging self-emptying love, otherwise known as the Trinity. The God Christians worship is just God.
How Do You Know If You’re a Heretic?
If you woodenly think ‘the Trinity is not in the Bible’ and instead insist, conspiratorially, that it’s a doctrine invented by ancient Church bureaucrats then you’re most definitely an Arian.
If you believe Jesus was a good teacher of God’s love and compassion but balk at the notion that Jesus always was, is and forever will be God (Col 1) then instead of leaving milk and cookies this Christmas just leave an apology note because Santa just might kick your #%@.
If you (mis)understand the atonement in such a way that you treat Jesus as someone who protects us from God the Father; that is, the Son and the Father’s wills are not one and the same, then even though you probably consider yourself a bible-believing Christian you’re actually a heretic.
If, rather than submitting yourself to a community of fellow sinners and ancient texts, you insist that you ‘can worship God better in nature’ (ie, play golf) then you may not be that theologically deft but you’re still an Arian. You’d never discover something like the Trinity in nature nor a God as counter-intuitive as Jesus.
If you dismiss Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (love thy enemy, turn the other cheek) as naive or hopeless ideals rather than to-do’s straight from the lips of the eternal God, then the Nicene Creed was written just for you.
If you think religious people are all basically the same because ‘we all believe in God after all’ you’re the spawn of Arianism.
If you think Christmas, when we celebrate the infinite becoming finite and taking flesh in Mary’s womb, is for children…heretic.
Persons Most Likely to Commit This Heresy Today
Readers of Dan Brown
Mark Driscoll and John Piper
Most Contemporary Christian songwriters
Evangelicals who exclusively pray ‘Father God’ prayers
Tea Party Republicans
Read Colossians 1 and marvel at the mystery
Memorize the Nicene Creed (this will prove hard for Protestants)
Burn any and all Dan Brown books on your grill
Read the Sermon on the Mount the Gospels and say to yourself: ‘God said this.’
Use ‘Jesus’ in any sentence where ‘God’ would do.