This is the third article in the series on the “theological downgrade” in evangelicalism and fundamentalism. The responses to the first two articles are adequate evidence that there is a swift move to the left and that many among us refuse to admit the depths and dangers of the drift.
Two facts must be faced in this discussion. First, there is value in having many things in one. The body, for instance, has many parts, but is one unit. My mother used to bake cakes from scratch. With uncanny precision, she could measure a pinch of this and a dash of that to make a perfect dessert, the many parts of which created one delicious product. If, however, she had added arsenic as one of the ingredients, that addition to pluralism would have been deadly. If a human body were to have two heads, that added part would serve to create what would be viewed as a monster.
The second fact is that all change and all pluralism are not equal. An important factor is that the ingredients must be common and compatible. This is why some European countries have found that pluralism is threatening to destroy their society if they don’t regulate the things that are being added to it. The best example of this problem can be seen in the addition of Islam to a society. This example is not about religious pluralism; it is about a force that hides military, governmental, and economic power behind religion. This particular addition is exactly what is happening in our own country. This kind of pluralism is destructive, like arsenic would be in a cake.
Evangelicalism and fundamentalism have added arsenic to their theological cakes as well, and have simply given this deadly part a new name. The point of this series has been to weed out the theological poison that has been added. In some cases, the admixture has included heresy, error, and philosophy, all supported by human reason. The sad thing about these additions is that so many of our own spend so much time defending this sort of error.
It is not wise for us to glibly toss around the word “heresy”. Some simply use the word to attack anyone who does not agree with them. Others are fearful to use the word when it is needed, and so spend far too much time protecting those who teach it. I use the word heresy at this point as meaning “an opinion or doctrine contrary to the clear teaching of God’s Word in those areas that deal with the central doctrines of Christianity”. While it is only for emphasis, I would say that the individual who holds to a heresy cannot be a true believer. For example, you cannot deny the virgin birth, or the deity of Christ, and still be a believer. Such a rejection is a denial of the faith, a belief that is vital to Christianity. Heresy would also include an attack on the existence, character, or attributes of God. To attack the omniscience, omnipresence, or omnipotence of God is heresy. I am not asking for your agreement; this is a statement based on the clear teaching of the Bible.
To add heresy to theological pluralism is eternally disastrous. The second problem in this discussion is theological “error”. The problem here is that error is most often mixed with some elements of truth. The wise interpreter will constantly search for the admixture of error in what he reads. There may be truth attached to error; remember that diamonds do come from dirt. Error needs a definition for the purpose of this discourse: it is “any small or large area where teaching is not in full agreement with the scripture that is carefully interpreted with the one biblical hermeneutic”.
THE DIFFICULTY WITH ERROR
The above definition is based on the fact that there are basically only two hermeneutics. The first is one that rises from scripture; that is, the normal, plain, consistent, and literal system. The other is generated from human reason with an allegorical base. This second system is the same one that is used in liberalism. The use of this human system is often blended with the biblical system, but it is actually the road to liberalism.
How bad is error? While it is true that error may have various levels of seriousness, all error is serious. The Bible doesn’t teach several views about the Second Coming; it teaches only one truth. The reason there are a half dozen views about Christ’s coming is that all but one of these are derived from an erroneous hermeneutic. The same is true of the doctrine of salvation - there is only one correct view, and it rises from the one biblical hermeneutic.
THE HEART OF THE ISSUE
Why are we asked to accept error even if it is not heresy? The power brokers demand that we give respect to error by the ton. If the biblicist takes a stand, saying there is only one right interpretation of a text, he is held up to ridicule and is called arrogant and intolerant. You recognize, of course, that such arguments are liberal tricks to silence the voices of those whom they see as lesser beings. On the other hand, those who give respectability to error are really supporting it; if you are not opposed to error, then you clearly are supporting it. I remind you that I do not support rudeness and character assassination, but an attack on theological error is not an attack on the character of those who hold error. Great minds talk about ideas; small minds talk about people. This maxim would include those who do not have the ability to separate ideas, doctrine, and error from the personalities of those who hold such errors. In the end, the real issue is about those who practice theological pluralism and are comfortable giving credibility to error by adding it to truth.
Part One From the Series, Platform Sharing & Identification
Part Two from the Series
A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care. For those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address, Shepherdstaff2@juno.com
Shepherd's Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D.Min
May 19, 2011