Combating Heresy – The First Solution: Orthodoxy

As I have finished explaining the four types of heresy, it would do me no good to sit back and think that my mission is accomplished. In looking at how to fight heresy, I see four solutions to heresy that counter-act the four types of heresy:

1) Orthodoxy (right thinking)

2) Orthopraxy (right actions)

3) Study of heresies

4) Compassionate rhetoric

The first solution, which means it is the base solution, is to study orthodoxy. In our churches most sermons center around what is relevant for the day. Most people hear topical sermons on how we should help the environment, help women considering abortions, or live holy lives. Such sermons are necessary and needed, but do little good when the people do not even know the basics of the faith.

A perfect example of how we do not even know the basics of the faith is to look at the popular support for the book The Shack. While it presents a moving story, theologically it leaves much to be desired and at certain points it teaches outright heresy. Note when Mack sees the scars on “Papa’s” wrists that Papa explains that He (she, according to The Shack) and the Spirit suffered on the Cross along with Christ.

While such a thought is quite poetic, it’s actually heretical. To say that God, in His nature, can suffer is to say that He has feelings as we have feelings, meaning He is composed of parts. This would mean that He is not God. Rather, the traditional Church explanation has been that Christ the person suffered in His human nature, but the Divine nature did not suffer. In fact, St. Cyril of Alexandria writes in his book On the Unity of Christ, “No, as I have said, he ought to be conceived of as suffering in his own flesh, although not suffering in any way like this is in the Godhead.” In other words, the traditional teaching for two thousand years has been that while the person of Christ suffered in His human nature, His divine nature remained unharmed by the events of the cross, as did the Father and Spirit (as they were part of the divine nature, not the human nature). To teach otherwise is to teach that Father and Spirit also became man.

What is worse is that when people responded to The Shack, the biggest complaint was that the author presented a Christian knock-off of the Oracle in the Matrix, or that He made God the Father a woman. While such an action shows both a loss of creative and theological integrity, it hardly follows as the biggest mistake in the book. Placing the Father and the Spirit within the suffering human nature on the cross is actually the biggest mistake of the book. Yet few Christians picked this out. The reason few Christians, even educated Christians, picked this out is because no one has taught them orthodoxy.

When was the last time you heard a sermon on the Trinity and what “Trinity” means? If you have heard one at all, the reason such sermons are avoided is because the Trinity is difficult to understand and difficult to teach. How many sermons have you heard about the Incarnation outside of Christmas and possibly Easter? A sermon that goes beyond “Jesus is God” and explains how we know this to be true? Few, if any Christians, have heard such sermons.

If we walk into a church and look at the classes they offer on a Wednesday night are we more likely to see “Raising your children for Christ” or “Understanding the hypostatic union” on the board for learning? In youth groups is more money spent on getting kids to go to camp (to have a spiritual experience) or on helping them to learn the basics of the faith?

My point in all of this should be obvious – we’ve failed to understand the most basic tennets of the faith. In early Church history, a member would go anywhere from a few months to a few years without being baptized or receiving communion with the Church. The reason for such a delay is the person was expected to enter into discipleship with the local church and learn the tennets of the faith. He was to learn what it meant that God was three in one, that Jesus was God and man, but that the Father and Spirit did not assume a human nature as Christ did. They were expected to learn that the universal was temporal and that God created all things through the simple act of willing. All of this was to be understood, perhaps not to the deeper level of the theologians, but a basic understanding was required. Once someone understood and accepted such mysteries, only then could the person enter into baptism and communion.

Such a practice, however, doesn’t create big numbers on Sunday morning. The reason is that some members (or candidates as they were called) were rejected from joining the local church. The reason is they rejected the doctrines they learned. Never were they rejected for not understanding, for some people are limited in their ability to understand and such people are shown grace by God, but for rejecting what they did understand. In the modern church, not only do we not test potential member’s theology, we wouldn’t know if they were wrong to begin with!

The cure to heresy is orthodoxy. The cure to lies is truth. The cure to darkness is light. This can only occur if God’s people understand what is proper to believe about Him and His Church. A relationship can only form when we believe the right things about God, otherwise we are forming a relationship with an idol of the mind.