The word “heresy” typically invokes a negative response toward the accuser (intolerant, bigoted, or ignorant) instead of the false belief it refers to. This is most likely due to past historical events such as the Inquisition or the Salem witch trials that remind us of the dangers of heresy-hunting. This blog will address the proper definition of heresy and the importance of confessing right doctrine, such as creeds.
A heresy can be defined as any teaching which contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture in regards to essential Christian doctrine: i.e. doctrine related to soteriology (salvation). A person could posit a theory such as suggesting that Jonah died in the great fish after being swallowed and God raised him from the dead three days later. Although this may not be supported in Scriptures well, it does not involve an essential doctrine and thus would not be a heresy. Heresy is by no means a new issue in the church, as there are many warnings in the New Testament, and writings against heresies continuing into the second century as well. Irenaeus of Lyons (writing toward the end of the second century) affirms the heresy problem in the church from the subjective contributions the Gnostics were introducing with new writings that conflicted with apostolic doctrines. He claimed the false teachers “introduce an indescribable number of secret and illegitimate writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish people, who are ignorant of the true scriptures.” [Read more…]