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Your 60 second guide to heresy

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Jesus was deeply concerned about false teaching taking a hold of his followers, “Beware of false prophets who come to you wearing sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) Not long afterwards, Jesus’ concerns proved true as Peter wrote, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, ...” (2 Peter 2:1)

Heresy is departure from the truth. It only exists where there is a recognized body of doctrinal truth. If there is no truth, there is no heresy. In recent times many theologians have argued that all religious opinions are subjective and therefore the word “heresy” has no meaning. But, Christianity is a religion of revelation and we stake our lives on the objective truths of God.

Heresy is dangerous because it separates people from the Gospel and leads them back into sin, judgment and death. It’s never enough to teach people the truth of the Gospel. Believers must also be taught to recognize and avoid heresy. I wouldn’t teach my children about edible plants and then send them into the woods with no knowledge of poison ivy! Think of heresy as poisonous doctrines that can do great harm to a person’s soul.

The American Church is under attack from heresy that has penetrated deeply into our ranks. It’s destroying souls like a spiritual cancer as I write. It’s called “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”-- a term coined by sociologists studying religious beliefs today. It can be summarized in five core tenets:

  1. God created the world, orders it and watches over human life.

  2. God wants people to be nice and fair to each other as taught in most world religions.

  3. The goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.

  4. God is not necessary to daily life except to resolve occasional problems.

  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

In this heresy, Jesus--if he is recognized at all--is reduced to a sort of mascot who serves to justify our various fleshly desires, political agendas and spiritual pursuits. The believers in this heresy clearly see themselves in the driver’s seat of life. This heresy leads people to reject the moral law of God, the authority of scripture and the absolute truth claims of Jesus himself who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” was aptly derided by theologian H. Richard Neibhur as “A God without wrath who brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” His words highlight how this heresy stands the entire Christian faith on its head.

Do not fall for this! Such beliefs lead people away from Jesus, out of the church and into hell. When church leaders espouse this heresy it corrupts the missionary imperative and saps the motivation for discipleship. Churches steeped in this heresy soon find themselves in decline--it's happening all over America.

This is not what God wants! The church that will thrive in the 21st century is one that reacquaints itself with the robust doctrines of Christianity: the authority of scripture, the moral law of God, judgment day, sin, atonement, redemption, new birth, the need for surrender, sacrifice, discipline and obedience all built upon the foundation of love in Jesus Christ. We love because God first loved us. Jesus said it, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Together let’s recommit to the truth of the Gospel for ourselves and our children.


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