Alister McGrath defines heresy with these words, “A heresy is a failed attempt at orthodoxy, whose fault lies not in its willingness to explore possibilities or press conceptual boundaries, but in its unwillingness to accept that it has in fact failed” (Heresy, p. 31).
McGrath reveals what is an ironic truth about heresy. It is often propagated by those who appear to have good motives. It is advanced by those who think they are doing the Lord’s work by reconciling the Christian faith with some perceived conflict with the age. The problem with such efforts at reconciliation is that they can and often do fail. The history of Christian theology bears this out.
Today Christianity is facing a conflict with the zeitgeist over sexual morality, and there are no shortage of attempts to “reconcile” the faith with a revolution in sexual mores that is inherently incompatible with the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
On the one hand, we have revisionists telling us that the church has simply misunderstood the Bible’s prohibitions on homosexuality. We moderns know better than the entire 2,000-year tradition of the church and can see that homosexuality is perfectly compatible with following Christ. Matthew Vines and James Brownson are examples of this attempt to reconcile Christianity with the spirit of the age, and as of right now neither of them have acknowledged that their attempts at “reconciliation” have failed.
On the other hand, we have progressives telling us that the Bible does in fact teach that homosexuality is a sin. They tell us that the Bible is wrong on this point and that they know better than scripture. It is this version of the heresy that appeared in the pages of The Tennessean just yesterday. In an opinion editorial, a group of Quakers condemn The Nashville Statement not for failing to uphold biblical teaching but for upholding it. They write,
The justifications for the Statement’s positions are Biblical, in that certain Bible passages are narrowly interpreted to condemn homosexual practices. However, other passages of scripture clearly imply that God loves all creation. That is certainly the overwhelming message of the New Testament.
Notice that they don’t deny that the Bible condemns homosexual practices. They simply say that other passages about God’s love nullify passages that teach about sexual morality. They go on:
The Bible reflects the cultural standards of the time the texts originated. Those standards have evolved considerably over the two millennia since… The Bible reflects a society of long ago. It does not forecast the kind of evolution that has occurred. The only expected change is in the event of the second coming and end times.
The authors seem to say that all one needs in order to understand truth is a calendar. History is a story of evolution and progress, so of course we enlightened moderns know better than the rubes who penned scripture. All you have to do is check the date to know that scripture is wrong and we are right. We see more clearly than all who have gone before. If this doesn’t fit C. S. Lewis’ definition of “chronological snobbery,” then nothing does. It certainly fits McGrath’s definition of heresy.
And then, in a major howler, they make this extraordinary claim:
The overwhelming scientific evidence is that some individuals are born homosexual or with a physical gender not matching their identity. It is not a choice, and attempts to “correct” such individuals, to bring them into line with how some interpret God’s plan will fail and often cause emotional and psychological damage.
I can hardly believe that the editors of The Tennessean let this one through because it is wrong on its face. There is in fact no scientific consensus about why certain individuals experience either homosexual or transgender feelings.
For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) says rather plainly, “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation.” Likewise, “There is no single explanation for why some people are transgender. The diversity of transgender expression and experiences argues against any simple or unitary explanation.” The scientific authorities actually don’t know why these things are, and they admit as much.
Apparently, these Quakers don’t even understand their own side of the argument here. Perhaps we are more than a little justified in our skepticism of their claims to represent Christianity’s side of the argument.
This op-ed claims to be an argument against The Nashville Statement, and that it is. But it is also an argument against Christianity itself. The authors utterly fail at reconciling what they believe to be a conflict between God’s love and the Bible’s teaching about sexual morality. It fails because it doesn’t end up embracing God’s revelation but rebelling against it.
Alister McGrath writes:
One of the more persistent themes in early Christian accounts of heresy is that it smuggles rival accounts of reality into the household of faith. It is a Trojan horse, a means of establishing (whether by accident or design) an alternative belief system within its host. Heresy appears to be Christian, yet it is actually an enemy of faith that sows the seed of faith’s destruction. It could be compared to a virus, which establishes its presence within a host, ultimately using its host’s replication system to achieve dominance. Yet whatever the ultimate origins of heresy might be, the threat comes from within the community of faith (p. 34).
The Quakers who penned this op-ed claim to be writing as Christians who are concerned about truth. But they are nowhere near the truth. Rather, they are smuggling into the faith that which would destroy it if unopposed. Ironically, rather than debunking The Nashville Statement, they are proving why we needed it.
There is much confusion in the pews today about sexual morality, and there are pretenders among us calling God’s people away from God’s truth. The Nashville Statement was designed to call them back. And this op-ed proves that we need that call now more than ever.
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