The Seven Stages Of Heresy
Immoral practice is clearly condemned and anathematized. The eternal salvation of souls is at stake. Some people still do it, but they are understood to be sinners and sometimes socially ostracized.
Immoral practice is still clearly condemned but nobody really talks about it. More people do it, but not considered ideal.
Immoral practice is formally condemned, but such condemnation is rarely taught. Many more people do it, it is just the way life is sometimes.
Immoral practice is still formally condemned, but most clergy look the other way and some even encourage it. Most people do it, what is the big deal?
Immoral practice is still formally condemned, but we must find a way to act pastorally toward all those who engage in practice. Church is seen to be unnecessarily hurting those with its outdated intolerance. To be more pastoral, we encourage more of the immoral practice because our growth has taught us that people’s feelings are more important than their souls.
Immoral practice is still immoral, but those charged with the care of souls and safeguarding the truth say things like “that ship has sailed” or “not that important” or “not relevant” or “we are not obsessed with such matters” or “we need to encounter people where they are” or ultimately “the sensus fidelium has spoken.” Those who don’t do it are considered obsessed wild-eyed intolerant freaks who are ultimately harming the Church’s outreach.
Immoral practice is still immoral and Church still formally condemns it, but the ubiquitous immoral practice has spawned worse ones, so we now have bigger fish to fry. Congratulations! You have a full-blown heresy!!
Could there be something in this for Lutherans and others? I think so. . . The road from orthodoxy to heresy, from faithful practice to heterodoxy, from truth to apostasy, is slow and plodding -- so slow that indeed many will not recognize the subtle changes that leave completely outside the pale of the Truth and yet, it seems, utterly powerless to do anything about it. Orthodoxy is not nice or neat or clean -- it is always messy. It may seem like quibbles over little things but nothing less than the Truth of Jesus Christ is at stake when we vary from the safe and secure moorings of evangelical and catholic doctrine and obedience (practice). . . Watch out for yourselves and for the flock in your care. . . the wolf comes in sheep's clothing but he is still a wolf.