Monday, June 23, 2014

Heresy is itself an act of schism. . .

"One of the respondents to Not Your Smallest Lutheran Church, Russell Saltzman’s report on the recent creation of a new Lutheran body [NALC], objected to the conservatives leaving the mainline body to form another one. '[ I]t’s not a good thing to be willing to splinter' over 'dogma and religious practices,' he wrote. Divisions between Christians seriously damage our ability to speak to world effectively.

"Back when I was an Episcopal activist, both liberals who were busy gutting the Episcopal Church of its traditional beliefs and conservatives who didn’t want to challenge them were fond of intoning 'Schism is worse than heresy.' It was a little odd to hear this from members of a tradition that began in a break with the Church of which it had been a part over what its leaders thought to be heresies.

"But the real problem with the claim was theological: that heresy is itself an act of schism."

You can read the whole thing from the 2010 First Things article by David Mills...

There is no shortage of those wringing their hands over the sad divisions of Christianity (and there are many and they are sad and regrettable -- make no mistake about that).  Yet the mystery is that many, dare I say most of those who wring their hands and sound the lament of so many different Christian church bodies (it seems there are  more each year) seem to have no such angst or regret over the fact that many of these divisions are the necessary actions of those who leave heretical church bodies and those who have allowed apostasy to contaminate the church's confession without challenge.  Mills is spot on.  Heresy IS schism, it is the worst kind of schism, and it is the schism that compromises the church's witness most of all -- more than even the scandal of many denominations!

Only when we take doctrine and confession seriously can the ecumenical endeavor begin to address the sad and regrettable divisions among us Christians.  Compromise over truth and unity in diversity represent their own affront to the true Biblical unity of faith for which Jesus prays in His high priestly prayer.  No, discounting doctrine does nothing to foster unity and we are not reaping the reward of those who have traded in the doctrinal certainty of Scripture and the catholic tradition for the vague and clouded unity of churches standing for little except unity.

We must call out those who occasion schism by their heresy.  There is no triumphal glory in this for we speak the truth in love to those within and without the boundaries of Christendom but speak the truth we must.  Fuzzy truth and diluted confession give no glory to God nor do they foster unity or serve the faithful witness God intends for the church.  While I know that there can certainly be a preoccupation with pure doctrine as if it were an end in and of itself (and not the worship, witness, and service that pure doctrine serves) but we are far more likely in this day and age to round the sharp edges of our confessions so that they end up saying nothing and doing nothing.  This has allowed heresy to spread to the point that it is impossible to remain in some of these churches and there is no choice for faithfulness except to walk.  That said, there are choices before beginning a new church body and too often, it is true, that those who leave do not give honest consideration to the existing bodies.  Nevertheless there would be no need if the theology were orthodox and the confession faithful in the first place.


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