Heresy hunting seems to have become quite a popular pastime with many radio broadcasters and internet bloggers. Recently I ran across a response by Tim Challies (www.challies.com) concerning some heresy hunters coming after him. He is a Christian blogger, author and fellow pastor who holds to what most would call a “reformed” theology. I for one cannot even fathom why the heresy hunting crowd would go after such a person with this background. However, Tim is not the first person from a standard theological position that these “Christian watchdogs” have gone after. Hank Hannegraff of the Christian Research Institute took it upon himself to go after widely known Presbyterian pastor and author, Dr. D. James Kennedy. There have been many well respected men and women of God who have been slandered, criticized, and black balled by these so called “defenders of doctrinal purity”.
I personally do not understand why people follow these guys who give spiritual colonoscopies to fellow believers and servants of God. I understand the need for accountability. I understand the need for solid biblical based teaching. I do not understand the need to follow controversy. On this website I have practiced the principle of
In Essentials; Unity
In Non-Essentials; Liberty
In All Things; Love.
It seems to me that the heresy hunters follow a different creed. It seems to me in their pursuit of doctrinal purity, they end up straining a gnat while swallowing a camel. (Matthew 23:24) I think there will always be those that anoint themselves as God’s defenders of the doctrine, however I think that we can overcome their destructive influence by sound biblical teaching on the true motivation of such people and what the lasting fruit of their so-called ministries is.
The Motivation Of The Heresy Hunter
I am just closing up a verse by verse series on the book of Galatians. In that book, Paul was addressing a group of heresy hunters called the Judaizers. They were attacking Paul and the gospel of grace and trying to introduce a works based theology into Christianity. Paul said that their motive was that you would pay attention to them.
Gal. 4:17 Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them.
The motivation of the heresy hunter is not to bring you freedom, or cause you to grow in your life. The motivation of the heresy hunter is to cause you to follow them. They want you to look at them as if they are super-spiritual or superior in intelligence to the one that they are attacking.
The reason that Tim Challies, or Dr. Kennedy was attacked was not because they lacked proper doctrine, but because they have a large following and the heresy hunter is trying to attract followers to them out of envy or jealousy. They have found a statement or a writing that they disagree with or want to exploit, and will use it to spread strife and dissension. Instead of looking at the entire message, they will pick apart one small piece and thus try to discredit the person in their entirety. Thus they are straining a gnat and in doing so, swallowing a camel.
The Legacy Of The Heresy Hunters
A legacy is what you leave behind. Let’s take a look at what is left behind with people who engage in this type of behavior. Paul states that people who are engaging in this type of behavior is operating out of the flesh. He states that the works of the flesh are obvious to see.
Galatians 5:19: When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
What the heresy hunter leaves behind is a legacy of the absence of the rule and reign of Jesus in their lives and the lives of their followers. People will not partake in the kingdom of God (the rule and reign of Jesus) here on earth. The Apostle James puts it this way
James 3:13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
What the heresy hunter leaves behind is strife, discord, jealousy, selfishness, and every type of evil. It does not produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness. In the end the heresy hunter wants you to look to them as spiritual when in fact they are carnal.
How Do We Respond To Heresy Hunters?
Heresy hunters are like the schoolyard bullies of the airwaves and internet. The reason they are behaving the way they are is because they desire attention. The way to stop these types of people is to remove that attention they are getting from their behavior. That means that those of us that are part of mainstream Evangelicalism have a job to do in teaching our people.
Ephesians 4:11-15 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
The way to stop the heresy hunters is when the body of Christ comes to maturity and sees this type of behavior and tactic for what it is; a work of the flesh. That means that you and I have to stop running to the controversies like proverbial ambulance chasers every time somebody howls “false doctrine” “false teaching” “heresy” and instead start chasing things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22)