Conversing with the heretics (Emerging heresy synchroblog)

April 21, 2008

As the call to papers for the synchroblog about “Emerging heresy” came out, I was having a conversation with Deborah on my Beowulf post. Early on in the conversation Deborah said:

Be wary of the Emerging Christian doctrine that you mentioned in your post. It’s as false as the liberal propaganda that comes out of Hollywood. I would advise always, always to measure what you read or view in this world against the pure doctrine of God’s holy word.

I still haven’t found exactly what she has refered to, but maybe it was another post, since I didn’t refer to anything “emerging” in the post. The conversation went on for pages and pages, and I guess I knew from the start that the chances was very unlikely that we would find some common ground, but as I explained previously, I still consider fundamentalism as an ecumenical challenge, so I continued the conversation. May I just mention that Deborah do not consider herself to be a fundamentalist, her reaction to my mention of the word was:

Now, let’s get to the bias you think me to have. Am I evangelical? No. Am I a fundamentalist? No. Now, again, that could depend upon your definitions, but according to my definitions, the answer is “No.” As far as being a fundamentalist, I think of Islamic terrorists as fundamentalists. So, no, I’m not a fundamentalist. Evangelical? In what sense? Do I go out and evangelize? No. Do I believe in preaching the Gospel? Yes, for that was Christ’s Great Commission (Mar 15:16). But that makes me doctrinal, not evangelical.

I don’t think the conversation was a success, maybe I should even be ashamed of the things I’ve said. But I do have some thoughts on how conversations may continue. I’ve had some friends who are very comfortable with the evangelicals, and we had loads of very constructive conversations, and others that we couldn’t even get through a cup of coffee. So, if you have some emerging friends you think might be heretics (whatever that may mean, give your interpretation to this word), but still want to be “conversing with the heretics”, here are my thoughts:

  • If your heretic friend consider him/herself to be a Christians, try to consider them as Christians
  • Remember that both of you have biases, and that you can maybe help each other notice them
  • Try focusing on social justice, you might find you both want to help the poor and suffering, although you differ on some theological stuff
  • Remember that you may be wrong, both of you, remember that just maybe you are wrong! I guess this is the most difficult part. I’ve written some more on this here.

Just one of these can sometimes provide an entry point for some good conversations, without the need to give up dearly held beliefs. Oh, and by the way, don’t ever mention that you have a direct link with God which mean that you are definitely right, no matter what anyone says. This tends to kill a conversation, because you can’t really fight with God.

Well, maybe I’m too demanding. But I am serious to keep the conversation going. If you think I should back down on some points, tell me, if you think I should add some, also leave a comment. And maybe you have some things which you think your heretic friends should also keep in mind when the attempt at conversation is made, please make a mention of those as well.

Well, you can read the conversation between myself and Deborah here, and you’re welcome to give some pointers where you think the conversation could have been done better (especially if I should have done thing differently). But I must say, it’s gonna be a loooong read if you do read this.

Well, that’s my thoughts for the day, also read these other fine sychrobloggers!

Aratus – The Gender of the Creator and Face forward
Cobusvw – Conversing with the heretics
Liquid Light – Coming out a heretic emerges
Nic Paton – The Lif Cycle of Heresy and The Blessings of Heresy
Roger Saner Towards a heretical orthodoxy
Ryan Peters – title not cited yet
Steve Hayes no title cited yet
Tim Victor – Confessions of a heretic


13 Responses to “Conversing with the heretics (Emerging heresy synchroblog)”

  1. Nic Paton Says:

    Whilst I don’t think that this post takes on the subject of “heresy” head on, I think its a very useful illustration of the elements that go into the us and them dynamic.

    I applaud every attempt to view the error in ones own eye first, to excersise hospitality, and to keep the conversation going. It takes art and sometimes even holy trickery to reconcile differing world views, especially with “close neighbours”.

    I think there are various subversive postures that do this, including humor, irony, non-judgementalism, and narrative, but all of these will only be sucessful if the root attitude is unconditional love and acceptance, with fear and ego playing minimal, or even no, part.

    The power of G-d was made manifest in Jesus as he excersised these qualities.

  2. Cobus Says:

    I didn’t really want to address the question of heresy directly. Questions like: “What is heresy?”, “who are the heretics?”, have recieved more than enough time. Rather, let’s try and flame the conversation…

  3. timvictor Says:


    Nice side-step on the heresy issue. I do agree that it’s all about conversation. There are many ways to close conversations and many ways to open them. Only through dialogue can understanding emerge. Dialogue allows for the mutual cross-pollination of ideas and the growing of individuals.

  4. Cobus Says:

    I consider that a compliment:-) – the sidestepping part

  5. Nic Paton Says:

    Oh yes, sidestepping is a key part of the new virtues. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…

  6. aratus Says:

    Hi Cobus

    Thanks for the post, sometimes in the heat we say things we regret. I wish I could say I was innocent of this, but don’t be too hard on yourself.
    Michael Novak “when we fight for our ideas we must fight with the rules of ideas, not the rules of war.” If he’s right then there is at least some form of fighting to be done.

    Just one thought I’d like to add: Fundamentalism has a lot of bad press. I don’t think it is all that bad (at least it starts with ‘fun’).
    It’s critics I think miss a vital point. We can break down the building, we can even break the foundations but we can’t break down the earth. Foundations have to sit on something, if we are going to have a view it must rest somewhere, land must be bought. No one has a building without land. No one has a view without some fundamentals.

    I don’t agree with Tim that only through dialogue do ideas emerge. Preaching is not a dialogue, yet it is God’s chosen instrument of getting His ideas across.

  7. Cobus Says:

    Tim used the term “understanding”, he must answer for himself, but I think what I meant was understanding between people who differ. Tim, if you do read this again, maybe you can help with this?

    I’ve met fundamentalists who I have very little time for, I’ve met some who I have a lot of respect for. Generally I don’t consider those who I have respect for, and who are willing to have a good conversation and maybe change their minds fundamentalists, because I reserve that term for those who believe that they and they alone hold all the truth.

    There are a lot of ways of having fundamentals without considering yourself to be the only one with the truth… anyway, if you do consider yourself (or your group) as the only one with truth, don’t you become your own fundamental?

    Just a thought, there seem to be very few sermons in the bible, don’t you think?

  8. aratus Says:

    Yes, I see what you mean. Remaining teachable in everything is imperative.
    But there have to be some things you consider to be true. Not one of us can prove to any other that we actually exist (even an ID document is not good enough for FICA).

    Maybe where we come together in our thinking is in your last point. Yes, there are very few sermons in the bible. But those that there are are fundamental.

    A good example is Jesus’ use of the word ‘church’ in the gospels. He only uses the word 3 times and all three are pretty definitive.

  9. Yvonne Says:

    Just to say that “heretic” simply means “chooser”. And Jesus said “in my house there are many mansions” which could be taken to imply that he meant there were choices.

    Anyway, we’re all choosers – you choose which church to attend, whether you’re at the liberal or the conservative end of it, and so on.

  10. cobus Says:

    Yvonne, I would have liked to deconstruct heresy in such a way to say that everyone is a heretic, or no one is a heretic, thus heresy is a myth. But ethics kind of stop me from doing this. How do I deconstruct justice? Is there something like justice? How about unjustice? Would heresy not include those proclaiming an unjust society? With this I then still say that at some point I might call something heresy, but it might be a totally different point than anyone else. I guess this is part of what underlies my post, and the sidestepping of heresy. In the end heresy lies in the eye of the beholder. All I’d like to say is that if you’ve found you’re heretic, how do you proceed with dialog…

  11. aratus Says:

    You mean ‘injustice’ Cobus.
    And you make a very good point!

    We cannot discuss heresy if one or all of us define heresy as merely ‘different’.

    Yvonne (I hope this does not come across to harsh). Jesus did say “In my house there are many mansions” but it was in the context of reward for many people (ie more than enough for everyone), not pluralism. He also said “I am The Way, The Truth and The Life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” Presumably if one did not get to the Father one would also not get to any of His many mansions.

  12. Cobus Says:

    Yes, we cannot discuss heresy is heresy is simply being different, but may I attempt to make another suggestion:

    We cannot discuss heresy is only one party are allowed to determine what heresy is, what who the heretics are.

  13. aratus Says:

    Yes, that is also true. Fortunately we don’t have to face that problem for two reasons.
    I don’t like to refer to people as heretics, it is belief systems that may be heretical. Jesus called come people hypocrites, but not heretics.
    Secondly, it is no human opinion; we just have to look at what is doctrinal in the bible and discard belief that is not. We have a written record, extraordinarily well preserved, not even Shakespear is as well preserved as even the OT records. It is nowhere contradictory unlike other ‘sacred’ writings.
    The trick, I believe, in finding and discarding heresy is never to be either surprised or liturgical. Don’t be surprised at what God may find very important; and don’t hang on to what is very important to you, it may not be to God.

    The only party we should allow to determine doctrine is God.

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