Well, the update section of the posts are probably going to start getting smaller, which is a good thing. Things have begun to stabilize, so each week is not quite so eventful. Katie is finishing her 8th grade sub job this week. Her 6th period class is kinda tough, but she’s really been enjoying 8th grade. Next week she’ll being her long term sub for the gifted teacher which will take her almost through the end of the school year. Besides that we took Cari to see the Imagination Movers on Saturday. We had gotten her tickets for Christmas, so the day finally had arrived. It was a long drive, but they did a great show and it was lots of fun. Cari didn’t really sing or dance or jump around. She mainly just stood there with her mouth open overwhelmed that they were actually there in front of her as opposed to being on TV. They dropped balloons from the ceiling which she absolutely loved. She caught a blue one, and it took everything we had to pry it away from her long enough to buckle her in. She had a great time.
Now on to heretics. For some the word heretic is a dirty word. I grew up with the idea that if someone was called a heretic by anyone else, you just didn’t listen to them. I mean being called a heretic was like a scarlet letter, it was worse than being called a cotton headed ninny muggins (which funny enough all those words must be legit since spell check didn’t underline any of them?). But, I’m beginning to wonder if being a heretic is the worst thing in the world. I know it can’t be fun carrying the stigma, but I’m no longer sure that if you’re deemed a heretic that you’re necessarily wrong. For instance, I’ve been reading in the book of Acts. This book begins with Jesus’ assention and the Holy Spirit episode of Pentecost then it leads into the beginnings of the Church and it’s spread. Now, one of the central issues becomes how to deal with this faith moving beyond Judaism. Jesus was Jewish. His theology was Jewish. This means his faith system was built upon living out the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures of Old Testament. The tradition is that God gave Moses these books on Mount Sinai, so these are the words of God teaching us to live in harmony with Him. Now, I could go into a long rant on shmikah, olam habba, tikkun olam, and fulfilling the Torah, but if you want to learn about those it would be easier for you to just go out and get a copy of Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis (a fantastic book you need to read anyway). So, Jesus is Jewish as are his disciples.
So, when Pentecost happens you have people from various places hearing the disciples speak in the tongue native to the listener. Also, the Church is persecuted and begins to spread out from Jerusalem. By chapter 10 you have Peter, a good little Jewish boy, having his whole understanding of what it means to live right with God blown apart. He begins baptizing people who aren’t Jewish because when he told them about Jesus they received the Holy Spirit. Then Paul begins bringing the message to Gentiles as well, and they don’t know what to do with it. If they’re a part of The Way (what Christianity was called then) does that mean they have to be Jewish. By chapter 15 this is a huge issue. Paul has included these non-Jewish people and now these other Jewish believers are telling them that they now have to have a little procedure, if you know what I mean. Don’t worry squirming at this point is quite natural.
So there’s this big Church meeting. You may have been a part of one of these once. People on both sides are quite convinced that they are right, and they are arguing to get their point across. Paul, Barnabas, and Peter at this point are heretics. But, they share stories of what God has been doing and somehow manage to convince the meeting that this is something God is up to, and they shouldn’t stand in the way of it. So, they send a letter to these people who have been told that a “minor incision” will be necessary. ” It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” (Acts 15:28-29)
Peter and Paul were heretics. So was Jesus. What I love about this letter is that it “seemed” good to the Holy Spirit and to us. They didn’t claim something as solid with a lot of arrogance. Rather they spoke in humility about how they saw the situation, and not just how they saw it, but how they thought the Holy Spirit was involved. Often for one reason or another we want to act like we’re sure about things whether we are or not, and often we’re so busy with our way that we’re not even paying attention to what God is up to. So, I find the opening of this letter quite brilliant. And the amazing thing is that in the end they side with the heretics. Now sometime heretics have destructive teaching, sometimes they’re wrong and we need to be on our guard. But, sometimes the old party line is wrong as well. Sometimes the old party line is incomplete. And sometimes there are people who aren’t being deemed heretics who are bringing destructive and dangerous heretical teaching.
See, we often want to think of faith as a destination rather than a journey. If you believe this, this, and this, then you’re in. If you don’t believe in line with our doctrines or dogma, then you’re out. But, one of the major lessons of scripture is that God is taking us somewhere. God is constantly taking us from darkness to light. The central metaphor for faith and life in the scriptures is journey. And, when we quit moving, when we quit changing then we miss the new thing God is doing. So, just as much as we need to read the heretics with a critical eye we may need to do so just as much with the ones we think are safe. I noticed in a certain bookstore a few months ago that they began putting disclaimers on certain books that you should read them with discernment, as if you didn’t need to do so with other books. It is the heretics of today who will bring the common understandings of tomorrow. When it was first proposed that the Earth was not the center of the Universe, it was deemed heresy. People were actually excommunicated from the church for holding to that belief. Now, we know we’re not even the center of our own solar system, much less the universe. The scriptures didn’t change, but our understandings of them did. Luther was deemed a heretic for challenging the authority construct of his day, and yet he helped give birth to protestantism. Something I have learned over the years is that what we consider traditional or biblical is actually usually newer than we realize, and sometimes the heresy we criticize is something we lost along the way that needs to be picked up, dusted off, and examined again for today and tomorrow. So, if you hear someone deem someone else a heretic, don’t be too quick to shun. God may just be doing something among them and their heresy may just be tomorrow’s common knowledge.
On a parallel note, Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, MI celebrated it’s 10th anniversary Sunday. I have been tracking along with them for several years now. They are an amazing church, and if you are not familiar with them you really should become so. Their webpage is www.marshill.org They are doing great work around the world, and their teachings have continued to challenge and inspire me week after week. They more than anyone else continue to shape what I believe church could and should be. My congrats to the Tribe of Mars Hill. Grace and Peace.