Originally posted by IBD Vice President Matthew J Coombe on mjcoombe.com
What is the demarcation between orthodoxy and heresy? Or that, when believers disagree about various dogma and doctrine at what point does one claim “heresy” and discontinue fellowship? Before answering this question, it must be stated that the idea of dis-fellowship should only be applied to believers. If this standard was applied to unbelievers or people who have no consistent and reliable information about Jesus and the Bible, why would we suppose them to be anything less then heretics? Further, if there was no fellowship with such people, how would they learn and know the truth? Thus, if a unbeliever holds to an errant view of Jesus it should not be faulted on that person, but rather, with meekness and fear correct the view.
The believer is held to a much higher standard. It is difficult in this age to refute errant views of “Christianity” because Christianity has become a a synonym for “theism.” In this, we often hear people say, “well I’m a Christian who believes….” And then they make some horrible exegesis from scripture or emote concerning some current ethical issue. So then, the point of this blog is to answer the question, “to what can the Christian say, ‘I believe…’” and it still correspond with orthodoxy?
The primary, essential credentials for orthodoxy are the fundamentals of the faith. This is minimal Christianity. If one does not hold to these, they are not, by any means, a true born-again Christian. These fundamentals are as follows:
- The inerrancy of the Scriptures
- The virgin birth of Jesus
- The deity of Christ
- The bodily resurrection of Jesus
- The immanent return of Jesus
Of these, there is only one I have any leniency on and that is inerrancy of Scripture. However, I am only lenient to the point that the other four fundamentals of the faith can still be gleaned and defended. If the Bible becomes so errant that the deity of Christ has become forfeit such a view of Scripture is detrimental. On the other hand, if one feels the Scriptures are completely accurate save a few historical or cultural datum I may not believe that either (although this view also upholds the other 4 points).
Some cults and various man-made religions claim to hold to these, but this is only to maintain the guise and stability of true Christianity. Over the course of the next few days I will be writing on each of the fundamentals, clearly defining them so as to avoid this cultic “bandwagoning.”
As for now, allow me to finish this thought. If anyone does not hold to these fundamentals, I would really question their relative Christianity. Now, as stated before, people often refer to themselves as “Christians” when what they really mean is theist. The reason I make this distinction is that if one claims to be a Christian, they are soldered to very specific views about the Bible, Jesus and the other fundamentals—any strays in these areas cause the erosion of Christianity into finite human religion.
Besides the fundamentals there is also a moral reasons to break bounds. Paul clarifies this when he wrote to the Corinthian Church:
“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.”
Paul claims that people professing to be believers who live in immorality give us Biblical grounds to no longer have fellowship with them. However, I’ve seen this taken too far. There are some Christians who won’t have fellowship with non-beleivers because of immorality. We must remember, it is not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick.
The freedom of Christian choice concerning the morality of actions must be based on the Bible. If someone claims, “I am a Christian who believes it is okay for me to have sex with my boyfriend.” This is beyond the scope of choice given to the believer. It is clear that any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin. If an act or the idea of it is not forbidden in scripture, and it ultimately leads to the good, one is free to partake in it.
Bottom line, if one does not hold to the fundamentals or is living in immorality they are not in a position to be in proper fellowship.