For the past two posts, we have been discussing heresy and trying to make some applications to our lives. We are trying to look out for mistakes. However, I want to guard against any confusion. While I have argued that some of our actions can be like those produced by heresy (i.e. treating the physical realm as if it has no real import and sinning since we are simply sinners), I am not trying to say that action alone makes one heretical.
Well-intentioned Christians often act unchristian out of ignorance, and we should not say they are involved in heresy. Thus, when we note a Christian whose actions prove they care little about the environment (a trait shared with the Gnostics) or whose actions prove they care little for growth in sanctification, this does not make them a heretic. It may just mean they lack understanding. It is dangerous, nonetheless, because the result is the same.
However, what makes one a heretic is not simply the ends, but the means by which they come to their conclusions. In other words, a heretic is not someone who acts out of ignorance, but deliberately goes against orthodox Christian teaching. They teach another message that lends to another way of living outside of the Christian way, but they call their way “Christian”.
My plea in writing these posts upon heresy are to warn against a dangerous slope of becoming a heretical by degrees. If we live a life a certain way for so long, and we associate our life with the walk of a Christian, we are in danger in associating our various ignorant ideas with the real thing. We associate all our actions with the actions of a Christian, and we take offense when someone points out our flaw. We then begin coming up with defenses for our actions; these defenses are what begin to build a heretical worldview. We were once ignorant; now we are defiant.
So, now as I get to the conclusion of my series, I want to be clear. I am not calling people heretics simply because they do not care for creation. I am simply trying to show the similarities and warning against becoming too grounded in our ignorance to the point of neglecting admonishment and reproof. We have tied our views of creation care (including environment and our bodies) with politics for so long, that good conservative Christians are not willing to hear how our collective actions as a society might damage God’s creation. We see such talk as propaganda from liberals. We become defiant, never asking the question: “Does my faith have anything to say to this?”
In the first post, I showed how a dualistic view of reality in which God’s good creation is replaced with the assumption that the physical world is bad (a thought that can thread through many Christian communities thoughts) points back to the heresy of Gnosticism. I further noted that the result of such a thought is one of abuse for the physical realm and a lack of care for creation.
In the second post, I showed how a misunderstanding of depravity and grace led many Christians to believe that they should not even concern themselves with avoiding sin. This points back to the heresy of antinomianism. I noted that the result is one of avoiding God’s call to be holy.
If we have residue of these ideas and are left with a low view of creation and a low view of our sins impact, we will have a extremely low view of how our actions impact the world around us.
In today’s world, Christianity has been influenced at times by heretical ideas. While we fight against them, residue remains in certain circles. We now live in a world that says: If God is to recreate this world so that the old is gone and the new has to come, why should I care for creation at all. This is a blending of heretical ideas. First, it assumes that this world does not matter (Gnosticism) and, therefore, we need not care about our sinful abuse of it (antinomianism).
Our focus is off. Is the world in such a condition that it, like our bodies, too must suffer a sort of death, a destroying before being made new? Yes, perhaps. But, the Scriptures promise is that of resurrection, not just of the body, but of creation (see Romans 8 and Revelation 21 and 22). God is going to form the New Creation by purging the old. But the old is not at fault. It is simply in need of purification because of our sin. We sinned, not creation. It would be like getting a gift from a master craftsman and then breaking it. The craftsman generously says that he will come to fix it soon, but in the meantime you assume that since it is already broken you will continue to abuse it. That is disrespectful.
In the end, we need to be stewards, even of a broken system. Just as we care for broken people because we know they have worth, even though they still have to go through a new birth, becoming a new creation, we too must care for the good creation that is still a gift from God. Yes, God is the only one that can fix it. But that gives us no right to strip it bare while we wait.
The same goes for our bodies. Yes, we have to die, but right now, we still have the gift of a body. However broken it is, we need to take care of it and steward it until the master craftsman arrives to do a full overhaul.
Let’s not be overly stubborn in the light of a broken world. It is broken because of us. Therefore, it is not an object for our abuse. It is something we should take care of until the master craftsman returns.