In the recent hullabaloo created by the slick marketing arm of HarperOne in which Rob Bell and Justin Taylor were played off against one another like a rousing rendition of “Dueling Banjos” down on the bayou, a number of questions have bubbled to the surface. But be careful, crocodiles lurk in those waters. Some of them carry a vicious Reformed bite while others are toothless progressives who drink Starbucks, wear Birkenstocks, and threaten at most a mild gumming abrasion. And where, I ask you, does that leave the rest of us?
Here’s where it leaves Tory Ninja:
“Can we even talk about heresy, orthodoxy, or doctrine anymore? In Rob Bell’s Nooma video “You” he argues that the resurrection is not a unique or even an essential claim to the Christian message (though I think he believes in the resurrection). Am I allowed to even say that I think he is wrong on that? Can I say I disagree with someone anymore? It seems if anyone says anyone else is wrong anymore you are accused of being a “heresy hunter”. Can I deny the existence of God and still be a Christian?”
I’ve been reading Phil Zuckerman’s book “Society Without God” and in one part of the book he asks a bunch of Scandinavian’s who identify themselves as Christians whether they believe in God. Most said no. Is that heresy?
I guess ultimately what I am asking is what actually IS heresy and are we allowed to call IT heresy when we see IT? Or was that something that ancient Christians and did and we have “grown up” from their “childish ways”?
Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb here and lay my cards on the table. You can’t be an atheist and a Christian at the same time. You can call yourself a Christian but that doesn’t mean you are one. (Having said that let me note that it is in principle possible that in a hundred years the only Christian communities which exist might be atheistic and that all their references to God would actually be veiled references to the human community coming to self-consciousness or some such baloney. But in that case I would say that the word “Christian” would have become an equivocation relative to current useage. By the same token, when Bing Crosby crooned about “Gay Love” a few generations ago, he was not of the same mind as George Michael.) So relative to the Christianity that now exists, and with which I identify myself, anyone who identifies themselves as a “Christian atheist” is a heretic (or maybe not even that; but whatever they are, they’re not an orthodox Christian). And I surely am allowed to make that observation.
To identify heretics in the Christian community is simply a token example of a very common practice of dividing the world into taxonomies. Let’s say I encounter a new fruit which is shaped like an apple and tastes like an apple. Is it an apple? Probably so. But what if it is shaped like a banana but tastes like an apple? Is it a banana? An apple? Or something new like a bananapple? Well what is it that essentially defines apple? Banana? Or for that matter Christian?
There’s nothing wrong with asking those questions and drawing a line somewhere. But let us not pretend doing so is easy, or that we can’t make errors in where we draw the line.