Q&A: Modern Heretics

Modern Heretics

Question

It seems that the church does not do much about those who are potentially dangerous to the church (especially since we no longer hold ecumenical councils). Overall, I think the heretics have free reign. If their churches don't like them, they start their own denominations. And I think we abuse freedom of conscience too much -- what is the purpose of church Standards (e.g., the Westminster Standards) if ministers are not going to hold to them? What is the purpose of excommunication if those who are disciplined are immediately welcomed by another church? In short, what are we to do with modern heretics?

Answer

It's a difficult matter, isn't it? Churches have no authority to discipline non-members. And because of denominationalism, you can almost always find a church to reverse any discipline you undergo. Standards vary from denomination to denomination, and the interpretation and application of those standards vary from presbytery to presbytery and church to church.

I think one response is to work toward greater unity in the church. As we heal denominational divisions, it expands our ability to discipline and to make discipline stick.

Another good response is personal confrontation. Calling people to account is one way the Spirit can soften their hearts and bring them to repentance. This can also be done in the public sphere through publications.

Prayer is also effective. Praying for unity, repentance (our own and that of others), etc. is always a good idea. I doubt many people do this very much. But if they did, imagine the impact it would have.

It is also important not to be discouraged by sin. Remember that the church has always had these kinds of problems, even from day one. Look what happened when Cain killed Abel: God let Cain off with a mark and a curse, then Cain left to build cities and commit murder.

This applies to our Standards, too. Standards are valuable; they help us discover truth and regulate the ways we deal with each other. Clearly their benefits are limited. But the fact that they can't cure everything should not cause us to ignore the benefits they provide.

It is hard to live in this world, and hard to see the church we love fragmented and dishonored. But that is the world to which God had called us. One day, when Jesus comes back, it won't be like this. In the meantime, we just have to do the best we can, not give up, and diligently pursue the solutions we believe to be true, such those I mentioned above.

There is no easy answer, and there is no sure solution. In fact, the guarantee is that this world will continue to be infested with sin until Jesus returns. But there are partial answers and solutions, and there is good reason not to throw in the towel, not the least of which is the fact that Jesus has told us to overcome (Rev. 2-3).

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.