yesterday morning, our family visited crossbridge church where my uncle, ron byrd, is the church planter and pastor. in keeping with the curse of being a pastor who is not currently pastoring, listening to sermons is primarily a launching point for my own sermon ideas. typically, it’s not a thing of me thinking, ‘hey, i need to rip off this sermon,’ but more of a thing where some little side note or related thought will spark a sermon idea of just a thought that will linger with me the rest of the day (or longer). this was my experience yesterday morning.
ron, while talking about the various traps in life, made some commentary about the topic of heresy. heresy is one of those words that i always cringe a little when i hear it brought up because it’s usually used by someone who is making accusatory remarks about someone else who doesn’t share the exact same dogmatic beliefs as him or her. no doubt, though, as ron was suggesting, the tag of heresy has its place. by and large, heresy is misunderstood and is somewhat difficult to define in a usable way. what i appreciated about ron’s description of heresy, though, was his simple to understand definition and the visual he attached to it.
he described heresy as when you take the basics tenets of the christian faith (which we could debate at length, but we’ll save that for another blog…) and overlay something else on top of it. he offered the example of nationalism/americanism as equated to being a christian (which, again, is a whole other blog…). basically, he was just offering examples of right beliefs overlaid with something that is antonymous of those beliefs.
my mind began churning and i expanded the analogy to make it more visually palpable. i compare it to can lights (like at concerts). the white light that is emitted from the can lights is like the basic christian beliefs. that basic white light can be altered for various stage and lighting effects by overlaying color gels. so, if you want a red light, you simply overlay the light with a red gel and the likewise for other colors. to connect back with the analogy, the gel doesn’t inherently change the original white light. it simply overlays on top and can be taken off at any time to expose the true light.
overlays don’t simply stop at one single color gel. you can overlay any number of gels to produce various color effects. it’s called additive color mixing. let’s say you have 3 gels: red, green and blue (rgb). any one of these gels overlaid will obviously just create that color (red gel=red light). let’s say, though, that you overlay both red and blue. it doesn’t take a color theory expert to know that these two gels would cast a purple light. red and green would create a yellow and green and blue create an aqua sort of color. with each increasingly overlaid gel, the original white light becomes farther and farther away from its true nature.
much is the same with heretical beliefs. as more and more false beliefs are overlaid onto the truth, the original light becomes less and less like its original state. cerainly, there’s still light shining through, but it’s a very different light than what it would look like if the overlays were pulled away.
i thought ron was spot-on with his discussion about one of the chief heresies in america: the equation of nationalism and christianity. i don’t go as far as some to suggest that simply having pride in your country is wrong or sinful, but i don’t think that national pride and christianity are in any way linked or intertwined. being a christian has nothing to do with being an american or being a good american. being an american has nothing to do with being a christian. that heresy is so pervasive within the church and it’s really created some major theological hurdles.
one other (that is related) is the heresy of equating being a republican with being a christian. again, this one is so pervasive an is closely related to the previous myth. there are things both compatible and incompatible with both the republican and democratic parties. any time we begin to link a political affiliation with the gospel, we have inserted an overlay that distorts and changes the truth.
so, before i go on and ramble too much longer, i hope that analogy sheds some light (no pun intended…) on the issue of heresy. when that word gets thrown around, maybe we can have some ability to exegete it and have a more proper understanding.