What does it really mean to label something heresy?
Dr. Ron Rhodes explains why we might want to think twice before labeling the beliefs of another as heresy.
“A heresy is something that so crosses the line that it’s no longer Christian. There are certain doctrines that are so important that if you cross the line into a different view, an unbiblical view, then that would be something that constitutes heresy.”
What’s an example of something that crosses the line to heresy?
“If somebody came to me and said, the Bible is not the Word of God, it’s just a human book. Well, that crosses the line. If somebody comes to me and says, I don’t believe in the one true God, I believe in a multiplicity of gods, I believe everybody is a god. That’s a viewpoint that crosses the line.”
Ron also says that if someone came to him and said that Jesus Christ was not God, He would also have to reject that belief because it clearly contradicts what Scripture says about Jesus Christ. The divinity of Jesus Christ is what is called an essential doctrine. It is a belief that is at the core of Christianity.
Ron says that what’s not heresy are differences in opinion focused on non-essential doctrines.
“If someone came to me and said I believe in a pre-tribualtion rapture instead of a post-tribulation rapture, that person has not crossed the line because it’s a non-essential doctrine, but when you take a major doctrine and cross the line, such that it’s no longer truly Christian, then that’s a heresy.”
Ron says that even if he encountered someone crossing the doctrinal line, he still wouldn’t call them a heretic, because it’s simply not helpful.
“That would close all possible doors for me to talk to them about the truth. I want the door to stay open. I don’t want to offend somebody so they’re never going to listen to me again.”
Ron advises that we carefully choose our words when considering whether we want to label someone a heretic.
Dr. Ron Rhodes received his Th.M. and Th.D. degrees in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, graduating with honors. He is currently the president of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, an apologetics organization located in Texas.
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