DBG Weekend Spotlight (3-16-17)

Josh Buice

A number of years ago when I was in seminary and serving as a pastor of a small country church, a member in our church handed me a little CD of a sermon titled, “Shocking Youth Sermon” by: Paul Washer.  I listened to it, but then discarded it.  To be truthful, I didn’t really like it.  Years later, I have come to appreciate the ministry of Paul Washer and I’m also grateful for how He has used that one sermon to “shock” so many people back into reality.  Many people today would not know Paul Washer if it wasn’t for that one sermon in Alabama.  You can watch the sermon below.

$5 Friday: Worship, Providence, & Faith — You can always find something good for $5 on Friday from Ligonier.

An FAQ on Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making — Justin Taylor explains why everyone in ministry needs to read the book,  The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture around Disciple-Making.  It’s authored by the same two men who wrote The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything—Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.

10 Things I Did Not Do that Improved My Congregation’s Singing — This is a helpful list to evaluate and consider in relation to your own congregation.

The Gospel of James: Open Letter to Martin Luther — As I noted in my new series yesterday, Luther was a great man worthy of respect, but he had feet of clay and should not be worshipped.  His theology was flawed in places, just like ours.

Reflections on the 2017 Shepherds’ Conference — Bob Kauflin reviews the recent Shepherds’ Conference.

Sam Storms: 10 Observations on the Judgment Seat of Christ — This is a helpful (and short) list related to the Judgment Seat of Christ taken from Sam Storms’ book, A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 1-6), Volume 1: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians.

J. I. Packer on One of the Most Urgent Needs in the Church Today — Some really good wisdom here from a really wise man.

Thinking Biblically about Authority: An Interview with David Wells — In a day where Christians have a natural tendency to oppose authority (really all cultures at all times struggle with this), this is a helpful interview.

MLB Baseball’s Dirty Secret — Why are MLB baseballs not as bright as new baseballs from the first pitch of the game?  You may be surprised to find out that they use a “secret” rubbing mud and apply it to every baseball before every MLB game.

2018 G3 Conference — Registration for the English and Spanish conferences are now open, including children’s registration which is FREE for a limited number of seats.

Theology Word of the Week:  Heresy

Heresy connotes doctrinal deviation from the fundamental truths taught by Scripture and the orthodox Christian church, and active propagation of the same. The primary Gk. word hairesis, which appears nine times in the NT, fundamentally meant a school of thought or sect: so the sect of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17), the Pharisees (15:5; 26:5), the Nazarenes, i.e. the Christians (24:5; 28:22). In Acts 24:14, Paul substituted ‘way’ (hodos) for ‘sect’ (hairesis) when referring to the Christian movement, probably because hairesis, even then, possessed a negative connotation. Hairesis, secondly, developed the meaning of schism or faction that developed within the church due to a strong party spirit or lack of love (1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20). Paul’s use of the adjective hairetikos in Tit. 3:10 suggests that a heretic is a person who is divisive or factious. The shade of meaning that came to predominate in Christian usage is that of false theological doctrine. Thus 2 Pet. 2:1 refers to the ‘destructive heresies’ of certain false teachers who denied the person and work of Christ.

The writings of the church fathers contain numerous warnings against heretical teaching. Ignatius (d. 98/117) compared heresy with the working of lethal drugs (Trall. 6:1–2) and the attacks of wild beasts and rabid dogs (Eph. 7:1). Irenaeus wrote the treatise Against Heresies to refute the various Gnostic errors in the 2nd-century world. He urged Christians ‘to avoid every heretical, godless and impious doctrine’ (Against Heresies III. 6.4). Clement of Alexandria insisted that heresies spring from self-conceit, vanity and the deliberate mishandling of Scripture (Strom. VII.15). Tertullian claimed that ‘the philosophers are the fathers of the heretics’ (Against Hermogenes 8). Cyprian added: ‘Satan invented heresies and schisms with which to overthrow the faith, to corrupt the truth and to divide unity’ (Unity of the Church 3).

In a sense, the history of the church is the history of heresies. In the 2nd century, Gnosticism and Marcionism perverted the orthodox doctrine of God. Later, various forms of modalism (see Monarchianism) and Arianism corrupted the doctrine of Christ. Apollinarianism, Nestorianism and monophysitism dealt inadequately with the two natures of Christ. At the time of the Reformation, Socinianism denied the Trinity and the efficacy of Christ’s atoning work, as did later Unitarianism. In modern times neo-Protestantism has denied the personality of God, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and the divine inspiration of the Scriptures.

The early church defended itself against heretical teaching by appealing to ‘the rule of faith’ or ‘the rule of truth’, which were brief summaries of essential Christian truths (see Creeds). Irenaeus lamented that heretics follow neither Scripture nor the tradition that originates from the apostles and was preserved in the churches through the succession of elders (Against Heresies III.2). Tertullian added that ‘to know nothing in opposition to the rule of faith is to know all things’ (Prescription of Heretics 7). The fluid ‘rule of faith’ gave way to more precise instruments for refuting heresies and defining faith, namely, credal formulations such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon and the Athanasian Creed (see Councils, Creeds). From the time of the Reformation, Protestant bodies have distinguished truth from heresy in numerous confessional statements such as the Formula of Concord, the Thirty-nine Articles, and the Westminster Confession.

Walter Bauer (1877–1960), in his book Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (1934), advanced the radical thesis that the Roman church rewrote the history of the early church, making its interpretation of primitive Christianity the ‘orthodox’ view and depicting other early Christian teachers as ‘heretical’ and immoral. According to Bauer, forms of Christianity that came to be understood as ‘heretical’ were prior to and more widespread than the so-called ‘orthodox’ teaching. Thus, many Christian movements in the early church commonly viewed as heterodox are said to constitute authentic primitive expressions of the religion of Jesus.

Canon H. E. W. Turner rejected Bauer’s thesis in his book, The Pattern of Christian Truth (1954). While allowing for certain flexibility in early Christian teaching, Turner argues that primitive Christianity universally held to three kinds of ‘fixed elements’: 1. crucial ‘religious facts’, such as the creator God and the divine Christ as the historical redeemer; 2. the centrality of biblical revelation; and 3. the creed and the rule of faith. ‘Christians lived Trinitarianly before the evolution of Nicene orthodoxy’ (p. 28).

Most evangelical authorities agree that the data of early church history and theology show that orthodoxy was earlier and more widespread than Bauer allowed. Indeed, the teachings of Jesus and the apostles were summed up at an early date in the ‘rule of faith’ and the writings of the apostolic fathers. The orthodox faith was attacked by heretical opponents (Gnostic sects, Marcion, Arius, etc.), but the latter were opposed by the apostles and early church fathers in both the East and West. Evangelical authorities likewise agree that Bauer’s account of the triumph of Roman ‘orthodoxy’ falls short of credibility.

Given the modern bias against timeless, propositional truths and the belief that faith is a matter of lived experience, the notion of heresy has been substantially diluted in non-Evangelical Christianity. For example, Karl Rahner, working from the ethical view of truth as a lived reality, views heresy as the failure to attain authentic existence at the point where God meets a person. Rather than the repudiation of particular doctrines, heresy embraces subjective attitudes, such as spiritual indifference and a critical spirit. Primary responsibility for this ‘latent heresy’ lies with the individual Christian rather than the magisterium. Yet the NT expresses serious concern for ‘false doctrines’ (1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3) and places the highest priority on maintaining ‘the pattern of sound teaching’ (2 Tim. 1:13; cf. 1 Tim. 6:3). Scripture urges Christians to be alert to doctrinal deception (Mt. 24:4) and to avoid heresy by carefully guarding the pure content of the gospel (1 Cor. 11:2; Gal. 1:8). [1]

  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 296.
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Author DBG Weekend Spotlight (3-16-17)

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.