An Errant Brother… Or Something Else?

Hearthie is questioning when and where to call out Apostates. This is a good question, although I might merely think that because I ask it myself often enough (or something close to it, as you will see later). There are some things I feel pretty comfortable calling folks out on, but other matters less so. This post is going to be something of a stream of consciousness response- far less thought out than I normally go for. I don’t have the time for that, sadly, so I will For the sake of convenience, I am going to loosely follow the format of her post in my response.

I want to begin with this little snippet:

…the level of apostasy becomes absurd

The thing is, I’m not really sure there are “levels” of apostasy. To be an apostate means to leave the faith. From Merriam Webster:

  1. 1:  renunciation of a religious faith

  2. 2:  abandonment of a previous loyalty

Either you leave the faith, or you don’t. Perhaps you do it in secret, but still, you know in your heart that you are out. What I think that Hearthie is mostly talking about is heresy:

a belief or opinion that does not agree with the official belief or opinion of a particular religion
Of course, an apostate can promote heresies. But heresy can have different levels to it, depending on how far from the Truth it is. Continuing on:
But on the other hand, perhaps we’re doing a disservice to the public by not calling out those who call themselves Christian while having no adherence to the Word whatsoever.

I think we often are. Our Lord and Savior told us that the Truth would set us free. It stands to reason that the opposite is the case, and lies therefore enslave us (to sin, I would imagine). They might not see their chains if someone else doesn’t point out to them where they are in error.

Is this a thing where some folks are gifted with the calling out, and some folks gifted with the chilling out – as parts of the body of Christ?

Yes, I think that correcting/rebuking others is a spiritual gift. At least, doing it effectively is. Not everyone is called to do it, at least regularly. We all still might have to do it from time to time.

Is there a line beyond which one cannot cross before every Christian should refuse fellowship and communion until repentance is reached?

Yes, there is. Several lines, actually. Although that is me speaking as a Catholic there (I imagine my Orthodox readers would mostly match up with me on them). Where those lines are is the subject of another post (or the comments).

Can we differentiate between the folks who are in grave error, and potentially apostate vs. those who are unquestionably out of the family?

Yes, I think we can. Some lines are so clear that there really isn’t any debate (denying the divinity of Jesus, for example).

Of course, many of us make small errors, perhaps even frequently. Often those are the easiest to correct, especially if done gently. This is where humility becomes so important, and why I think it is essential to having a strong spiritual life.

But these dudes are *still alive* so there’s still hope of their coming to repentance.

Yes, as long as they are alive there is hope for them. Even better, if they repent then they can also make this public and undo some of the damage they have done.

That’s all I have for now.

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4 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Churchianity, The Church

4 responses to “An Errant Brother… Or Something Else?

  1. Thank you for the linkage, Donal. Much appreciation – and I’m looking forward to seeing the conversation. (And thank you for the distinction between heretic and apostate).

    Something that came to me after you commented – when I’m questioning whether to call someone a heretic, using what they have written about their own faith should be my starting point. Out of the horse’s mouth, if you would.

  2. I would argue that who God and Jesus Christ are and things that are integral to the Gospel/Salvation are non-negotiable. Denying Christ’s divinity or humanity (Gnosticism), denying the need for salvation (universalism/unitarianism), or relying on something other than Christ’s death on the cross for salvation (any other religion) would make you a non-believer/apostate. The only remedy for this is belief and salvation.

    Anything below that I would consider Christian/saved. Although there are plenty of people in Christendom that are not saved (they do not have the required belief and/or faith in Christ), membership in or following the beliefs of those denominations do not necessarily make them an apostate/non-believer. It is in this area where we can call each other “brother” or “sister” and have ecumenical dialogues.

    I can call you “brother” because we believe in the same God and we both have faith in the saving power of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. I say this as a Protestant Fundamentalist/Charismatic (probably as far as you can get from Catholicism) who has worshiped with, taught, and taken the Eucharist with Christians from many different denominations (Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopals, and Catholics come to mind).

    When almost everyone called themselves “Christian”, the lines dividing the denominations were more heated because that is all we had to fight about. Now that the world is much more hostile to Christ and some prominent Christians going full apostate (Rob Bell going Unitarian/Universalist), we need to embrace our collective unity in Christ without ignoring the differences between us. Disagreeing and arguing about major and minor doctrinal issues should not become another civil war like those in the past. Striking that balance of “you are wrong, but you are still my brother” is key to defending the Faith and preserving it for our descendants.

  3. Michael Kozaki

    …when and where to call out Apostates.

    This really isn’t a traditional Christian’s issue. The Faith is defined, and it’s not any layman’s job to call out who is apostate. Only a bishop has that authority. It’s our job to follow, not worry about others.

    This is a huge Protestant problem, though. Once one claims their own authority they must keep on excommunicating and dividing merely to define the their faith. It’s why you see the endless howl of “not biblical!” at Dalrock, etc. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

    It’s absolutely NOT like it was done in Acts, where all the apostles met at the Council of Jerusalem under Peter to set the rules for all Christians with authority. You were either in or out. So much for what is “biblical”. As St. Ignatius around 100 AD said before he died in the Colosseum for Christ: Where the bishop is, there is the catholic (universal) church. Everyone else claiming Christ? Apostate (by dictionary definition, not my own). Ignatius, pray for us.

  4. A Visitor

    The question is how to call out errors and do it effectively. Unfortunately people may feel a calling out is a personal attack, as there are many who identify with their sin. Though this is a small amount of the population, take homosexuals as an example.

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