Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Heresy: destroying the person and work of Jesus (part 2)

In the late seventies, one particular evening, I was talking on the telephone with the owner and program manager of what had once been a local Christian radio station. It was an open forum which the owner had set up to discuss the direction the radio would be taking theologically. He hadn’t quite put it that way; he introduced the forum as part of a Bible Study. The group I was a member and director of, Apologetics Resource Center, knew what he was teaching. He made a distinction between Jesus and Christ and offered the possibility that all could be a Christ.
On the phone, using Luke 2:11, I explained that Jesus was always Christ. The owner’s answer, “At that time Jesus was a little Christ.” This is heresy. Changing Jesus or his work changes Christianity.

Taking one of the essential teachings of Christianity and either over emphasizing or reducing its importance leads to heresy, which is a warped version of biblical truth. The beliefs of other world religions or any of their many sects or off-shoots have nothing to do with heresy. [1] Heresy is always about an essential doctrine of Christianity. And since it is about Christianity it will always in some way demote the person and work of Jesus Christ.
There are whole religious organizations such as the Jehovah Witnesses or Christian Science whose founders have established their belief systems on a foundation of false biblical teaching. The founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, wrote prolifically and his Studies in the Scripture were the original basis for their teaching, including his translation of the Bible, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Jesus Christ and distort the meaning of salvation. They go so far as to claim Arius, an early Christian heretic who denied the deity of Christ, as their church father.
In the same manner the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, are the basis for that organizations teaching. In Christian Science’s belief system all essentials of Christianity are understood in a metaphysical manner. For instance Jesus is separated from Christ, and Christ is seen as “The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error.”[2] Jesus is human and “the Way-shower to salvation,” not the savior.[3]
But these are organizations which mostly proliferated in the 19th century. Some began in mainline churches but after gathering their followers as well as being rebuffed by orthodox Christianity they became separate entities. Some grew out of the 19th century’s health movement, the growing spiritualism movement, new apocalyptic views and a new interest in eastern religions. For the orthodox Christian who adheres to biblical teaching the important point to understand is that the main error of these groups is their teaching about Jesus Christ. (Never argue with a JW about the identity of the 144, 000; always talk about who Jesus Christ is and what his life, death and resurrection accomplished.) And that is true when evaluating the heresy one finds in mainline Christianity including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The real battle is only about but the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In my last posting, Heresy: a series (part 1), I placed a video of PCUSA teaching elder Jud Hendrix speaking.* In the video he speaks of an experience he had while talking to another teaching elder in Starbucks. He states that for a while he lost his sense of self and felt that he was experiencing all of reality at once. When he speaks of what he learned from the experience his supposed knowledge, from a biblical viewpoint, is heretical. He states:

“Since then I have a sense of who we are. And I’m aware of the veils we walk around wit, and the veil that protects me that I choose to put up in front of me. And I also know who we really are. That we are one, and that we are the sun that we are light and we are all manifestations of God.”

 Several years ago I wrote about Hendrix’s views of Jesus Christ in a post titled, Something Mystical This Way Comes. In a teaching video, Hendrix explained that Jesus realized that he was God at his baptism; it was like being enlightened.  And that, according to Hendrix, was when he became Christ. In other words Christ is something different then Jesus.
The idea that we are manifestations of God is simply a way of saying that we are a part of God but do not realize it. We also need enlightenment. So this idea, that we are manifestations of God, is a part of Hendrix’s views about Jesus. And both ideas, about humanity and about Jesus, twist the biblical understanding that Jesus Christ is the unique incarnation, the One who is fully God and fully human.

I do not know Hendrix’s beliefs about sin, redemption or bodily resurrection. But if one holds to a teaching that we are manifestations of God eventually all of these biblical doctrines will be eliminated or changed. And the Biblical Jesus will, in such thinking, be mangled and eventually turned into a Hindu-like avatar such as Krishna. Heresy is Satan’s attack on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

* I have just received information that Hendrix was removed from the ordered ministry on June 17, 2013, about five weeks ago. The reason is not published.

In my next posting I will write about acknowledging the heresy in our midst and what our reaction should be.
Picture by Stephen Larson

[1] One could see Islam as a Christian heresy since it uses much of the Bible’s narrative as well as the life of Jesus as part of its belief system.
[2]Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 583,  found in Mind Sciences: Christian Science, Religious Science, Unity School of Christianity, Todd Ehrenborg, Zondervan Guide to Cults & Religious Movements, editor Alan Gomes, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House 195). This series of booklets if still available is excellent.
[3]Ibid, Ehrenborg, Mind Sciences.


Jeff Winter said...

Mr. Hendrix could make a good Bahai following the teaching of Bahaulah.

Anonymous said...

After reading the post, I got curious about Hendrix. On his Facebook timeline for June 17 (the day of his removal), all he wrote was "No more identities... Only being present." Whatever that means. I couldn't find anything else on the Web that might indicate what caused his removal, or whether it was voluntary or not.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

Jeff, Hendrix fits a lot of different faith models.

David, I think I don't want to know what caused his removal unless it was for heresy which I doubt.