Heresy as Intellectual Temptation

Heresy involves many temptations. But one that I wish to discuss is the temptation of intellectual simplicity! Simplicity is a double-edged sword. We need simplicity when referring to the Gospel and its theology but we need this simplicity to be orthodox. This is not “simple.” Really, the simplicity that we need is not so much simple as it is concise. There is a huge difference. When one is simple in theology one overlooks many suppositions in order to arrive at the simplistic plain. This is what heresy does! It paints a picture without prepping the canvas. The paint will not hold up under time or examination and thus peel right off. But being concise means prepping the canvas while painting the picture, a skill reserved for those with experience and calling in a particular spiritual field.

Heresy many times speaks to the undereducated and lower classes – or, simply put, people without proper resources (many times even the “educated” do not have proper resource). Heresy makes a theologian out of just about anyone, giving them quick access to “theology” through a minimal amount of study. An exception to this rule would be heresies that demand extensive linguistic studies, which seem to be primarily designed to replace the Church itself.

Heresy usually involves denying much of the Church’s teachings throughout history in order to show how some type of modern – even in the medieval sense – prophet or teacher has suddenly found the truth. They tend to imply that the Church was hiding for the past thousand or so years and this person or group has suddenly found it in the form of new doctrine and practice.

Heresy spreads very fast due to the despondent crowd that is targeted by the master heretic. These hopeless and uninformed people will eat the heresy straight from the palm of their new master’s hand, desperately panting for intellectual status. When the desperate soul is found by the heretic and proselytized to, they usually feel very enlightened and enriched, at first, believing that they have finally discovered what God has intended for them. The propositions begin to hit them very fast and hard, leading them to feel overwhelmed yet also joyful, due to the nature of what is being pitched. It is overwhelming because of many reasons but it is joyful because it has just the right amount of historical revelation – usually in the form of Bible verses – sprinkled throughout the recipe. It’s laced with truth.

These sprinkles of truth that the heresy is laced with is usually very easy to understand and speaks to the flesh in many ways. Instant supposed sanctification through knowledge is many times the culprit. The ancient heresy of Gnosticism was like this. It appealed to people because it immediately stimulated their intellect. It appeased their need for knowledge.

The Gospel does not sanctify like Gnosticism or its contemporary counterparts. The Gospel works through humility, submission, pain, and even turmoil. One must become “childlike” to receive the Gospel. After one receives it one can or may begin to exhaustively study its implications, but for the most part Gospel sanctification involves just a lot of hard work and dying to one’s self! One submits to the Church and then bathes in grace.

God said in Matthew that nothing would EVER penetrate His Church. We all know by looking at history who the Church is, but some insist that there “is more” than what the Church can immediately offer them and thus begin to revert to some sort of reformed model where the Church is being reinvented every couple years – ultimately excommunicating itself – sometimes unknowingly – from the historical Church. The Church is the safe-house for God’s elect. It is the “pillar of truth,” as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15. The Church will indeed let you down at times but it will never kill your soul. Only your arrogant desire for “truth” will do that.