Tertullian revisited: Chapter 4 – Tolerating heretics destroys the Church

Some people find it difficult to call others in their midst, “heretics.” We live in a culture where tolerance is the panacea to all our troubles, and intolerance is anathema to peace and unity. But it was Jesus Himself who pointed out that heretics would be in our midst. We delude ourselves if we believe that He is totally tolerant of those who would twist His words and bend the truth of the Gospel. Heresy happens because we are phobic about being called “intolerant.” We have believed the world’s propaganda that we are narrow-minded, conservative reactionaries instead of faithful servants of Christ. We are not Torquemada and the Inquisition; we are followers of Christ and of His Kingdom. The world crucified Christ – are we so deluded that we think it will deal with us without hostility?

Those who are heretics often present themselves in the noblest of terms. They are seeking to be inclusive and non-judgmental. They want peace in the world and equality for everyone. They preach a message of tolerance, yet beneath their words there is a deep intolerance of those who keep to the old ways, the lasting virtues, and Gospel values. They want to devour the Church and make it bend to their universalistic will. They forget that the Church is Christ’s Bride – it submits to no will but His own.

It is both sad and shocking to realize that most heretics come from the ranks of the clergy. They have their own personal agenda to make the Church what they want it to be. They lead with deceit and seek to make more followers of themselves. They preach their own gospel and set aside Christ’s words, work, and ways. They look for weak-minded people and lovers of selves, hoping to bring them into their pack by disguising it as a flock. On the outside, their congregations look like a church, but on the inside false teaching, narcissistic nurturing, and worldly views are treated and presented as being Christian.

The heretics proclaim a rosier future where all people can live in peace throughout the world – a utopian place where all thoughts are acceptable, all notions are tolerated, and all religions are the same. They seek a perfect world, but not the perfect kingdom; they want a united world, but not a united faith; they seek the glory of God for themselves and look to plunder the Church. Heretics are dangerous teachers – they contaminate souls and dismember the body of Christ.

The object of heresy is to make as many disciples as possible to strengthen their ideas and to bolster their opinions. They denounce their opponents as uncaring, unloving, and unchristian people. They seek to divide and conquer. They gloat when some sheep leave the fold. They glory in apostasy and revel in the moral ambivalence of the people. Heretics abound where Biblical ignorance exists. They confound the faithful by willfully misinterpreting the scriptures and questioning Biblical authority. They are more interested in the present times than the past. They are more concerned with things happening now, than those which are still to come. They judge people today, forgetting about the judgment that awaits all of us tomorrow. 

The ability of heresy to camouflage itself in the life of the Church is what makes it so dangerous, and needs to be exposed. The choosing of Church leaders needs to be carefully scrutinized; the positioning of teachers in our seminaries needs to be fully recovered by the Church; and the publishing of heretical works under the guise of being academic needs to be halted. Gospel values are undermined when the Church neglects to uphold traditional beliefs and to promote the Gospel. If the Church has become a channel for promulgating Christless studies and false teachings by our preachers, doctors, and professors, then we have become apostate in nature and need to repent. And remember, heretics do not see the need for repentance, nor do they wish to humble themselves before God.

Just because a heretic can present his or her false teachings in a sound and studious manner, does not mean that their heresy is any less. The arch advocate for apostasy eloquently argued with Christ in the wilderness, using scripture and doctrine, flattery and logic to present his case. Christ, however badly He was tempted, did not succumb to the heretic from hell’s words. Christ resolutely remained loyal to God and stuck to the Truth. He did not compromise His beliefs; He did not yield to false arguments in order to be accommodate His opponent, nor did Christ respect the devil’s research and knowledge. In order to remain faithful to Christ, we must be ready to do the same.


About stushie

I'm originally from Scotland and have been a Presbyterian pastor for over twenty years. I live in Knoxville, TN. I enjoy art as a means of therapy, but also as a creative way to strengthen my spiritual connection to God.
This entry was posted in apologetics, Christian apologetics, Christian blogs, Christianity, defending the faith, faith, faith in the Church, God, Gospel, Gospel values, heresy, heresy in the Church, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Religion, Tertullian. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Tertullian revisited: Chapter 4 – Tolerating heretics destroys the Church

  1. kermittheagnostic says:

    How do you know you picked the right religion?

  2. Daniel says:

    Amen! wise words that are much needed in our day. grace and peace.

  3. curtismchale says:

    Thanks for the reminder. We all get too caught up in being ‘pc’ so we don’t stand up for what is right.

  4. stushie says:

    Kermit, it’s not a question of having picked the “right” religion, it’s about whether or not I believe Christ is right or wrong. I believe in Him.

  5. stushie says:

    Christ is the criteria, Kermit. I believe Him entirely.

  6. kermittheagnostic says:

    My question is this:

    How do you know you are beliving the right person? There must be some criteria for this belief otherwise why not believe in Buddhism?

  7. kermittheagnostic says:

    Crickets, crickets….

  8. stushie says:

    The answer to your question is above you, kermit. Possibly in more ways than one.

  9. kermittheagnostic says:

    Hmmmm… I don’t see the answer.

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