When Heresy Begins to Creep In

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Authentic faith has little to do with what you get out of it, and everything to do with how God is glorified through it.

You’ve heard of things like “price creep,” right? Slowly, but surely, prices rise on something, or on things in general. It’s slow, but sure … a “creep.”

There is a growing phenomenon in many churches — particularly large, fast-growing, evangelical churches — that can only be called “heresy creep.” No, not in ways easily spotted, like denying the work of Christ on the cross, or rejecting the infallibility of Scripture.

It’s more subtle than that.

For example, consider the historic, orthodox understanding of the Trinity: God is three Persons who are one God. Not three gods, but three Persons who are one God; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

This is not a peripheral idea, but one central to the Christian faith. It is who God is, and who He has revealed Himself to be in the Scriptures.

So what does it mean if a church does not think clarity on this doctrine is important? So much so that they bring in a guest speaker who, while famous and clearly talented, has a relationship with the doctrine that has been, to say the least, suspect? In other words, a speaker who is known for having views on the Person of God which are modalistic, not Trinitarian?

Modalism is the view that God is not three Persons, but a single Person who has manifested or revealed Himself in three “modes” or ways — as Father, or Son, or Holy Spirit. Typically, it is presented with the different modes being tied to historical periods. For example, God manifested Himself as Father in the Old Testament, then as Jesus, and then as the Holy Spirit following the ascension of Jesus.

But, the modalist would say, He is not three-in-one.

This is a denial not only of the teaching of the Scriptures, but also centuries of settled orthodoxy in the church itself as presented by the most ancient creeds Christendom has manifest.

The danger is that the average attender considers a guest speaker at their church someone the church affirms. They then open their hearts and minds to the message (and the speaker) with little or no suspicion. If entertaining, they go on to listen to other talks, buy their books, and in the end, take them into their world as a primary influencer.

That is what I mean by “heresy creep.”

James Emery White James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book is What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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  • Ernest

    this is one topic bugging me for a while…..I cannot imagine that God can be manipulated..but most of the preaching seem to point to that…that is if you wanna analyse what’s being said. Some even go to the extent to say those not tithing are thieves and since thieves won’t make heaven …non tithing which according to them is equivalent to tithing won’t make heaven.