Heretics, Murder and Brotherly Love

A few weeks back I watched “The Tudors” again on Netflix. OK fine, you got me; I binge-watched it!

I had actually seen it some years ago, but enough time had passed so that it was almost like the first time again. As I watched the story of Henry VIII unfold, I was struck with a great sense of thankfulness that I live now and not back then; what a terrible time it was. I must add that I am also thankful that when America was established, our founders went to such great lengths to ensure that no such tyranny could happen here; and so far, their precautions have worked.

Yet more than anything else, I was impressed with the complete lack of understanding that people, at least those in leadership, had of what the Christian faith is all about. To be sure, this is not a Protestant versus Catholic observation, for none of these leaders on either side seemed to have a clue. I suppose that anyone who really did “get” Christianity was murdered, their names lost to history.

The specter of Bishops, Archbishops, even Cardinals  the very people who are supposed to know better, being so full of themselves that they would assert that anyone who disagrees with them on something must be burned alive is almost unbelievable, and yet it happened on a large scale across Europe in those days: Unspeakable evil.

Of course they all knew that there is no teaching remotely akin to this in the New Testament, so why not just make reading the Scriptures a capital offense for anyone outside clerical circles? Some of them did just that. I guess I could rant all day long on this, but history really isn’t my point in writing today…

I wonder: Do we still have the impulse today, to brand other Christians as heretics if they disagree with us on some point of doctrine? Do we belong to church assemblies that assert they are the only ones who are “right” and everybody else is “wrong”? Do our churches assert that they are “true” and all others are not? Do we stick our fingers in others’ faces because they see things a little differently than we do? Do we believe it is a sin for someone to disagree with us on a doctrinal point?

You are welcome to call me crazy, but it seems to me that these things result from the same impulse that used to burn people at the stake, and that these attitudes are still with us.

I have done quite a lot of Bible teaching over my lifetime, in classrooms, in churches, in writing and in various relational environments, and I always do my honest best to be faithful to Scripture. Yet I more than anyone am very much aware of the fact that I am just as imperfect and fallible as the next guy; surely I make my share of mistakes, and I am happy to admit it and make corrections where appropriate. Even as I write this it occurs to me that I’m getting close to doing the very thing by implication that I’m writing against, so let’s be clear; no, you don’t need to do or think as I do! Instead, I would simply encourage you to ask yourself a series of questions, much like those I posed above; do some soul searching, take this to God in prayer, for this is an important issue.

Jesus taught many things during His ministry and the highest of His teachings was that we are to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength, and that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves; He made this all very clear at the end of His ministry when He commanded His disciples to love one another. Doesn’t love require that we not burn one another at the stake, either literally or figuratively?

Well dear friends, at least it’s something to think about, don’t you agree?

15 thoughts on “Heretics, Murder and Brotherly Love

  1. Just reading about this very thing this morning (Surprised by Scripture, N.T. Wright). Wright says, “One of the wonderful things about the Bible is the way no generation can complete the task of studying and understanding it…No, the Bible seems designed to challenge and provoke each generation to do its own fresh business, to struggle and wrestle with the text.”

    I think this is true; doctrine are simply guideposts. Jesus is the path.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have yet to find a church that is perfect, all are simply human creations. IMHO, Jesus did not come to create another “C”hurch, but a “c”hurch. Had His intention been to create Church then He would not have spoken of the downfall of the Temple, and would not have told us about worship in Spirit instead of in a building. He sent His disciples out to convert people, not to build buildings. Where did we go wrong?

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  3. I was so hesitant at first to share what I felt the Lord showed me and behold, here are my brothers and sisters sharing the same inspiration and revelation. I am so thankful for those who (despite our flaws) attempt to walk in faith believing that when the Holy Spirit tells us to say something, we say something.

    To me dear brothers and sisters, this is proof, solid proof that our Lord by His Holy Spirit is calling His “c”hurch” to attention! I know we are a work in progress, we always will be until Him who is perfect comes, but it is such a blessing to know that we are marching forward, spirit to spirit!!

    God bless you all and thank you Don, I have missed much!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I have long believed that the reason our country, and the world, is falling into moral decay is that the church is divided on the issues because of their varying doctrines, and those who push immoral agendas are united in their cause. What makes it hard is the varying interpretations of what Christ actually said about the issues, and the relevance of the Old Testament in the discussion.

    If the church would unite behind decency and morality, we could have a God truly based on Godly principles once again. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening anytime soon, and I’m afraid the church will continue to decline in it’s moral compass, and become less and less relevant to our national culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree, Don. It’s the same M.O. throughout church history, albeit not always as physically violent.

    I believe the difference is in relationship. Jesus didn’t call us into a “religion” but to Himself. Our life is Christ’s life, and we can only truly understand love, or anything Jesus taught, in relationship with Him. In other words, being loved, receiving grace, makes us loving and graceful.

    Unfortunately, what Pascal said is so true, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

    Btw, I’ve been known to binge on historical documentaries, too! 🙂 Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

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