I am a Heretic

I want to admit and declare that I am a heretic.

Let me take some time to explain how I see some things and I am sure you will agree with me that I am a heretic. Maybe, just maybe you’ll be one, too.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:7-9, NRSV)

6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NRSV)

I realize that John’s Gospel can be a bit mystical, like chapter one verses one through 18 is very mystical, but I don’t think that the passages above are too mystical. In these verses Jesus tells us that He is the way to the Father, to God. He tells us that He is the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven. I think that Jesus is pretty clear that it is He that decides who gets in and who doesn’t. The gatekeeper to the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus. If you want to get to God, Jesus is the one who grants us audience. Jesus decides!

So far so good? I’m not a heretic, you say? Well, read on.

Throughout the history of the Christian church we have interpreted the Bible, we have developed theologies, created doctrines, made them dogmas. We do this to help us understand, and that is good. But, we have also created doctrines and dogmas to say who is in and who is out. There are a couple of problems with this. For one any of our doctrinal statements, nay all of our doctrinal statements fail. They fail because God cannot be contained by our understandings no matter how elaborate or complete we think they are. This is okay if we recognize this and are humble about what we believe about God and salvation. When we know that not everything we believe is right and are open to correction, growth, learning, development our doctrinal beliefs are good and guide us, hopefully, into further understanding. However, when we make our beliefs about God and salvation dogmatic essentials then we err.

Some branches of the church today have elaborate dogmatic doctrines about who is included and who is excluded. They have a collection of essential beliefs that one must accept to be a Christian. We have done this from very early in church history with the ecumenical creeds. While I think that the early creeds have guiding value in defining the church I reject them as failing as God CANNOT be contained in our creeds, doctrines, theologies, dogmas. Some of our traditions go way beyond the early creeds.

Some claim that if we do not believe that the Bible is completely inerrant in everything that we are out. I do not accept Biblical inerrancy. the difference lies in our views of what it means that scripture is inspired, God breathed. The modern inerrantists seem to hold a view that is akin to God dictating what He wanted written. This doesn’t make sense to me. I, on the other hand, believe that God revealed Godself within faith communities. These communities then struggled with how to communicate these revelations to posterity and other faith communities. Out of these struggles documents were created when someone finally began writing the results of these struggles. These were in turn combined to form the bible as it has come to us. That until the canonical councils the texts that make up the bible were works in progress, perpetual progress. Maybe we err when we did this, made everything static.

Some claim that the bible is to be taken literally. This is an impossibility.

Some will tell yo tat you have to believe in a literal 6 day creation AND reject evolution. Bullshit! The best the Bible says is God created. No where does it say how He created.

I think I’m headed somewhere with all of this, I hope so.

Here goes, I believe that God told Israel, which we must remember means to wrestle with, or to strive with God, that they are to love. Love God and everybody else. In an attempt to codify love Israel created the Law of Moses. The Decalogue and the 600+ sundry laws. These reflect a patriarchal society, the reflect the faith communities to which God revealed Godself and His instruction to love. The laws that ancient Israel created in their effort to codify God’s revelation do not necessarily reflect our society today. I think that the rabbinic tradition recognized this and allowed for many different interpretations and even for the letting go of some of the laws, yet we want to make it all static, universal in time and context.

I think that that is it, we are to love. Love each other, love those like us, not like us, love even our enemies. Love those who will not love us in return. Jesus tells us that this is what all of the law says. Isaiah tells us something very similar. Love, that’s it, that’s how we will be known. That’s how we recognize those that know and are known by Jesus and the Father, because love comes from God. Not by their cognitive assent to our sets of doctrinal statements.

See the heresy yet?

So, we have created these elaborate doctrines about who is in and who is not. Many of these doctrines have nothing to do with love. I am specifically thinking of the LGBT community. I am also reminded of how Christians, especially here in America, talk about Muslims. There are those who would usurp the authority that belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone and decide that these communities are necessarily excluded because they do not meet the requirements of their set of doctrines, which to them is the real gate, the real way.

I deny their sets of doctrines have the power of Jesus to decide who is in and who is not.

PS I am gay affirming!

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  1. I don’t think I necessarily agree with everything you wrote, but I love the spirit behind it. Love is the crux of everything, and I think it’s a little arrogant of us to demand that others believe the same way we do. I do love studying theology and doctrine and comparing it to Scripture, though I lamentably don’t have the time to do it as I want to. Thanks for writing all of this out!

    • Thank you.

      I am actually kind of glad you don’t agree with everything I said. I don’t always agree with everything I write. Sometimes the thoughts just don’t transfer well when committed to words, the forced crystallization of the amorphous.

    • switch
    • September 9th, 2011

    This post resonates with me… I am convinced that many of our scriptures.. Christian or other..always have a thread of exclusion for some and a sense of hierarchy. I do not believe for a minute that Jesus or God see life built on this premise. LIfe is LOve. We as humans have made this design difficult..we must help others love and get back to God.

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