How many people enjoy cherries? Eating them as is or baking them into a pie makes for a good snack. However, did you know that eating cherry pits could kill you? Jesse Ferreras of Global News covered this reality in 2017 when he shared the story of a Lancashire U.K. resident cracking the pits with his teeth and ingesting three of them, sending him to the Hospital. The report shared the pits contain a compound called amygdalin, when digested, converts to hydrogen cyanide (Read the article here).
Interestingly, something that appears good and tasty could cause a lethal outcome. Theologically speaking, this is true when it comes to heresies that are adopted into the Christian church. It only took three seeds for our Lancashire friend to feel the effects. It only takes a few drops of toxins to contaminate the well water – or better worded, a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Gal 5:9). Unfortunately, across many churches and in many seminaries, such a process is taking place regarding the nature of God. Preachers, teachers and believers increasingly hold that God in the Old Testament appears to be a God of war and wrath while Jesus is the peacemaker, kind, and benevolent Saviour, which many hold as different than the O.T. God. Knowing it or not, these folks are getting very close to an old heretical position of Marcionism. I just released an article (here) regarding a pastor who is very close, if not entirely, in these waters. It shows how easily pollution can get in. Since the rise of Andy Stanley announcing it is time to get unhitched from the Old Testament, it seems many agree to unhinge and accept this trend. So let’s take a quick glance at this heresy.
The origins of this heresy come from the Marcion of Sinope. He was an early second-century theologian. His teaching fell short of orthodoxy because he rejected the validity of the Old Testament for Christians. Marcion felt the O.T. was incompatible with the loving God revealed through Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Let’s say that again in different words due to the severity of the issue. Marcion could not get passed (his understanding) that God in the O.T. was a God full of wrath and justice; therefore, Marcion could not reconcile this with Jesus Christ. So, he did away with the authority of Hebrew Scriptures (in specific ways). Today we could call it being unhitched from the Old Testament. His views of the Hebrew Scriptures not having authority were serious. This led to all sorts of issues with his ideas. Further, Marcion also produced his version of the New Testament, consisting of eleven edited books.
One aspect of the early church was the quick ex-communication of heretics, which Marcion received in A.D. 144. His teachings were rejected (to name a few) by Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement, and Tertullian. However, though Marcion was rejected, his ideas remain the cherry pits or leaven of the Protestant church today. Many pastors and scholars attempt to show a gentler, softer Jesus by excusing or apologizing for the wrathful-just God of the Old Testament. Are they all Marcion – that would be an unfair statement. Are many walking around dangerous waters with the potential to fall in? Yes! Like cherries that taste good, often palatable, these “acceptable” theological positions are embraced, though dangers like ingesting seeds exist. Before one knows it, they are in a spiritual health crisis.
What does this look like for the everyday Christian who does not have time to study it all in detail on an academic level? Pretty simple;
First, let us look at Andy Stanley. This Atlanta pastor has stressed the placement of the Old Testament on New Testament believers does not exist. In his sermon (here), believers are not accountable to the Ten Commandments. His educated articulation was simple; the Christian is to unhitch from the Old Testament. His words convey to the church that the Old Testament God that shows violence and promotes legalism should never stop anyone from following Jesus Christ. It is not always clear, but many use their nuanced language to sound safe enough in regards to being orthodox, but they are swimming in the wrong lake. Jesus is love, accepting unlike the other guy tones should always be avoided. It is not always so direct, there is also the issue of the Red-Letter Christianity. This is the position that Jesus’ words within the red letters are the only thing of importance, which leans towards the attack on the authority and reliability of the entire text, both old and new testaments.
Now here is the thing, regardless of dealing with war texts, justice texts, sexuality texts (sexual ethics-LGBTQ), and grace texts, one cannot edit God’s word. Believers are called to accept the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). All Scripture is inspired (2 Tim 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:21) and therefore boldly proclaimed without apology. When believers (pastors or even those in the seminaries) try to separate the testimony of God, things go south. Often this comes with challenging (or ignoring) His attributes, namely, His immutability, eternality, immanence, justice, and existence, to name a few. Christians need to think through these matters so that they do not enter dangerous waters and swim in the heresy of Marcionism. Regardless of what the flavour of society is, believers are to contend for the faith that was entrusted to them (Jude 1:3). It is to be done in season and out of season (2 Tim 4:2). When one desires to remain silent for the sake of unity, it is also a concern. Why? staying silent is another way of saying, “we approve such heresies.” We need to challenge those who would teach an old heresy in new clothes – and if need be, shouting it from the rooftops.
I encourage those who are listening to such teachers, attending their churches or being influenced at seminaries to take this matter seriously. Challenge the elders (or professors/leaders) in a respectful way, get clarity, and if one embraces such things prepare for departure. There is no perfect church, but there is certainly no safe heresy.
In His Grace,
1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling. 1999. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. Marcionism The IVP Pocket Reference Series. (Downers Grove, Ill IVP 1999). 76