I’ve Been ‘Sliced! (or, when heresy-hunters attack)

Heresy-hunting is everywhere these days – even in presidential politics. Think what you want of the various candidates (I’ll not go into any stump speeches here), but when a presidential candidate criticizes the current president, not over disagreements in policy, but for “phony theology” as Santorum did Obama, well, you have presidential-level heresy-hunting. Here’s the scoop on that:

 

Targeting people with different spiritual and religious perspectives with appellations like “phony” and “heretic” has, of course, been going for a long time – arguably since the very existence of religion, but in contemporary times at least since the publication of John MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos in 1993. A few years ago, it was finally my turn…

Glory be, my day of infamy has arrived–the biggest heresy-hunting ‘blog this side of Ken Silva has targeted little ‘ol me for witchery! Ingrid Schlueter of Slice O’ Laodecia sez (in a piece titled Christian Witchcraft is Here) that my main website, zoecarnate.com, advocates “cool new “Christianity”, including an ad for an emerging conference, and links to all the emerging sites of Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and a host of others listed under the category, “Dispatches from the Great Emergence”.

Guilty! Of everything except being cool. (My wife will tell you that I’m a big nerd, and I still dress funny if she doesn’t have any input.)

Apparently I made the ‘mistake’ of being linked to by a website called RavenWing, whose authors, Charlie and Melody Jenkins, are exploring the tensions and commonalities between neopagan practice and Christian faith. I’ve gotta admit, Ingrid, they have some pretty interesting beliefs. The thing to keep in mind of course is a.) They found me, not vice-versa, and b.) I’d love to hang out with the Jenkins over tea or something, and talk with them about their lives and faith journeys, rather than make some appraisal of their beliefs with the degree of easy finality that you do. I guess that’s just ’cause I’m just soooooooooo emergent. Either that or because I think there’s something to that whole ‘ministers of reconciliation’ thing.

But this isn’t all I’m being Sliced over. Ingrid continues,

“The ZoeCarnate [sic] site is also promoting The Shack as must reading for emerging Christians.”

Interestingly, she draws this connection because of the banners I have up on this blog and my site for the book, not because I’m one of the endorsers easily visible on the back cover. Why, oh why, does Eugene get all the attention? I feel slighted. To apply “eye salve” to this clear oversight (If you’re gonna play guilt-by-association, the heresy-hunters’ favorite game, you can’t miss key links like this), let me clarify just how much I love The Shack. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

“Finally! A guy-meets-God novel that has literary integrity and spiritual daring. The Shack cuts through the cliches of both religion and bad writing to reveal something compelling and beautiful about life’s integral dance with the divine. This story reads like a prayer–like the best kinds of prayer, filled with sweat and wonder and transparency and surprise. When I read it, I felt like I was fellowshipping with God. If you read one work of fiction this year, let this be it.”

I said it. I believe it. That settles it. : )

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiggh. This isn’t the first time self-proclaimed Christian Watch Doggies have targeted me, and I doubt it’ll be the last. If they only knew the company I keep, the friends I have, and the ideas that run through my mind while invoking Baphomet in my blood-drawn pentagram!

In all seriousness (and c’mon guys, that previous sentence wasn’t, so no fair quoting it as though it was), these folks might be surprised to know that I (and every alt.Christian I know) believe that there is such a thing as harmful or destructive teaching, we do think about our beliefs, and we don’t rip Jude or 2 Peter out of our Bibles. But the warning passages there (and in Timothy and the Gospels) aren’t biblical wax noses that we can bend at whim; there were specific heresies (dualism and legalism) being addressed in the pages of the New Testament. We’d do wise to treat these ‘attack passages’ (as they’ve become) while wearing asbestos gloves, with fear and trembling. We should pray and fast before ever leveling them at a sister or brother in Christ. Our reverence for Holy Writ (and the Holy One whom we confess has inspired it) demands no less.

In other news, the fundies seem to be devouring their own

The intro to this post is new. The bulk of this was originally posted on Feb 29, 2008

See also Resisting the Logic of Heresy-Hunting: A Cautionary Tale
Gutless-Grace Girlieman Inspires Po-Motivators…Story At 11

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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30 thoughts on “I’ve Been ‘Sliced! (or, when heresy-hunters attack)

  1. …any chance we could start an “honest heretics” club or movement?

    …you will be there

    …and I be right there with you!!!

    …just wondering, what would an “incarnational nerds” team jacket look like?

    …most seriously, I stand with you and for you, any time, any where

    …it’s because you and Wes Yoder DID endorse the shack that I read it

    …I trust you two diverse, grounded, growing men way more than most

    …hugs to the bride and the babe

  2. I’m jealous. You get slammed for cavorting with witches just because some Christopagan links to your site … and no one pays attention to my far more incestuous relationship with neopaganism. No fair!

  3. Thank you for the kind words, Wes. And your jealousy, Carl. Knowing that older brothers in JC can relate does me a world of good, especially in the “I’m-not-just-being-an-angsty-20-something” category. I, too, would stand with you guys anytime, anywhere.

    Incarnational Nerds Rule!*

    *by serving.

  4. I love you incarnational nerds!

    I might start a fan club…IN’s and the Women Who Love Them…I’d love to keep company with your lovely wives

  5. Hey Mike, linking to my site and inferring that I’m a “heresy hunter” is a super stretch (if not a direct mischaracterization). My six-part series that you linked to, entitled Calvary vs. The Emergents, is far more critical of Calvary Chapel than the Emergent Movement. The only reference made to “Mike Morrell” in that series was in Pt. 6, and WAS NOT EVEN FROM ME but from some commenter. If you were to read the entire series you would know that (1) I’m not hostile toward the Emergent Movement, and (2) The commenter who referenced you was pretty rude and rigid, and I challenged him on several points. By erroneously citing my post and lumping me in with the “fundies,” I can’t help but wonder if you’re doing the same thing you’re chiding others for…

  6. Hiya Mike Duran,

    Oh, I know that you didn’t write that about me on your blog–Phil Perkins did, in the comments section. I actually rather enjoy your blog, and never meant to imply that you were an ‘accuser of the brethren,’ or some such thing. I was just linking to places online where folks called me heretical–not distinguishing between site owners and commenters. But now I see how this could have send the wrong message about you and your blog, and I apologize. I took the offending link down on the main post, and replaced it with a more appropriate one from Mr. Perkins’ own blog, where he a few posts later accuses emerging church planters and practitioners of being potheads. :) (All I’ve gotta say to that is like…dude..)

    So please, readers in blogland know: Mike Duran is not considered a ‘fundie’ by this biased, full-of-his-own-bigotries-and-hypocrisies blogger; for whatever it’s worth, I think Mike Duran is a pretty OK guy. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Ingrid, Ken, Phil, and others are pretty OK too. So let’s remember that words written on a website are easy, but imagine sitting across the supper table from them…with your parents there, too. Then how would you talk to each other?

  7. Yes, I had a big problem with Phil’s comments during that series and probably went a bit overboard in my rebuttals. Thanks for clearing that up, Mike. Grace to you and your readers!

  8. As an antiquated “Incarnational Nerd” who literally walked around barefoot in Haight-Ashbury in ‘Frisco handing out flowers in 1970 (10 years before Mike was born), shortly before joining the Jesus People, I want to add my endorsement to Carl’s and Wes’s–that is, my sincere support for Mike as he dodges the attacks of fundies and neo-fundies–anyone whose faith has not yet been tested by the forces out there and come out on top, no worse for the battle scars. Though I have not developed a comprehensive theory about this, I do suspect that unproven faith “flocks together” with a false conviction that it is our job to defend the faith rather than to let our faith do its job of defending and supporting us by its inherent power, the power of the Resurrection.
    Jesus is truly the Lord of the spiritual heavens, as I discovered in 1970. He can hold His own in any contest, without our help. So those who are gratuitously bashing Mike (who believes this), and are using the name of Jesus in their attacks, are not moving by His Spirit when they do so: “‘Where do you come from?’ Pilate asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.” (John 19:9)

  9. Explanation (footnote):

    My wife (who was NOT a flower child or a Jesus People) put her name on the return address in my system, so it looks like this last comment is from her.

    It’s not.

    It’s from me, Peter.

    Now I have changed it in the system and cleared this up.

    Blessings and love to all!
    Peter

  10. From one “heretic” to another, I really wonder: If today’s church had the legal power of capital punishment, would they use it on people they pronounced “heretics”? And if so, who would decide? Which group? Which denomination? If an all out heretic war broke out, who would be left standing? The Baptists and the Presbyterians would kill each other off, and on down the denominational divide we could go. I suppose whoever had the most influence and power would decide, but I can’t know for sure. The whole thing gives me a headache. Ugh.

    I seriously cannot wait for all of us to see God face-to-face and realize we were—-to some degree—-ALL wrong. Perhaps then we’ll just look at each other, offer a sheepish grin while shrugging our shoulders, and join God in his newly created “heavens and earth”.

    Until then, I’ll hold lightly to my 5% of absolute truth and try not to judge to harshly everyone else’s 5%.

  11. today’s thought leaders are labeled heretics. you’re in good company.

    it cracks me up. in some circles to be labeled the H word would inspire fear and trembling. but in other circles, people practically erupt with applause and whoo-hoo’s. It’s like a badge of merit. “Oh, someone’s calling me a heretic? Yes! This means I’m finally making waves!”

    I saw someone at my local library wearing a t-shirt that said “Embrace your inner heretic.” The shirt was covered with names of people who’ve been accused of heresy over the centuries, like Joan of Arc, Jesus, Galileo, Martin Luther, etc… guess we can add Mike to that!

    Ken Silva gave me a shout-out last year due to an article I wrote for Off the Map about Christians being friends with witches. I was so dang proud for being “hereticized” that I emailed the link to a bunch of my friends.

    Sigh.

    I guess reverse psychology might be needed to really unnerve some of us. Maybe calling us irrelevant would be more effective at stopping us in our tracks. Then again, probably not. :-)

  12. what cheers me so about all this is the exchange of ideas, the critical thinking – its beautiful :) it may be confrontational, difficult, challenging, threatening for some but it’s great to see.

    And yet it needs to not become a god unto itself. Bottom line is love the Lord your God with all you’ve got and do the same for your neighbour, no matter what he/she believes. Do the best with what you have and when you know better, do better. Not a terribly intellectual interpretation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I know :), but I’m sure someone out there has a much longer, complicated way of saying it! lol

  13. Congrats! You made it when a radio talk show host identify you by name. I don’t know how these people become voice of Christian Religion. I guess some people worship them. It’s a truly sad world that the one talking and heard is not the trained theologian but a talk show hosts.

    I hope you don’t become a talk show host.. hehe..

    We gotta let all our grandmas know them listening to radio show just as a hobby is creating monsters who will use the influence to their own agenda.

  14. I just read the Shack and unwittingly enjoyed it. Had I known it was heretical doctrine (as opposed to a good story), I would have guilted myself into loathing it. But alas, I’m stuck – I love that little book and am recommending it to my friends. I watched Mark Driscoll’s (a man whom I respect and usually enjoy hearing preach) video on youtube denouncing the book as heretical and really thought that dude needs to lighten up. So an personification of the Trinity is making a graven image? Man, I think we’re all in trouble. Again, I guess I missed the boat–I thought I could read a book without worshiping it. I must’ve been wrong. I’m disappointed to see so much lashing out and reactionary Christianity. The church is beating itself up here–it reminds me of that passage in Song of Songs in which the Beloved goes out in search of her beloved and, in the process, gets beat up by the guards who are supposed to protect the king.

  15. Just a point to ponder, taken from the first chapter of G.K. Chesterton’s book “Heretics”:

    Nothing more strangely indicates an enormous and silent evil of modern society than the extraordinary use which is made nowadays of the word “orthodox.” In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. The armies with their cruel security, the kings with their cold faces, the decorous processes of State, the reasonable processes of law — all these like sheep had gone astray. The man was proud of being orthodox, was proud of being right. If he stood alone in a howling wilderness he was more than a man; he was a church. He was the centre of the universe; it was round him that the stars swung. All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says, with a conscious laugh, “I suppose I am very heretical,” and looks round for applause. The word “heresy” not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word “orthodoxy” not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong. All this can mean one thing, and one thing only. It means that people care less for whether they are philosophically right. For obviously a man ought to confess himself crazy before he confesses himself heretical. The Bohemian, with a red tie, ought to pique himself on his orthodoxy. The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to feel that, whatever else he is, at least he is orthodox.

    You can read the rest of this chapter on-line at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/chesterton/heretics.iv.html

    Peace & Blessings,
    Simple Mann

  16. Pingback: zoecarnate
  17. How long ago did you quit believing in hell, Mike? Because theological discussion takes on a different import when you embrace Universalism. When each person’s journey ends in the same happiness, it’s easy to converse genially. When you’re discussing the difference between coffee, tea, and Monster energy drink, there may be passion but no panic. But when you add iocane powder to the discussion, it takes on a different character.

    The Pyros methods of “conversation” are indefensible, but asking John MacArthur to quit speaking with passion and conviction is unreasonable, given his beliefs.

    • It’s interesting that you think I’ve stopped believing in hell – what have I said to give that impression?

      Speaking candidly, there are days when I’m pretty agnostic as to the existence of a conscious afterlife; it just seems unlikely, and the Jewish people for most of their history did not accept one, even though their pagan neighbors did. When you look at how the belief evolved in monotheism (see the resurrection of the martyrs in Maccabees), it can just sound like wishful thinking, ya know?

      But in my more ‘orthodox’ moments, when I embrace a more robust metaphysics, I do embrace hell. The question we should ask, of course, is which hell? Christianity imagines a wide variety of hells, from Dante to Tillich and everything in between. For me, I see hell as George MacDonald and CS Lewis do – hell-as-purgatory, hell-as-purification; everything in us that is not conformed to Christ in this life is burned away. It’s painful, and it’s loving.

      So this is where you might misunderstand me, Kevin – far from giving all humanity a get-out-of-hell-free card (I actually got one for Christmas!), I probably think even more people are going to hell than you do! Not only do I think the RavenWing folks are going to spend some time in hell, I think John MacArthur will too – and you as well as (of course) me. Because who gets entirely sanctified in this life?

      So no, it’s not tea and crumpets. Ideas matter. The choices we make in this life matter. (In my first scenario, these choices are all we’ve got; in the second, they move us closer or further from the life of God in Christ)

      Is that a little more orthodox than you imagined me being? :)

      • Well… I said, “hell,” because “eternal, conscious torment” is so much more tedious. If you have infinite cash in the bank, it doesn’t much matter whether a fine is $1 or $1,000,000. Finite, conscious discipline is just a continuation of our Earthly experience, however unpleasant it may be.

        As for whether your here-stated belief is more orthodox, it seems to come with the least scriptural justification. Eternal, conscious torment can bring some verses to the table, as can annihilationism. But discipline after death? I can only find some non-persuasive stitch work and a couple traditions I never did like anyway.

        Ideas matter, but it “matters” to drink tea, instead of Monster, too. It’s life and death to know whether there’s poison in your tea. If MacArthur believes eternal, conscious torment is the likely outcome of believing there are as many roads to God as you posit, can you really fault him for passionately warning those who might listen to you?

  18. Mike,
    Frank V. has inspired me to make a top 100 list of heretics for 2012 and you’re in the top 20 :)
    at least until the Mayan calendar runs out.