Heresy Hunters: I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

Looking back at this post from a few years back made me think of an upcoming event that I’m privileged to be part of: Co-Creation 2012, an urban gathering in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina this April 12-15. Why did this remind me of that? Because the old gang from World Future Society 2008 will be getting back together – Brian McLaren, Diana Butler-Bass, and myself, joined by Paul Smith. Now I should emphasize that I’ll be there more in a support role, while this terrific trio will be bringing wisdom from their three unique perspectives – that of  change management narration (Brian McLaren – see this), action research (Diana Butler-Bass – see this), and Integral developmental theory (Paul Smith – see this). They’re going to share, in plain language, where the Church and larger global faith communities are at, right now, and where we’re going. Most importantly, they’ll be sharing the inner and outer journey tools we can use to follow Jesus into a preferred future – co-creating with God. There will also be music, dance, workshops, and great food within walking distance. If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to register right now.

Of course, not everyone likes change, or deep wisdom that defies convention, as we’ve been exploring on the blog this week. What follows is a reflection on this from 2008:

You know you’re doing something worthwhile when all the right people are denouncing you.

A couple of weeks ago Herescope denounced Jay Gary, Diana Butler-Bass, Brian McLaren and myself, who will be hanging out at the World Future Society‘s annual conference in D.C. We’ll be talking about “The Future of the Religious Right” and of global Christian faith in general, but the Heroscope team sees our work as promoting “new theologies and practices,” and “disparaging…of biblical prophecy.” Somehow, they suspect that all this winds up “creating an evolutionary convergence” where we all sing Kumbaya and venerate Gaia and Easter bunnies. As if that’s a bad thing! 😉

Moving along: I’ve already told you the kind of flack The Shack has been getting recently with the heresy-hunter websites. Well, as Steve Knight reports at Emergent Village, now our ‘ol pal Mark Driscoll is in on the action too (you can watch his eight-minute YouTube rant on the E.V. link). Apparently he’s mighty uncomfortable with the sacred feminine, relational depictions of God, and the idea of the Trinity (and thus, human relatedness) as mutually submissive rather than chain-of-command hierarchical. Sigh. Co-publisher Wayne Jacobsen blogs his response to the question “Is The Shack Heresy?”

Of course Frank Viola has had his share of critique concerning Pagan Christianity–not all from shrill heresy hunters, but certainly enough of it. Tim Dale over at Karis Productions produced this pretty funny spoof response:

I have two observations about all the shelling and attack from this past month: Most of the people above are friends of mine, and for the most part, we can all laugh this off (in the cases of Frank and Team Shack, they can laugh all the way to the bank, as these books have really struck a chord with most readers and have become best-sellers)–even if we don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes. Others, though, are not so fortunate–heresy-hunters can cost people their livelihoods.

I don’t have the privilege of knowing Peter Enns, but his story has been all over the blogosphere recently. As Christianity Today reports, Enns has been suspended from his teaching post at Westminster Theological Seminary for writing his 2005 book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, which takes a hard look at the messy, complex, and human aspects of Scripture from an evangelically-informed text criticism point of view. The Board of Trustees said:

“That for the good of the Seminary (Faculty Manual II.4.C.4) Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23, 2008 (Constitution Article III, Section 15), and that the Institutional Personnel Committee (IPC) recommend the appropriate process for the Board to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary. Further that the IPC present their recommendations to the Board at its meeting in May 2008.”

I understand that confessionally Christian schools are not as enamored with “freedom of thought at any cost” like their liberal arts counterparts; I get that evangelical higher learning institutions are trying to maintain a precarious balance between intellectual integrity and nurturing creedal faith commitments. All the same, Enns is not Bishop Spong or something–he’s asking questions about Holy Writ that the rest of the Church (and world at large) have been asking since the 19th century. Like it or not, those who read and love the Bible are going to begin pondering its more troubling aspects with greater honesty and ideological flexibility.

Heresy-hunting is far from the world’s worst problem. (Next time, I’m going to blog about sex trafficking. Please try to refrain from throwing yourself off a building.) Nonetheless, it is a downer. As I mused last year, sometimes I wonder why I even bother participating in this kind of ‘dialogue’–it all seems so insular. Sometimes I just want to throw my blog into the ocean (so to speak) and becoming a wandering hermit…with my wife and child, of course. But for now, I suppose I’ll leave everyone with an easily-rebuttable maxim: If you don’t have something kind to blog, don’t blog anything at all.


Mike Todd’s The Shack Film casting call

John MacArthur launches Nothing Must Change tour

Portions of this post were originally published on April 8, 2008

Also in this series:
Resisting the Logic of Heresy-Hunting: A Cautionary Tale
Gutless-Grace Girlieman Inspires Po-Motivators…Story At 11
I’ve Been ‘Sliced! (or, when heresy-hunters attack)

17 Responses to Heresy Hunters: I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

  1. J. R. Miller April 8, 2008 at 11:13 pm #

    After talking on the phone with Frank, I penned a short article on Pagan Conversations. I am still reading his book, and planning on longer interview with Frank.

    The important thing is that on all sides the rhetoric of personal attack can be stifling. My question is this, do you think the “funny” video you posted which vilifies anyone who disagrees with Frank as “hateful” is any different than the heresy hunter websites you mention? If so, how?

  2. kevin beck April 9, 2008 at 3:48 pm #

    Hi Mike,
    One statement really resonated with me. “Heresy-hunting is far from the world’s worst problem.”

    It may not be. But in some ways, it’s a meta-problem (or even a hella-problem). It takes time, energy, resources away from addressing real issues like sex trafficking.

    The people who’s ministries are called “Grace to you” but then proclaim “Nothing must change, except you” are so filled with a sense of their own self-importance that they’re unable to see their own self-impotence. They bind heavy burdens on others but are unwilling to lift anyone’s burden. They turn “love your neighbor” into “condemn your neighbor.” They sit in God’ seat and eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

    It’s much easier to fight against someone else’s beliefs than to engage real people with real problems in the real world.

    The rant of Kevin is now ended.

  3. kevin beck April 9, 2008 at 3:54 pm #

    As one who is proficient in making Freudian slips, I see that (perhaps) you made one. The blog is “Herescope”, not “Heroscope.” Maybe it wasn’t a slip after all, but a not-so-subtle jab instead?

  4. Steve Sensenig April 10, 2008 at 11:43 am #

    Speaking of Freudian, Kevin, was “self-impotence” a Freudian or a clever play on “self-importance” in your previous comment? 🙂

  5. kevin beck April 10, 2008 at 3:05 pm #

    It was very intentional.

    BTW, I’m not as riled up as I was yesterday. The heresy hunters may always be around, but God loves them too.

  6. Andrew Tatum April 15, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    I certainly hope my most recent series of comments wasn’t seen as an attempt at “heresy hunting” and I hope that when I do get frustrated with *some* things emergent, I do so with gentleness and charity. If I ever fail to do that…just let me know, alrighty?

    Peace, Andrew

  7. Dena Brehm August 19, 2008 at 6:47 am #

    Oh wow — I must know you, we must’ve met…

    I met Frank Viola 3 years ago (and 2 years ago) – once in Portland, OR, and then at the House2House conference.

    I know Paul Young (he spoke at our house church a year ago, when “The Shack” was fresh and new).

    I know Paul and Lori Byerly, of H2H (they run the conferences) — they’re my next door neighbors (living in intentional community with them) … I met them through their “other” website…! (& of course, the Dales)

    I met Brian McLaren, back when we lived in Washington, DC (Fairfax) (his books first started shaking up my box four years ago!).

    Mark (husband) and I will see him again at Transmillennial 2008 …

    I’ve heard rumors you’ll be at both H2H and Trans-2008 – is that right? If so, then I was right — God is up to something…! I mean, He’s always up to something, but in putting all these diverse things together, man, it makes my head spin…!

    I don’t mean to sound like a star-struck kid, but I just had to write…

    Shalom, Dena

    “The unanswered questions aren’t nearly as dangerous as the
    unquestioned answers.”

    “We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking only to learn that it is God shaking them.” – Charles West

    “Naked is having no clothes on. Nekkid is having no clothes on and being up to something.”

    “Our truth, when it becomes the ONLY truth, ceases to be truth.”

    “While we’re not fearful of tasting new things, we don’t necessarily swallow all that we taste.”

  8. zoecarnate August 19, 2008 at 1:46 pm #

    Hi Dena! WOW, we do move in the same circles!

    I won’t be able to make it to H2H this year unfortunately, but while there be on the lookout for my friend Neil Carter. We spent six years together in an Atlanta-area house church, and his just-released book, Christ In Y’all, is one of the best books on house churching from a non-fundie perspective.

    I WILL, however, be at T-Mil 2008! I look forward to meeting you there!

  9. Dena Brehm August 19, 2008 at 5:55 pm #

    Ok then, I’ll be looking for Neil Carter…!

    (I just love these family-reunions!)

    I’ll be at the book table, foisting “The Shack” and “Pagan Christianity” and assuring folks that no, radical thoughts are not dangerous (though group-think is).

    Oughta be fun! 😉

    Another question: Does TMB mean anything to you?

    Shalom, Dena

    “The unanswered questions aren’t nearly as dangerous as the
    unquestioned answers.”

    “We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking only to
    learn that it is God shaking them.” – Charles West

    “Naked is having no clothes on. Nekkid is having no clothes on and
    being up to something.”

    “Our truth, when it becomes the ONLY truth, ceases to be truth.”

    “While we’re not fearful of tasting new things, we don’t necessarily
    swallow all that we taste.”

  10. marion September 12, 2008 at 8:13 am #

    thanks Mike,
    it’s all beginning to make sense in my mind now…different bits and pieces i have been reading…
    strange how all things get connected…
    i.e. the ‘chain-of-command’ interpretation of the Trinity [despite the fact that Phil. 2 clearly says that on His Ascension [after His incarnation] Jesus received the Name that is above every name], is favoured by those who would treat, and speak of, women as lower in a chain-of-command too….who, also, speak against emergent [whilst misinterpreting it and those who find the conversation helpful].

    The Trinity – women – the feminine and masculine as both being part of the Image of God in Humans..
    This is an important theological point that needs to be looked at.
    Kevin Giles has written a book that deals with this – I think it’s called ‘The Trinity and Subordination’

    Having read about M.D.’s comments about women [including his own wife], I am beginning to see how some are forming anti-emerging camps. I am sad that the stream of churches I used to belong to [in the U.K.] are endorsing him, brother or not…
    strangely they always used to fling the word ‘grace’ around a lot too….took us [me and my family] a while to find out that it was mainly used as a theological concept, rather than as power for living and communicating, and understanding those who were asking ”why,” [that is if they were not too intimidated to ask because of their chain of command concepts of ‘authority’].

    Yes, I do think ‘heresy-hunters’ are a dangerous breed that distract from the real tasks…
    but reformers always get flack [or are killed physically too] from those who feel they are more orthodox.

  11. Trish Pickard December 16, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    I was set not to like the book, The Shack but after reading it, I thought it was really good and thought provoking. All the time I read it, I kept thinking it needs a study to go along with it. I finally decided God was urging me to write a study which I did. If anyone would like it, email me at I would be glad to send you the study. You are welcome to use it and copy it for others.
    Trish Pickard

  12. truthslayer October 5, 2009 at 6:49 pm #

    It’s possible that Herescope borrowed one of our Fruit of The Spirit Exemption cards in their ‘research’

    …or one of our various technologies in the exercise of ‘discermentalism.’

    ODMAFIA satirizing the world of online discernment ministries.

  13. zoecarnate October 5, 2009 at 7:42 pm #


  14. Dave February 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    A wise friend told me — “The world is divided into two kinds of people, the Righteous and the Unrighteous. And the Righteous do the dividing…”

    It’s always a surprise to those getting targeted by the HH. But then, No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!!


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