We hear the word “heretic” brought up quite a bit these days. Sometimes folks using this word don’t really know what the definition of the word is or even how to use it. More importantly some who use this term have failed to listen to this clear statement on how to deal with heretics from Paul to Titus;
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
The simple definition of a heretic is someone who either teaches or follows false doctrine but this also covers people who personally cause schisms or factions within the Body of Christ. It’s all the same in the end. Heretics and heresy cause trouble for all involved.
The next step in dealing with a heretic is to warn them once and if they don’t repent then you are to warn them again. The word warn means basically a mild rebuke or exhortation. This type of warning wasn’t supposed to be nasty business. You rebuked or exhorted the heretic and then if they still refuse you have a third and probably the least followed steps of the three at your disposal.
You reject this individual. The word basically means to shun. Remember last weeks article on repentance? Same principle applies. Shun them to shame them in order to hopefully bring them to repentance.
There weren’t any prolonged battles with these folks in Paul’s day. The community shunned these individuals and the heretic was forced to repent or move on. In many cases “heretics” were put to death. That’s how serious these folks were treated back then.
Today it’s almost impossible to shun a heretic. Even if the church does it’s duty these folks have the Internet to spew their false teachings or further their disruptive behaviors. So how do we handle these folks on the Internet?
I would say the same principles that Paul taught to be done in community should be the way to do them on the Internet. We should warn them once, then twice and then have nothing more to do with them. Name their names and let them move on.
I know it’s easier said then done but think about how much time is spent on forums and blogs arguing with the same people day in and day out. In some cases these arguments go on for years and years without any repentance whatsoever. It ends up just as Paul told Titus it would;
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.