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Modern Heretics

Discussion in 'Church Life' started by Mendalla, May 8, 2018.

  1. Mendalla

    Mendalla Aspirant False Prophet

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    There's been buzz about the Netflix documentary Come Sunday over in Pop Culture but the subject would make for a good thread here.

    Short version: a popular church leader in the US got in hot water when he began supporting universal reconciliation (ie. universalism in the classical Christian sense)

    I haven't seen the documentary itself, but it is based on a story from the podcast/radio show This American Life and I heard the host of that show interviewed about the story on Homebrewed Christianity. Previous discussion about Come Sunday, including a review from @Waterfall, is here: Movies you'd like to see

    And here: Netflix

    The wiki on the original story is here: Carlton Pearson - Wikipedia

    So, a modern day heresy trial and excommunication in a Protestant denomination. What do you think? Is universalism a "heresy" that must be suppressed or just an alternative interpretation of the Gospel? What does "heresy" really mean in a modern church? Should we allow discussion and debate of conflicting ideas or pick a winner and dismiss the rest as "heresy"? Should a minister or member of any church be subject to discipline for their theology or changes in their theology?

    And, yes, the Vosper case has elements of this in it so it is on topic here, I guess. But lets not make it the focus if we can manage that.
     
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  2. Luce NDs

    Luce NDs Well-Known Member

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    Heresy is anything that has to do with the magic of learning something new ..

    Some stoics just can't vary ... yet the universe tends to wobble ... sloe but shore ... especially regarding metaphorical insubstantial essences ... like oily thoughts?
     
  3. Mendalla

    Mendalla Aspirant False Prophet

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    As a UU, I belong to a tradition that is rooted in heresy. In their original Christian forms, both Unitarianism (denial of the doctrine of the Trinity) and Universalism (universal reconciliation/salvation) faced criticism and even persecution (Unitarians, in particular, were condemned as heretics). Thus, we tend to support free, open discussion of theology and metaphysics in principle (our fourth principle to be precise). That's not to see we don't have our "heresies" and conflicts but they aren't universal to the tradition. For instance, I know of a UU congregation that was so strongly humanist that theism was almost a "heresy" and a minister proposing a Bible study generated a major blowup but that was on that congregation, not UU'ism as a tradition.

    Even as a Christian, I held potentially heretical views, including Unitarianism. But as a member in the pews, I don't think anyone much cared. Had I preached them, perhaps there would have been trouble but it's hard to say. I preached at least one sermon while doing lay supply that really belonged more in a UU pulpit (I didn't know about UU'ism other than vaguely at that point) and got praise for it, though I did make at least some attempt to tie it back into the Gospel.

    That said, I was UCCan and, as we know, the United Church is rather open-minded compared to other Christian denominations. Even Gretta Vosper really got away with her views for quite a while before questions raised led to the current process of reviewing her ministry. I imagine I would have created more of a stir in some other churches, even some other United Church congregations.
     
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  4. Luce NDs

    Luce NDs Well-Known Member

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    Heresy, science (observation of things authority would not wish you to leer into) agnosticism and Satyr are devilish things of Shakespearean comedy about metaphorical creeps ... essence of change?

    To me just more words to frustrate the underlying aboriginal thoughts ... live and let live ... the Gods prefer war ... thus that Red Lady beyond the Earth ... rusty as irony ... hard as diamond to get to alive due to inter solar radiance ... tis a code of sort ... light! Hertz if you stand too long intuit ...
     
  5. Waterfall

    Waterfall Well-Known Member

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    These days if one believes differently (e.g. believing Jesus wasn't the literal son of God or disbelief in the trinity) the word heretic most likely wouldn't be used, but rather "lost" or "unsaved" with the view that repentance is necessary to be a true believer.
    In my view "heresy" usually happens when the stock answers given fail to have a ring of truth to them, which is probably what happened to Carlton Pearson, only his views were tested on a national scale because he was a bishop. He was upset by those not having the availability of the gospel of Jesus would be condemned to hell, especially the children but also included adults. Of course some would say there is an age of accountability whereas the children would be exempt from hell....and that simple answer is supposed to cover that.
     
  6. Waterfall

    Waterfall Well-Known Member

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  7. revjohn

    revjohn Well-Known Member

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    Haven't seen the documentary.

    Much of my independent work in undergrad and seminary examined Church Discipline which fascinates me.

    The word heretic is spectacularly unhelpful. Primarily because it tends to be a label that is correctly applied to folk who have been disciplined by the Church for a specific error rather than a label anyone applies to those they dislike/disagree with.

    The word also carries a great deal of baggage which poisons the well with respect to any discussion of the individual or their views.

    And finally, the world has changed. Folk designated as heretics do not face the same consequences as heretics did 500 or so years ago. Which frankly, I think is an improvement.

    Looking at the background to the particular case of Carlton Pearson I note how very alien Pearson's experience and circles are to mine.

    I would disagree with Pearson on the issue of universal reconciliation. I also note that I historically disagree with Pentecostalism so I don't know who I would side within a throwdown about the issue of universal reconciliation in Pentecostalism. Not my house, not my fight.

    I am surprised to find that the Pentecostal Church has bishops. That is legitimate news to me.

    With respect to the existence of hell. Scripture is pretty clear that a hell exists. Scripture tends to take a much more nuanced view with respect to hell than do most Christians so I think that there is room for discussion on what we mean when we refer to hell and in which context. I do not buy into the notion of universal reconciliation simply because that takes the consideration of grace and justice out of any theological discussion.

    If I get some time with nothing to do I might give it a look.

    It won't be a priority.
     
  8. Tabitha

    Tabitha journeying

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    and now I have seen the documentary.
    Our minister mentioned it on Sunday in his sermon.
    He said it's about a successful Pencostal preacher whose theology changes. In reading the bible the verses about love and that all are loved kept jumping out at him. The preacher questioned the concept of love. He lost his mega church. In many ways it parallells the jorney the United Church has taken.

    @Waterfall
     
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  9. Jae

    Jae Will Accept if Nominated

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    Since we can't afford the luxury of Netflix (we're members of Canada's working poor), I cannot comment on the show.
     
  10. Mendalla

    Mendalla Aspirant False Prophet

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    This conversation can go back to the Netflix thread, please and thank you.

    Here's the original free podcast/radio show that it's based on: Heretics - This American Life

    Now, what are your thoughts on heresy? Do the fellowship Baptists have the concept? Do you excommunicate members or clergy for expressing heretical beliefs? That's really what this thread is about: the broader issues raised by the show, not the show itself.
     
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  11. Jae

    Jae Will Accept if Nominated

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    The Fellowship has no official feelings about heresy. In my two decades in the Fellowship, I have only seen one case of what some might call an excommunication, and it was over a moral issue (unmarried couple living together).
     
  12. Mendalla

    Mendalla Aspirant False Prophet

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    I suspect that in general there is more of that kind of issue than actual heresy in the modern world. It is not like the era when there was really only one church that defined what was right and wrong theologically. In our world, if someone's theology and/or faith is out of touch with their current church, they generally pack up and move unless it's a small community and options are limited. I did it and I really wasn't even that out of touch theologically with the UCCan, certainly not at the level of being a "heretic".

    Even the UCCan "essential agreement" thing is more about fitness to be a minister than actual "heresy". They don't excommunicate you or boot you out of the church as the result of a review, just keep you from calling yourself a minister and working in a UCCan pulpit.
     
  13. BetteTheRed

    BetteTheRed Resident Heretic

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    I have the nickname "Resident Heretic" in my congregation. I think that only behaviours we'd consider out of bounds would be those that were egregiously, deliberately harmful or hurtful and remained unresolved/unforgiven.
     
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  14. Mendalla

    Mendalla Aspirant False Prophet

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    That would be kind of the UU way, too. You'd pretty much have to be deliberately, unrepentently disruptive or abusive to get "the boot" from a UU congregation, I think.
     
  15. Mendalla

    Mendalla Aspirant False Prophet

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    And, to be honest, we'd probably ask the person to leave of their own accord first before we did anything more forceful.
     
  16. Jae

    Jae Will Accept if Nominated

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    That's what happened to the couple at our church. They were told - stop living together or else don't come back to our church.
     
  17. Mendalla

    Mendalla Aspirant False Prophet

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    More politely I hope. "We really hope you understand, but living together before marriage is not accepted or endorsed by this church. Please consider getting married or separating until you are. If not, then we must ask that you please find a church more accepting of your relationship." Or something like that.

    Of course, that is a behaviour that wouldn't be a problem for UUs. We had unmarried couples with kids in the congregation during my time there and they were just another family for us.
     
  18. Jae

    Jae Will Accept if Nominated

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    While I wasn't there, someone who was told me the exact words used we'e, "If you keep living together outside of marriage, you will no longer be welcome at our church."
     
  19. Waterfall

    Waterfall Well-Known Member

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    That sounds so strange in this day and age, but then I suppose it sounds just as strange for David or Solomon to show up with his many wives at the Temple.
     
  20. Jae

    Jae Will Accept if Nominated

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    It's strange even for our conservative church. It happened only once, about a decade ago.
     

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