Randal Rauser: Heresy Hunting in the Church

First off, what is heresy hunting? I define it as follows:

heresy hunting: the practice of searching for indictable theological offenses in written or spoken text.

Now let me add immediately that “indictable theological offense” is not a proper definition of heresy. But that’s because the heresy hunter is not really after heresies at all. To be sure, he’d love to find one, but he’ll be satisfied if he could uncover any indictable theological offense.

So what is an indictable theological offense?

indictable theological offense: a doctrinal position the holding of which is sufficient to get one disaffiliated with a particular church or parachurch ministry.

Yes, a heresy would qualify, but many other lesser “errors” would as well. For example, if the pastor in a Baptist church starts preaching infant baptism, he may not be guilty of a proper heresy but he has certainly committed an indictable theological offense relative to that ecclesial communion.

And so the heresy hunter is that person who devotes his time to reading blogs, listening to sermons, skimming books et cetera, with the hopes of finding some statement or utterance in the written or spoken text which could qualify as an indictable theological offense and thus provide grounds for getting the guilty individual disaffiliated from a particular ecclesial communion.

You might ask: What’s wrong with that? If somebody commits an indictable theological offense, shouldn’t they be held to account? That’s a fair question and it deserves a response. Let me make three points.

First, there is a world of difference between engaging written or spoken texts while attuned to indictable theological offenses and engaging written or spoken texts with the primary or sole purpose of finding indictable theological offenses.

The world of difference is this. In the former case you are reading or listening for understanding and illumination, while in the latter case you read or listen for error. In other words, the heresy hunter engages texts like a hammer looking for nails to pound. As you can imagine, with that attitude he all but ensures that he will find nothing worthwhile in the text. This has a negative impact on the reading of texts as I explain in the second point:

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Randal Rauser