Scholar takes look at heresy & grace

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)--Wrong beliefs about Christian doctrines should be handled with grace and a recognition that God can bring about good from bad, said Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

George spoke during "Modern Trends and the Growth of Cults," a conference on cults, Sept. 19-21, sponsored by the Beeson school, Watchman Fellowship and Evangelical Ministries to New Religions.

Addressing conferees during one of their plenary sessions held at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, George made three applications about theological corruptions:

-- Heresy is related to true doctrine. "When we look across the whole sweep of historic Christian orthodoxy from the New Testament to the 20th century -- and we see these errors and heresies that have come in, one thing we have to realize is that heresy always represents some aspect of the truth," George noted.

Regarding heretics, George said, "It's not as though they're (intentionally) setting themselves up over against God, over against Christ, over against the Bible -- and we mustn't impugn the sincerity of those who hold to these erroneous views. Heresy always has some aspect of the truth related to it."

-- God can use heresy. "Heresy has been used to call the church back to the truth," George observed. "Heresy and false teaching have been providentially used by God to call the church back to its basis in Holy Scripture in God's divinely inspired revelation."

-- Heresy must be handled with truth and love. "The New Testament admonishes us that we are ever and always to speak the truth in love," George said. "Those must be held together. ... We are not following Jesus or the apostles or the New Testament if we speak the truth in anger, if we speak the truth in hatefulness and spite, if we speak the truth out of a sense of self-righteousness."

George said Christians who encounter heresy should "remember that we are not dealing merely with ideas but also with persons ... who are made in the image of God. ... We are all sinners, and none of us would come to the truth apart from God's grace -- and that ought to argue for humility and not arrogance."

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