Everyone’s a Heretic Sometimes

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Abby Norman -Everyones Heretic Sometimes3

I was introduced to the word heretic on the Christian blogosphere. Much like a child learning a curse word on the school bus, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know exactly what it meant. I knew it was a thing Christians called other Christians: heretic. I knew I didn’t want to be called that, and I knew you only used it on people you really disagreed with. This word was all about someone being very, very wrong. You did not want to be called a heretic.

Then I got into seminary, took a basic Christian history class, and found out heretic doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. It just means the person espousing the beliefs is a little outside the norms of what a committee of old Christian dudes agreed to believe way back when. My professor explained it like bumper bowling. There were boundaries put in place about the ways we all agreed to think about God, Jesus and the church. When your ideas jump the bumpers and move into another lane, you are a heretic.

Y’all, I don’t know about you, but I assumed the church had our beliefs totally figured out more or less since forever. I thought those things came straight to our ears from Jesus’ mouth by way of the Bible. I thought it was easy and not even worth talking about. I thought Jesus told us everything we collectively decided to believe. I thought arguing about those things was like REALLY REALLY bad! Heretic bad. I thought disagreeing with other Christians was like telling God that God was wrong.

As it turns out, the church has been arguing about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus basically since Jesus was crucified. Since the ascension of Jesus Christ, we have been fighting about what this means, and if you think the Christian blogosphere is ugly, please be aware that people were literally killing each other over what exactly the trinity meant.

The Nicene Creed was set up to put boundaries around Christian thought. You can think whatever you want as long as it is within these ideas: God is one, Jesus is God, and the one God is a triune God. Jesus was born a virgin, died on a cross, was resurrected, and is coming back. You have to believe all of that. Otherwise, it is up for debate.

Our beloved St. Nicholas (that’s right, Santa Claus) punched someone in the face at the Nicene Council because the man was a heretic. It had something to do with the way the trinity was described. Santa Claus punched someone in the face for getting an explanation of the trinity wrong. What the heck?

Christianity has always been messy and complicated. There have always been fights about what is okay and what isn’t. I think this is one of the reasons we are called siblings in Christ. When someone has a new idea, they often get told they are a heretic. A few hundred years later, this idea isn’t even controversial.

Fighting isn’t going to destroy the church. We’ve been like this since the beginning.

The Council of Nicene convened to try to get us not to fight so much, or at least stop getting violent about it. Despite the hot mess of church in-fighting, the church still grew. I’ve often heard that if the Christians don’t stop fighting, no one will join the church. But y’all, perfectly agreed upon theology has never been what draws people in.

The church has never been what attracts people to the church. This is good news. The church has been a hot mess arguing with each other since the beginning. Jesus is what attracts people.

The church has always been fighting about exactly who Jesus is, how he works, who’s in and who’s out. We haven’t always been nice about it. Sometimes we even killed people over it. It used to be a lot more dangerous to be a heretic.

The more I learn about Jesus, God, and the historical beliefs about all the things I thought had been settled forever, the more I am drawn to Jesus. Everyone’s a heretic sometimes. It just means we’re trying our hardest to follow God.

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Abby Norman
Abby Norman lives, and loves in the city of Atlanta. She lives with her two hilarious children and a husband that doubles as her biggest fan. When not mothering, teaching, parenting or “wifeing”, she blogs at accidentaldevotional.com. Abby loves to make up words and is excited by the idea that Miriam Webster says you can verb things.
Abby Norman

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