I have been called a heretic (by Catholics twice) with the implication that I have spoken in error. That is the generally accepted meaning of the term, but it is not the etymological meaning. Strong’s definition of the Greek word translated as heresy in the New Testament is, hairesis (G139), meaning “a choice” as in a group, thus implying “disunion”. It is derived from aihreomai (G138) which means to take for one’s self or prefer. It is also translated as “sect”. It does not mean error or being wrong. Thayer’s definition includes the idea of capturing or forcing others to a group. Biblical heresy means one thing: creating division in the body of Christ so that separate camps are set up and the unity of love towards all believers is undermined.
Heresy began in the first century and we read Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians:
1Co 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
What then was the “same mind” and “same judgment” that Paul referred to? He tells us in the next chapter:
1Co 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Yet as we continue reading his rebuke to the Corinthians he says:
1Co 1:11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
1Co 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
1Co 1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
You can see people are already dividing into camps, (denominations) as they focus on the teaching, preaching and baptizing of the various servants of God. Change the names of people to denominations and hear how it sounds.
1Co 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am a Catholic; and I am a Methodist; and I am a Pentecostal; and I a Christian.
1Co 1:13 Is Christ divided? was the organization crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of your organization?
I find it interesting that Paul included Christ in his list. He is directing them to a greater unity than simply who we say we follow. We are to follow Christ, but when we say we are Christ followers as a distinction from those who say they are a denomination, we creating the same division, or heresy, as the camp followers.
Paul uses another word when speaking to Titus:
Tit 3:10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
This Greek word is aihretikos (G141), according to Strong’s is a “schismatic” and Thayer’s adds “factious” and “follower of false doctrine”. The root Greek word of hairesis is still in this word with its meaning of division. Does that mean I am wrong when I say doctrine is not heresy? Doctrine can create heresy, but doctrine in of itself is not the heresy. The heresy is the division in the body that comes of it. And each side of the divide will call the other side the heretic. What matters, though is the bottom line: does everyone agree that God became the man Christ Jesus and that he died for our sins and rose again to give us the new birth? If so we are brethren. Does that mean I think doctrine should be ignored? No, I don’t think that.
So many people get on their high horse as they champion their pet doctrines which Paul calls in Romans “doubtful disputations” (Rom. 14:1). Apart from the deity of Christ and our need for salvation by his death and resurrection, everything else is doubtful disputations, or doctrines of men (Col. 2:22) or, worse, doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1). Regarding doctrines of demons we should contend for the faith (Jude 1:3) but regarding the doctrines of men and doubtful disputations we should not be carried about by varied and strange doctrines (Heb. 13:9). And there are many doctrines of demons that we should contend for the faith.
Sound doctrine promotes life and health in the believers in their ability to trust Jesus and walk in the authority and responsibility he gave us. If a doctrine directs us away from that it is either a doctrine of man or a doctrine of demons. Personally I believe Catholic doctrines are rife with doctrines of demons as well as Calvinism. They either turn us away from Jesus or undermine the authority and responsibility we have in Christ.
So this is why I say all denominations are heresy, including Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Coptic and the hundreds of Protestant and Independent organizations. Catholics will say they are not a denomination because they trace their roots to the first century Church. That is nonsense since all believers trace their roots to the first century Church, i.e., Jesus Christ. But they mean the organization. The word, “denomination”, simply means to call a name. The first century believers called themselves, “Followers of the Way.” Then adopted the aspersion, “Christian”. The term catholic was also used, but not in the sense of an organization, but in the simple meaning of “universal” or “all believers.” Every denomination is a business franchise requiring adherence to their opinion of doctrines and worship. And the love of money strengthens the divide. Christ is not divided. All believers who have the new birth through faith in the deity of Christ and his death and resurrection are brothers and sisters and members of his body and his bride. What say ye?