When you read the details of the death of some ancient, be slow to give a diagnosis. With the exception of Galatians, I’m not sure we can be very precise as to the exact heresies Paul is speaking about in various letters. We see the church with puffy eyes, and a bad cough, but we are unsure of the disease. She’s sick, but what’s the sickness? We get clues and hints and we learn of elements and emphases, but no robust heretical synopsis is presented. We jump into the middle of letters, of conversations, where much is understood by the original “to” and “from.”
I believe this is best for us and that we have received the letters as they are because of God’s gracious wisdom. Because of this fuzziness we are more inquisitive and alert concerning these heresies. Instead of a specific vaccine to combat just one virus, we develop a healthy immune system to fight against many. The lack of specificity helps us to produce generalized antibodies that attack a wide range of theological bacteria and heterodox viruses. What little we learn of the false teachers in 1 Timothy 1:4 builds an immunity to a wide spectrum of threats to the body of Christ.
It causes us to be wary of anything with a mystical flavor; anything that seeks to commune directly with Christ. For example, I remember in seminary a number of us were reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. At the time my diagnostic skills were not keen enough. Foster is a Quaker. Quakers emphasize looking for the light of Jesus within them. If you’ve read Foster, read him again in this light and you’ll see Scripture is generally set aside and direct communion with God by means other than Word and Sacrament are emphasized (if you’re looking for a solid book on spiritual disciplines I would commend Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life). Man’s speculations are set above God’s revelation, of which we are stewards (1 Timothy 1:4). A more widespread cousin virus goes by the name Experiencing God, that effects the body in much the same way.
Along these lines you can identify Heaven is for Real as a viral virus that has infected the body. Remember, viruses try to look like normal body cells. Here again man’s speculation is elevated above God’s revelation. I am thankful that the title is so helpful in pointing out the problem. Heaven is for Real, really? Because of a boy’s vision we now have greater assurance, peace, and faith? Never mind the Father’s infallible, inerrant, inspired, incredible words about His Son, we now have a boy’s vision. If your faith isn’t settled in the Bible, it isn’t Biblical faith (Romans 10:17). Besides Scripture’s being sidelined, compare the boy’s nonchalant, casual encounter with the risen Christ, with the awe and glory of His New Testament appearances. Compare Burpo’s book to Randy Alcorn’s excellent book Heaven. By the way, if you are a properly functioning antibody, you must alert the body for her health. We must name the virus, anything else is unloving. It matters not if the virus’ host is a little boy.
Also, bacteria like the Bible code, hidden meanings, and the prophecy specialist with his charts, dates, and antichrist suspect list now are recognized for what they are. But a bacteria that still goes unnoticed by many is those who are orthodox on paper, but whose papers are pretty hidden. The doctrine is the fine print, the experience gets the bold face, colored, graphic-designed font. Beware the church that is all about providing you an experience, and beware your own heart if that is what you are seeking. When experience becomes the priority, the doors are wide open for false teaching, both for “shepherds,” and the flock. Look at the charismatic crazies. The glue that binds together all kinds of incompatible doctrines is experience—a direct experience with the Holy Spirit, so they say.
Don’t play in man-made, putrid, stagnant, bacteria-ridden, tepid, toxic ponds, swim in the God-accomplished, God-revealed, sweet, refreshing, and pure ocean of the gospel found in the Holy Bible.