“The rejection of heretics brings into relief what your church holds and what sound doctrine maintains.” —Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
I remember hearing a certain existential theologian speaking some years ago. After he had finished, I overheard one old Christian saying to another, ‘Wasn’t it wonderful?’ The other answered, ‘It was wonderful, but I couldn’t understand it.’ True Christianity is quite different. When the Bible says, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ a child and a philosopher can understand that it means God created the heavens and the earth in antithesis to the idea that God did not create the heavens and the earth. It does not mean that we can plumb to the exhaustive depths of all God knows about this, but it does mean that the basic facts have been clearly expressed in terms of antithesis. With the paradox-ridden new liberal theology, statements have a way of seeing to be profound while actually being only vague. To get the full impact of this, just read a chapter in the works of B.B. Warfiled, J. Gresham Machen, Abraham Kuyper, Martin Luther or John Calvin, and then read a chapter by one of the existential theologians. —Francis Schaeffer, The Church Before the Watching World
Before we take up the details, however, we must stress the fact and the reason that we reject liberal theology, old and new, is not that we are opposed to scholarship. Constantly through the years great Bible-believing scholars have engaged in what is usually called lower criticism–the question of what the best Bible text really is. It is natural that biblical Christians should find textual study important, because since Scripture is propositional communication from God to mankind, obviously we are interested in the very best text possible. Consequently, Christian scholars have labored through the years in the area of lower criticism.
Higher criticism is quite a different matter. Picking up where lower criticism leaves off, it attempts to determine upon its own subjective basis what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected after the best text has been established. The “new hermeneutic” is a case in point, for here there is no real distinction between text and interpretation; both are run together.
The real difference between liberalism and biblical Christianity is not a matter of scholarship, but a matter of presuppositions. Both the old liberalism and new liberalism operate on a set of presuppositions common to both of them, but different from those of historic, orthodox Christianity. —Francis Schaeffer, The Church Before the Watching World
“…wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…” 1 Timothy 1:18b-19
Paul gives two combats tips concerning waging the good warfare; a weapon for each hand. You fight the good fight of the faith by holding faith, and holding a good conscience. The first tip makes perfect sense, as much as the drill sergeant yelling, “You kill the enemy by shooting him!” But the second tip sounds like, “You kill the enemy with good hygiene.” Huh? Yet, it’s as simple as this, when trench foot impairs, disables, or kills you, it hurts the campaign. Shoot the wolves, and stay healthy—that’s how we win.
“This,” in v. 19 is singular. It is by rejecting a good conscience particularly that some have made shipwreck of the faith. Holding a good conscience is waging the good warfare. We must contend for the faith lest we be a heretic.
There are two routes to heresy, the interstate and the backroads. The interstate is clearly marked with big green signs that read, “PELAGIANISM—NEXT RIGHT,” or “MODALISM—THREE MILES.” You know where you’re going and you mean to go there. Then there are the backroads of immorality. You were on the well-lit heavenly highway but you messed up. You pulled off the road because you wanted some darkness. Now your lost and scared, but you like this darkness, so you delude yourself. You redraw the map. You convince yourself that if you just keep this direction, you’ll still get to the heavenly city.
John Calvin wrote, “All the errors that have existed in the Christian Church from the beginning, proceeded from this source, that in some persons, ambition, and in others, covetousness, extinguished the true fear of God. A bad conscience is, therefore, the mother of all heresies.” Really? But listen to how well Calvin’s assessment jibes with Scripture.
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit [Do you hear ambition?] and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain [See covetousness?].” —1 Timothy 6:3–6
Still not convinced?
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
Just as sound belief and sound behavior go together, so do heresy and immorality (1 Timothy 1:5–6, 10; 6:3). And the relation is mutual. Heresy not only leads to immorality. Immorality leads to heresy.
“Doctrinal purity must be accompanied by purity of life. There is an inseparable link between truth and morality, between right belief and right behavior. Consequently, theological error has its roots in moral rather than intellectual soil (cf. Matt. 7:15-20). People often teach wrong doctrine to accommodate their sin. That truth is borne out by the immorality that so often characterizes false teachers.” —John MacArthur
The disciples have received a canvas and they recognize the silhouette. “That’s the king,” they confess. Now Jesus wants to make the silhouette a portrait; He wants to fill in the lines. Peter has received revelation from the Father that Jesus is the Christ, now He is receiving further revelation as to what that means from the Christ. Jesus tells them, “You see a crown, but do you notice its thorns? You see a throne, but do you see that a cross undergirds it?”
Peter is ready to receive the canvas and its silhouette, but he wants to paint a mustache over God’s Mona Lisa. He thinks he can improve upon God’s masterpiece. Peter has the right picture. He has been given a paint by numbers sheet. Number 2 is royal blue, and number 1 is supposed to be blood red. Peter wants to improvise. No longer content to be the disciple he wants to be the rabbi. He decides everything should be royal blue. But Jesus says red is a “must.” The masterpiece of God’s kingdom has a lot of blood red in it, and Jesus tells His disciples that no one else can paint it. He must bleed to paint this glory.
Trying to paint over the cross and keep the Christ is satanic vandalism. In the wilderness Satan tried to offer Jesus the world without the cross. Peter is acting here as Satan’s disciple, not Jesus’. Many have tried to keep the glory without the gory, but the paint won’t stick. Blood red is the primer for Jesus’ work of new creation.
Now let me fill in some lines. Some act like they keep the cross, but they hollow it out, and then cover it with precious metal. No more blood. Many that deny that Jesus was paying the penalty for sins in the place of sinners to reconcile them to God will affirm many other truths about the cross, but the paint wont stick. Deny ransom, deny propitiation, deny substitution, and whatever cross you may embrace, it ain’t Jesus’. The cross is the crux, and the crux of the cross is penal substitutionary atonement. This is crucial to God’s masterpiece.
If a child were to paint over a revered piece of artwork in a museum with their crayons, this is one time when daddy and mommy would’t praise their creativity. When an aspiring adult artist does this, it isn’t ignorant creativity, its damnable vandalism. Don’t expect the Father’s accolades when you try to paint by different numbers. This is an instance where creativity is best termed heresy.