by G. D. Andreano
The Problem of Heresy
“[Paul’s] letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” – 2 Pet 3:16b
It is an unfortunate observation of mine that the good things about Protestantism are not unique to Protestantism. The things Protestants have correct are simply the ways in which they are correctly aligned to the ancient Church. However, the bad things about Protestantism are unique to the individualistic spirit of Protestantism found even in the earliest heretics.
Heresy does not seem to thrive in any other environment. Because of the problem of individualism as expressed in private interpretations of scripture, heresy is a problem that will never go away. The Protestant framework is designed in such a way that not only becomes a heretic factory, but it also gives them a pulpit. “If the Bible is the only authority,” as some argue, “then we do not have any need for creeds and councils.”
If you’re a Oneness Pentecostal, all you need is a Bible that says,
“The Lord is one” (Deut 6:4, Mark 12:29)
and you will have all the evidence you need to deny the Holy Trinity. The authority of the Church exists to prevent this type of dissent from happening. We have no need for private interpretations, because we have truth contained within the hermeneutic of the Liturgy, Hymns, Icons, Church Fathers, and Ecumenical Councils.
One could surely argue that rejecting councils and fathers is a misunderstanding of sola scriptura. They’ll say,
“that’s not sola scriptura, that’s solo scriptura.”
But let’s be honest, how many people need to get it wrong before we realize the definition has changed? We are not living in a world of 16th century definitions, we are living in a world where every Protestant denomination defines their own orthodoxy, and none of them having more authority than another. We need to move beyond telling solo scriptura fundamentalists that their definition does not line up with the 16th century, because they do not care. They will simply say the 16th century was wrong, and there is nothing a Lutheran or Presbyterian can do about it.
Every Protestant thinks they are orthodox. In other words, nobody self-identifies as a heretic. However, it would be nonsense to suggest that heresy does not exist, so one must grant that at least some Protestant denominations are heretical. The question is, who, and by what standard? One cannot simply say “the Bible,” because such an answer does not give credibility to any singular interpretation of the Bible. That answer is a rhetorical tactic that presupposes a particular interpretation to be self-evidently true without actually having to prove the claim.
Therefore, it logically follows that an interpretive standard for the Bible must come from outside the Bible.
Tomorrow: Part 8: The Problem of the Public Square