heretics.

mjkimpan  —  November 30, 2012 — 54 Comments


i wonder if we would do well to hold to our dogmas more loosely than we have in the past.

a short synopsis of even a sliver of human history shows our propensity for domineering and arrogantly determined doctrines to steer the church’s course in culture, often times leading to embarrassing conclusions.

in the 16th century, after copernicus had discovered that the sun – not the earth – was at the center of what we now know as our solar system, scripture was used to confront and condemn his heresy.

respected and revered church leaders (calvin, luther, melancthon and the pope – to name a few) called copernicus less-than-friendly names, and demanded that ‘severe measures be taken to silence‘ all who agreed with him.

in the name of God and truth.

copernicus is now hailed as the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which (correctly) displaced the earth from the center of the universe.

in the early 17th century, galilieo was denounced to the roman inquisition and his thoughts were condemned as ‘false and contrary to scripture.’ chapter and verse were given to ‘prove’ that his theories of the earth being in constant motion were unbiblical.

after publishing a work defending his views, galilieo was again summoned and tried, being found ‘vehemently suspect of heresy.’ forced to recant, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

in the name of God and truth.

galilieo is now credited with bearing ‘more of the responsibility for the birth of modern science than anybody else.’ albert einstien called him the ‘father of modern science.’

and it seems the earth does, in fact, move.

up until the 19th century, chattel slavery was defended as a divine right granted by the nature and order of God. according to both the catholic church and some protestant denominations, it was argued, ‘it is not against divine law for a slave to be sold, bought or exchanged.’ again, chapter and verse were cited in defense of the ‘divine order’ of things.

in the name of God and truth.

slavery is now frowned upon in the church – i don’t know of any respected christian leaders arguing otherwise. it seems, on the issue of slavery and segregation, our views have finally evolved. and rightfully so.

these and other perplexing examples of misinterpretation, misunderstanding, ignorance or error in our reading of the biblical texts ought to give us pause.

throughout the church’s history we’ve used scripture – citing chapter and verse – to defend all sorts of embarrassing, ignorant and even atrocious ideas :: from the outright denial of scientific evidence (e.g., arguing that earth is flat or that the sun revolves around the earth) to the rationalization of genocidal killings, war, torture and violence.

we’ve declared those who dare to dissent heretics, bid them farewell, and worse.

in the name of God and truth.

this dangerous and damning method of tearing select passages out of their context and haphazardly applying them to our current perceived crises and situations with little thought to the overarching narrative and trajectory of the sacred texts do a disservice to the beauty and complexity of scripture.

it’s worth asking ::

what dogmas applied now, in the 21st century, will historians one day look back upon with utter disbelief as we condemn those who challenge the status quo within the context of our current culture?

lest we paint ourselves into the same heretical corner some are seeking to avoid, is it possible for those who hold scripture as authoritative to do so with humility – in acknowledgment that we might be wrong?

what do you think?