Heresy is bad for your soul. Christianity, rightly practiced, is a vital relationship with God, and like any vital relationship, it relies heavily on grasping the truth about the person you’re in relationship with. Of course you don’t have to perfectly know all the truth right away — you learn over the course of the relationship, and there’s always more to know — but there are certain core lies that can badly impede the relationship.
It’s not really that strange a concept. The plot of nearly every romantic comedy hinges on the resolution of relationship-threatening lies. If you believe God is not faithful, that’s going to create problems, same as if you wrongly believe your fiancee is not faithful (the plot of Much Ado About Nothing, among many others). Ditto if you believe He’s not really God, not really competent, and so on.
So we work hard to keep heresy out of the church, because those lies wreck our relationship with God.
However — to return to the romantic comedies for a moment — consider where the chief benefits of the relationship lie. Once the lies are dispelled and the happy couple realize the truth about each other, the music swells, they come into each other’s arms, and wedding bells begin to ring. No one with any sense supposes this is the high point of their life together; the point is that this is the beginning. The real benefits of the relationship are not in that one happy moment, but in the many years to come. And so it is with God.
Clearing out the lies opens a channel for the benefits of the relationship to flow. It enables us “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” as the Westminster divines put it. But the chief end of man is not to be able to enjoy God, but to actually enjoy God.
This is to say that our creeds and confessions and various arguments against heresy are important, but they are the garden wall, not the garden. If you spend all your time reinforcing the garden wall, foolishly thinking that the garden will somehow take care of itself…well, it’s gonna be a long winter. The garden wall is vital for keeping out pests, but you can’t eat it.
And therein lies one of the critical errors of “discernment ministries.” Heresy-hunting is no kind of occupation for a Jesus-follower; “accuser of the brethren” is a title that’s supposed to belong to the other guys, not us. Too many of these guys are in love with the wall, and neglecting the crops. We have a duty to the truth, and part of that duty is to maintain a sense of proportion and keep our focus where it belongs. So while we necessarily reinforce the wall at the points where it is being attacked, the point of reinforcing the garden wall is to be able to reap the benefits of the garden.
As I develop this series on fundamentals for today, I’ll take note of the errors and heresies that we’re necessarily at war with. But the point of walling them out is not to focus on what we’re at war with outside the wall. The point is what those well-placed walls will enable us to grow inside the wall. Because that’s where the real sustenance is, and that’s why we build the walls to start with.