Heresy Often Begins with Boredom

The Gospel Coalition | 5/23/2019 | Staff
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Where does bad theology begin to go bad? Are there common origin points for heresies?

In his book Bad Religion, Ross Douthat makes the compelling case that heresies often begin with attempts to neatly resolve the inherent paradoxes of the Christian faith, opting for either/or where orthodoxy is able to hold the both/and in tension:

Heresies - Substance - Desire - Christianity - Contradictions

The great Christian heresies vary wildly in their theological substance, but almost all have in common a desire to resolve Christianity’s contradictions, untie its knotty paradoxes, and produce a cleaner and more coherent faith.

This is true of how many heresies begin. When there are knotty paradoxes that are hard to wrap one’s mind around (e.g., the full divinity and full humanity of Christ), we might be tempted to choose one or the other (e.g., Gnostics downplaying Christ’s humanity). We see this even with modern heresies. Those who can’t handle a God who is simultaneously loving and wrathful just dismiss one or the other. Those who struggle to see the both/and of sola fide and James 2:17 tend to pit the two against each other.

Place - Head-scratching - Paradox - Boredom - Thrill

But sometimes heresy begins not in a place of head-scratching, frustrating paradox. It simply begins with boredom. It begins when the thrill of orthodoxy is simply not very thrilling to us anymore, when our familiarity with faith breeds contempt, discontentment, and a dangerous restlessness. And so we take it upon ourselves to dress up Christianity, modernize it, reframe and repackage it for a new age.

I see it all the time, particularly (sadly) with people who have grown up in the faith.

Sort - Boredom - Forms - Culprits

The sort of Christian boredom that can lead to heresy comes in many forms. Here are a few common culprits.

Apart from periodic new translations or clever designs, the Christian Bible hasn’t really changed for 1,600 or so years. Some Christians wish it would. What...
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