Quoting Heretics

Posted on September 16, 2010

A facebook status and subsequent discussion has led me to ask the question, “is there ever a time when heretics should be quoted?” There is no doubt the quote in mind could be considered biblically sound (if considered by a born again Christian in its proper biblical context), but the author from whence it came is considered to be among the founding fathers of contemplative prayer, which is an unbiblical and mystical style of prayer that is more closely related to Buddhist, Hindu, and New Age mantras than godly, biblical prayer.  As a result, I have concluded there are 3 possibilities for why a questionable (at best) or false (at worst) teacher might be quoted:

  1. To provide an example of unbiblical doctrine
  2. Out of ignorance of any false teachings or impact for quoting such a teacher
  3. Out of a blatant endorsement of said teachers thus agreeing with and/or promoting the deception.

To be fair, I wholeheartedly believe the person who inspired this article would fall into the second category. After all, the quote could be considered biblical and he or she may have never considered the historical teachings of this heretic. I do not pass judgment against this person but am merely taking this opportunity to address the issue for the sake of edifying the Body of Christ. If he or she happens to read this article, I hope and pray they do so with the understanding I am speaking the truth in love and have no other agenda except to provide a tool for learning to all who read.

Before continuing, I would like to take a moment to define a couple of terms – apostasy and heresy:

Apostasy –  this is where a professing Christian no longer holds to the essential doctrines of the faith. They may either fall away into absolute rejection of the existence of God, or they have distorted the foundational truths of who God is and His means of salvation. An apostate is not a Christian, nor were they ever.

Heresy: this takes place when exta-biblical doctrines are added to the Scriptures, such as baptismal regeneration or purgatory.

As Tim Challies points out from his 2007 article titled, Apostasy and Heresy, the Roman Catholic Church is both apostate and heretical. Challies quotes Francis Turrentin on the matter:

Christ wills that sola Scriptura, inspired by God be received by us as the perfect rule of faith and morals. The Pope denies Scripture alone is an adequate rule of faith, unwritten traditions must be attached. These traditions, together with Scripture, are to be equally adopted and venerated. They are to be held alike as the means of influencing godliness.

Christ wishes His Word to be believed on its own, because it does not take its authority from man. In our estimation, the Pope wishes the authority of the Word to be derived from his Church. Christ wishes no supreme judge to be acknowledged in ruling on controversies other than God speaking through Scripture. The Pope sacrilegiously claims this prerogative for himself.

Furthermore, Christ teaches that He alone is the Mediator, appointed by the Father, who alone is the way, the truth and the life, without whom no man can Conic to the Father. Yet the Pope forces innumerable mediators upon us. Mediators who, he says, are to reveal the way to heaven for us. Also, Christ testifies that there is no other sacrifice apart from His own; no other satisfaction by which we may obtain remission of sins and the reward of salvation. But the Pope insists on human punishments and satisfactions, while demanding a new propitiatory sacrifice called the Mass.

Though Christ established that men are to be saved by grace through faith alone. the Pope includes works as well. Whereas Christ institutes only two sacraments, the Pope decrees seven. Christ ordains that no one but God be the object of cult and adoration, yet the Pope worships creatures as well. Christ declared Himself the sole Head and Groom of the Church, but the Pope grants this to himself as well. Christ subjects Himself to the magistrates, ordering His servants to be likewise subject. Nevertheless, the Pope subjects the magistrates, rulers and emperors to himself.

Can it truly be said that those who teach such doctrines and defend such dogmas keep the faith of Christ? Or are they not adjudged guilty by the deserts of defection and the fact of apostasy?

To summarize, Challies offers the following:

Doctrine after crucial doctrine is discarded in the Roman system, only to be replaced with something that is more appealing to man’s sinful nature. Words are changed, meanings slightly altered, so that what is false seems so very close to the truth.

So what do we do with the question at hand: “should we ever quote heretics?” Take for example a quote that is 100% truth, but it is derived from someone who might be considered a false teacher, or part of a religious system (RCC) that denies the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of what benefit is there in quoting this truth from such a person when the likelihood of quoting someone else on the matter is high – if it is indeed true?

Perhaps this seems a bit trivial, but the implications are great when we are not cautious about whom we quote, which could lead someone to believe we endorse everything they have to say. For instance, Brian McLaren (an Emergent wolf in sheep’s clothing) could very well make a statement that lines up with Scripture (when considered at face value). In fact, let me go and find a statement from McLaren that can be supported by the Word of God…ok, consider the following from his book, More Ready Than You Realize,

Baptism is rich in meaning. It suggests cleansing. When you are a disciple, you understand that you are cleansed by Christ. You understand that Christ died in your place on the cross, paying for your sins, fully forgiving you for all your wrongs.

For the born again Christian, that sounds biblical, right? And if I rightly attributed this quote to Brian McLaren, an obvious expectation you might have is that I endorse Brian McLaren, correct? And if you trust me as one who is fundamental to the faith, would you not also trust my endorsement of Brian McLaren if you had never heard of him? Might this endorsement lead you to learn more about Brian McLaren and what he teaches?

For the discerning Christian, all things are tested against the Word of God just like the Bereans did when confronted with teachings of the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:11). The moment you saw red flags, no doubt you would immediately sound the alarm and hopefully confront me about my endorsement of such a teacher. But let’s say you are a new Christian, a weaker Christian, or one who is sitting on the fence and has yet to commit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. You begin to explore the work of Brian McLaren and find him to be contemporary, non-judgmental, and to have a friendly and non-confrontational way of presenting faith. Perhaps you recognize his methods are far removed from the traditional church you grew up in, and you are drawn to his “new kind of Christianity.”

What lies ahead for you (as the non-discerning seeker or professing Christian) are the obvious dangers of Brian McLaren and his teachings rejecting the absolute truth and clarity of Scripture, penal substitutionary atonement, the doctrine of hell, the biblical understanding of salvation, the biblical definition of sin, and his teaching of Universalism and promotion of contemplative spirituality. Latching on to any of these apostate or heretical teachings has the great potential to thrust you into apostasy yourself, thereby realizing the same fate of every false prophet – the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 1:13).

Do you see the danger? In an age where the church is being attacked from the inside as well from the outside (the former being a greater threat), we must be careful in choosing who we quote, support, or endorse. The internet makes deception all the more potential due to its rapid and effective means of communication. Social networks and youtube have given extraordinary exposure to authors of deception whereas their doctrine of demons may have otherwise been somewhat contained 1 or 2 centuries ago. At the very least, men have the power to deceive at a more rapid pace than before modern communication gave them such an expedited method.

Where does that leave us? How do we determine if this or that teacher is “worthy” of being quoted? Since no man is infallible (no, not even the pope), does that mean we can’t quote any supposed “man of God”? Of course not, but there are some principles by which we might consider them quotable – do they hold fast to the essentials of Christianity? Check out CARM for a helpful guideline for determining whether one might be considered an apostate.

It is well worth your time to research the individuals you admire and hence quote from time to time. Don’t rely on your friends or other trusted Christian leaders to have done your research for you. Everyone is susceptible to deception in one degree or another, and it could be that your trusted sources are ignorant of any false teachings from these individuals.

A study of 2 Peter 2, 2 Timothy 3-4, Jude 1, and 1 John (not an exclusive list) clearly shows the deception within the visible church. And as we approach the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, the deception will significantly increase. In fact, Jesus will not return until the apostasy of the church occurs (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The evidence is overwhelming that such a day is here, and we must be ever vigilant to remain above reproach and cautious of who we share with others.

Take responsibility in who you endorse. Anyone who preaches another Gospel will be damned to eternity unless they repent and come to the biblical Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul was clear on this matter, and for the sake of those who trust us, let us test all things against the Word of God.

So should we ever favorably quote someone who we have not taken the time to research where they stand on the essentials? I think the answer is pretty clear – absolutely not.

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.– Galatians 1:6-9