SO-CALLED "HERESY-HUNTING" A DUTY
by J.J. Andrew
published by Robert Roberts
(see reference IFC 'The Christadelphian' August 1886)
"All heresy-hunting is of diabolos", says the flesh.
"Try the spirits whether they are of God", writes the Spirit; and the
reason given is "because many false prophets are gone out into the
world" (1 Jno. iv. 1). The "false prophets" were teachers of heresy,
but professed to teach that which was true. There was a difficulty in
identifying them, and therefore all teachers of divine things were to
be tried to ascertain whose teaching was genuine and whose adulter-
ated. The object of the test was that
the heresy-teachers might be repudiated.
The spirit in Peter writing of Israel says, "But there were false pro-
phets also among the people even as there shall be false teachers
among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even deny-
ing the Lord that bought them" (II Peter ii. 1). How were such false
prophets to be treated? Moses says, they "shall be put to death"
(Deut. xiii. 5). Even a "brother", "son", "daughter", "wife", or
"friend", who attempted to introduce idolatry was not to be spared
(v. 6 to 11). The object was that Israel might be purged of evil.
Communities were to be dealt with on the same principle as individ-
uals. If it were reported that any one city had commenced to "serve
other gods"(v. 12, 13) "then", said Moses, "shalt thou enquire, and
make search, and ask diligently; and behold, if it be truth, and the
thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you, thou
shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the
sword, destroying it utterly and all that is therein" (v 14, 15).
The comparison drawn in Peter's epistle between false teachers in
fleshly Israel and spiritual Israel is evidence that this Mosaic enact-
ment contains a lesson for us. The use of the sword or anything des-
tructive is out of the question; a practical protest by refusing to
fellowship is the full extent of permitted action. The command to
"enquire" is not at variance with New Testament injunction; it is in
harmony with it. When, therefore, it is reported that any brother or
ecclesia is following false doctrine, it is not only permitted, but it is
obligatory on other brethren and ecclesias, to "enquire and make
search, and ask diligently", to see whether it be true and the thing
certain. If it is, the responsibility of their position leaves no option
but that of repudiating complicity with the evil.
It is on this principle that ecclesial action has been taken on the In-
spiration question. It was reported that false teaching existed in
Spiritual Israel concerning the authorship of divine writings, and
on "enquiring, making search, and asking diligently", many have
found "the thing certain". Some, it will be said, have inquired
without finding its existence; but it is necessary to remember that
there are different ways of inquiring, and that none are so blind as
those who do not wish to see. The evidence of its existence is indis-
putable, and there are no excuses to justify its being ignored.
The repudiation of responsibility for the false teaching of those at
a distance shows a defective appreciation of the unity which should
exist between all the members of the one body. "The members
should have the same care one for another, and whether one mem-
ber suffer, all the members suffer with it" (1 Cor. xii. 25, 26).
Heresy searching among national Israel was not of diabolos, but of
God; therefore heresy searching among Spiritual Israel, can have
no other origin. And what is its result? It tends to preserve the pu-
rity of revealed truth. If a heresy test were of diabolos, it would be
difficult to justify the repudiation of heresy;
and thus the One Body would gradually become so
defiled that pure doctrine would wholly disappear.
- 'The Christadelphian', July 1886, page 317.
The above article was re-printed & fully endorsed in
'The Christadelphian', July 1945.
Link to 'Words from Sounder Days' for more details.