I’d like to add more of my thoughts concerning some high-spirited discussions that certain brethren had on social networks in regards to comments I and others made on Victoria Osteen’s recent statements. Although some good points were made on the threads and I received very good feedback on my blog from a majority of people, I was grieved by the hearts of some who insisted on calling the aforementioned ministers I named in the article, especially the Osteens, heretics.
Do we realize what a serious charge it is to call a minister of the gospel a heretic? In order to make this accusation you better have done your homework and got your facts straight. If not, you are on dangerous ground with God. Publicly calling someone a heretic who is not a heretic is slander and defamation of character, and simply a lack of Christian integrity.
Some even went farther with their accusations and refused to call any of these men brothers, or even ministers whom God has called.
So the question we must ask is: What constitutes heresy?
Let’s begin by identifying what does not constitute heresy. Paul speaking in 1 Cor. 13 on divine love said, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
It appears from this statement that perfect doctrinal agreement and unity shall never be achieved on this side of heaven. Any attempts to do so will gender much contention and strife. Even ministers of the same denomination often disagree over certain matters of doctrine. Also, in the course of a lifetime Christians and ministers will modify their views and beliefs many times as they receive more light and understanding from the Scriptures. Our fellowship with one another should never be based on conformity to all details of doctrine, but must be based more on the melting of our hearts together in love by the Spirit of God.
It is more important to maintain unity in the body of Christ than to resolve out petty doctrinal differences.
The only doctrinal agreement we must have as Christians and ministers is on the principles of the doctrine of Christ (Heb. 6:1-2). These are the fundamentals of the foundation of our faith, without which we cannot have any fellowship. Here are the six principles:
1. Repentance from dead works
2. Faith toward God
3. Doctrine of baptisms
4. Laying on of hands
5. Resurrection of the dead
6. Eternal judgment
The basis for fellowship and disfellowship in the body of Christ concerning doctrine is based on these six principles as John the apostle states:
“He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” (2 John 9:10).
Now to be ignorant of these essentials of the Christian faith is one thing, but to turn away from them, or to preach contrary to them after having knowledge of them, is quite another. There are several examples in Scripture of men perverting these principles. For example, Paul writes about two men who perverted the doctrine of the resurrection causing some people’s faith to be overthrown.
“And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:17-18).
Individual Christians and especially ministers who deny the truth of the resurrection are to be denied fellowship, but only after being confronted and warned.
“Having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim 1:20).
Paul turned two men over to Satan for blaspheming. It appears that these were the same men who were perverting the doctrine of the resurrection.
A heretic is a person who perverts the doctrine of Christ in one of these six principles. As a modern day example, there are ministers now who are teaching universalism, which is to say that everyone will one day be saved. I know of at least one of these men who use to be one of my favorite preachers when I was in Bible school. He was a strong repentance and revival preacher who emphasized holiness. Now he fellowships with every kind of religion and says that everyone of them will be saved. I know of ministers who no longer believe in a literal hell and write books to discredit it. These are examples of the perversion of eternal judgment. These are ministers who started out right but became apostate and left the doctrine of Christ.
Someone close to them in a position of ministerial authority should have confronted these men in love and gone through the proper relational steps to restore them (Mat. 18:15-17). I say this with fear and trembling, but if these heretics refused to listen then they should’ve been turned over to Satan so that repentance may work in them, and their soul might yet be restored.
Now which of these principles of the doctrine of Christ does anyone believe the aforementioned ministers in my article have perverted (the Osteens, Kenneth Copeland, and Benny Hinn)? Remember, heresy has nothing to do with a person’s wealth and possessions; it has nothing to do with his personality or success, or the fact he doesn’t preach a strong repentance message, or that he cowered down in a national television interview and refused to call sin sin.
Heresy is not teaching financial prosperity and God’s will to prosper and bless His children. It’s not believing and teaching on the pre-trib rapture versus post-trib. A minister is not a heretic because he performs miracles in the name of Jesus, while lacking the fruit of the spirit in his life. Power and fruit are two different things. Paul told the Corinthians that they came behind in no gift and yet called them carnal (1 Cor. 1:7; 3:3). None of these constitute a perversion of the doctrine of Christ. None of these constitute heresy. So I ask you again, under what grounds of evidence have you the right to call any of these men heretics?
Now I realize when ministers leave certain components of the gospel and important scriptural truths out of their preaching it can open a large door for the sinner and the halfhearted to feel comfortable in their sins and in their worldly lifestyle. And when that becomes the norm or status quo in a church, it can cultivate an atmosphere of deception. When it comes to even the basic message of salvation, I realize many are being errantly taught that all you need to do is to acknowledge your belief in Jesus, pray a little prayer, and you’re in. Nothing is ever said before or after salvation about true heart-repentance, surrendering your life—losing it to gain it, following Jesus in wholehearted obedience and loving Him above all others.
Now if this is the beef that you have against the Osteens or any of these ministers that still does not make them a heretic, or a wolf, or an agent of Satan (some actually believe that about these ministers). It could just mean that they minister a light spiritual diet with some junk food mixed in. Instead of serving up meat and potatoes, green beans, brussel sprouts, and spinach, they serve a large dose of cookies, cake, and ice cream with a glass of milk (and by the way, this is not necessarily my personal opinion about all these men).
But that still doesn’t make them heretics.
Bert M. Farias, revivalist and founder of Holy Fire Ministries, is the author of the newly released My Son, My Son, which he co-wrote with his son Daniel. He is also the co-host of the New England Holy Ghost Forum, a school of the Spirit. Follow him at Bert Farias on Facebook or @Bertfarias1 on Twitter.