The Scripture warns us not to make disputes over “opinions” that Christians may validly hold, even if they are wrong (Rom 14:1). Being that people with these varying opinions had Christ die for them (Rom 14:15) we may conclude that they may be properly called Christians. However, which doctrines may be a matter of opinion and which are outright heresies?
Ed: This article was made before becoming a catechumen and upon greater learning and reflection my thoughts have evolved.
This is a simple question, but I cannot give a simple answer because the Scripture does not address it completely. However, allow me to offer the following speculations:
- Jewish Legalism. Any doctrine that the Scripture calls “anathema,” such as following the Jewish Law, probably can affect the salvation of a Christian. The Epistle to the Galatians comes to mind. It is worth noting, however, that Justin Martyr thought that such Jewish Christians can “probably” be saved.
- Christological heresies that undercut faith in Christ. More specifically, this would mean a doctrine that worships Christ only in name. Arian, Gnostic, and Mormon heresies obviously have Jesus, but it is not the same one as the true Jesus Christ.
- Antinomianism. The Scripture is replete with warnings against flagrant immorality, so clearly antinomians will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
- Forsaking the Assembling of Believers. Heb 10:26 states that those who do not worship with other Christians cannot be saved.
- Apostasy. “Those who endure to the end will be saved.” Need I say more?
We have a list of stuff that Christians dispute about which are not on the above list. Depending who you speak to, if you believe the following you are a heretic and cannot be saved:
- Intercession of the saints and prayers to these saints.
- Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
- Monarchical Ecclesiology.
- Merits/good works play a role in salvation (one’s salvation is improved by works, one is not put in right standing with God by works).
- Belief in a purgatory.
- Necessity of partaking in the sacramental life of the Church.
- And much, much more I am sure!
Now, my readers, many of you will say these doctrines are wrong. However, that is not the point of this article. The point is whether belief in any of these things can put one’s salvation into question.
The Scriptures do not condemn to hell anyone for believing the above things. Even the intercession of the saints is not condemned in the Old Testament, as the practice as taught in Catholicism and Orthodoxy is not a matter of necromancy (no one is “consulting the dead,” Deut 18:11 and using them for fortune telling–this the Scripture condemns.) So, if the Scripture does not condemn it, how do we know it is wrong?
Well, we do not know perfectly. But, we can surmise that at a bare minimal if the majority of the Church for all time believed in a specific doctrine, such as the Real Presence of Christ, it cannot damn the believer without calling into the question of pretty much all Christians for all time.
We need to think long and hard about this when we consider a doctrine so objectionable that we break communion over it.
So, just as I argued before that historical consensus is a valid means of interpreting Scripture in light of our hard hearts, historical consensus is also a valid means of discerning which doctrines are, at the very least, disputable and not worthy of so much fighting and division.
As for my bullet-pointed list above, I will not answer the question here whether these doctrines fit that criteria. I leave it to you to delve into that matter.
The article says “forsaking the Assembling of Believers. Heb 10:26 states that those who do not worship with other Christians cannot be saved.”
How on earth can one reading Heb 10:26 arrive at this conclusion?
I hope this helps. The immediately preceding sentence says so:
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
26 For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Love your honesty Craig. God bless you.
The sad reality is that “scandal must come.” If only things were brighter, that it would it be the unified church against the world, the light and salt against darkness and all things unseasoned, rather than this AND Christian vs Christians, communions vs. communions.
You have not shirked from realizing this is a real issue, and I commend you for that. You have much to offer your readers.
As a Catholic who occasions this blog, I am always challenged (in a good way), and though I do not always agree with the which conclusions you draw from your study (not simply on account of what the Church teaches, but on account of my own study), but you almost always force me to look deeper and for that I thank you. I know that regardless, I am the better for it.
Your contributions are meaningful. Grace of Christ Jesus unto you.
Great article, Craig! I’ve been binge-reading your site for a couple weeks. Lots of good stuff.
I’m lifelong devout Catholic but love reading about our Orthodox brothers and sisters. I attended a Mormon university (BYU Provo) and had to go through their religious education curriculum. Expect me to comment a lot on anything referencing Catholicism or Mormonism. Lol.
I don’t actually think Mormons have a Christological problem. Unlike gnostics or Jehovah’s Witnesses, they accept and openly preach the full divinity, co-eternality and uncreated nature of the Son. Their problem is more in how they understand the relationship between the members of the Trinity and in how they conceive of everything that isn’t God.
They believe in a social trinitarian model whereby the members of the Godhead have the same type of uncreated substance, but not the exact same substance.
They also don’t believe in Creation Ex Nihilo at all, positing that the basic underlying substance of everything is, in some way shape or form, uncreated. They believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are unified in one eternal Godhead, and humanity are offspring of God who are inherently flawed by virtue of humanity’s own uncreated failings (that’s how they get around the problem of evil).
The goal of life on Earth and the Atonement in Mormon cosmology is to test, educate, and fix humanity so that they can achieve union with the Father through the Grace of the Son. The end goal is pretty familiar for anyone from a Catholic or Orthodox upbringing.
In short, I think they’re wrong about a lot of stuff and they do a terrible job of explaining their doctrine to other Christians, but Christologically I think they’re okay. I mean, they’re close enough that I will call them Christian. The best book for understanding Mormons is by a Catholic theologian named Stephen Webb. He explains Mormons better than Mormons do.
Good to hear. I’m very busy so if I don’t write back about something please forgive me!