Anyone at least decently acquainted with me is also acquainted with my general distaste for Christian magazines. It isn’t just that I find most of them shallow, or that they fail to address the most controversial and meaningful topics powerfully, but rather that the overwhelming majority of the articles they publish, insofar as those articles are of an opinionated nature, are so far from actually being Christian, that as I read them, I begin to question my devotion to my own religion out of disgust for the things associated with it.
Whatever the essays attempt to address, be it marriage or parenting, gun control or abortion, “white privilege” or the Iraq war, I almost always find a series of explanations and statistics, and a few arguments good or bad — almost never novel, yet never profoundly timeless — rehashing the old conservative and liberal talking points found on Hannity or The Young Turks; and then, as though to give itself legitimacy in a Christian magazine, a verse — if it is even quoted in the full — which is either taken out of context or so incredibly ambiguous, it requires an entire treatise in itself to identify its proper meaning.
I have long stopped short of calling these treatises heretical, simply because the word carries so much history. The Protestant, and particularly the Westerner, recalls a series of images whenever the word is used; red suits, burnt churches, papal bulls, dungeons and martyrs beyond number; and perhaps becoming too accustomed to liberty of speech, and mistaking custom and law for morality, we have been hesitant to use the word simply because the worse of us are too cowardly to say so, and the better of us value a genuine liberty of thought, wishing for men to reason out their doctrines and own them, rather than forcing them to accept things in public which they would never approve in private.
Whatever our reasons for ignoring the term, it is a real term, and used by the Apostles in such a way as to demand our attention. But I believe that in our distaste for the word, we have perhaps become unacquainted with its actual meaning; training generations to attempt distinguishing between lesser and central doctrines, a practice which is so complex and utterly impracticable in the long run, it is far better to in a spirit of piety consider all divine revelations important (as the Apostle says, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work). Instead of saying that what God said here is not so crucial, we should say that if God has spoken, He has intended communication; and if He has communicated something, that we have not just a chance, but a duty to know and teach and defend it.
There are really several reasons for not knowing something, when easy access to information is had. The first, that it is not understood, is entirely possible: the Bible records that even Israelites were blinded, lest they should repent; and Paul records that God has blinded the men of this age, lest they should accept Christ. To these blind men, we owe nothing less than pity. But there are other men who do not know because they have not cared; and there are other men besides these who care not to care, and so, conveniently lacking a truly Biblical solution to a problem, they invent a meaning without considering the context, definition, or historical usage of Biblical terms, and call the solution Christian.
It is not difficult to understand how this can happen, and be popularly accepted. Taking a verse of the Bible, they seize upon some commandment to love, or do justice, or any other general term, and, (purposely or accidentally) mistaking the present customary usage of the term for God’s true meaning, and never honestly questioning whether such generic terms (which all men use regardless of their evils and injustices) mean different things to different people, they then craft a series of opinions and solutions founded upon nothing else than their particular culture, thereby pretending their justice to be God’s justice — a heresy no less offensive and dangerous than believing like the Mormons that Jesus is the brother of Satan. For when a man believes injustice to be justice, and licentiousness to be love, he lives in sin and promotes it, dragging all kinds of men and especially gullible women into causes which make life worse for everyone, and make Christianity more obnoxious and unbelievable to the unregenerate than it already inherently is.
It is worth noting that the Apostle Paul, in naming a list of sins, mentions heresy among them (Galatians 5:19-21) — amongst orgies and witchcraft and evils of every sort; something which I do not believe the common man understands. For heresy I believe is most oftentimes taken to be a result of misunderstanding, something resulting from the flawed medium known as language, or failure to process a concept to its full conclusion (both of which all honest men admit possible, and about which kind men are more lenient). But heresy, if it is a sin, is not simply a misunderstanding, but a condition arising from our sin nature. And if this is so, then what is heresy? It results from ambition, when men, going beyond what Scripture has actually said, devise for themselves doctrines and instead of admitting their ignorance of Scripture to everyone, and that their position could very well be mistaken, they instead proclaim their invented doctrine Godly. In a very real sense, it is a result of pride, happening when men would rather invent than consult, but want the reverence due an oracle instead of a mortal man.
Here is my issue with Christian magazines: having access to the Bible, and calling themselves and their organizations Christened, they attempt to portray certain solutions and ideas as Christian, when in reality, they are no more Christian than any secular publication — save the one or two verses tacked alongside the socialist, humanist, libertarian, or traditional conservative garbage. The overwhelming majority of these articles are not Christian: they lack spiritual insight, wisdom, justice, Biblical backing and brutal honesty: they slander God’s name by attributing things to Him which He did not say, and they slander His children by calling them unChristian when they refuse to follow wicked, entirely stupid schemes.
The solution is simple: those of us who are interested in knowing God’s will — as the Apostle says, to prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God — must labor and seek against all cultural opinion, no matter how difficult and offensive the solutions may be, until we arrive at the mind of Christ; knowing how He defines love, how He defines justice, what He considers wise, and what duties He commands. And until the day we can say thus saith the Lord, like the old prophets and Puritans and Reformers, let us be content with saying thus saith myself, refusing to confound the sacred words of the Almighty with our own personal and counterfeit religious inventions.