The Usefulness of Heresy

I had the privilege of teaching on heresies this morning to eighth grade humanities class at the Highland Rim Academy, a classical school here in Cookeville. I gave them five reasons why heresies were and can be a good thing for the church, under the sovereign providence of God. God causes all things to work together for good (Rom. 8:28).

A. Through heresies, the “faith once for all delivered” (Jude 3) was/is searched out and embraced more fully. “Wait a minute, the Bible doesn’t teach that, it teaches this.”

B. Through heresies, the church was/is able to explain what the Bible teaches (creeds). The process of systematizing the faith arises out of the presence of heresies. “Let’s write down the ‘catholic’/universal faith, the things that all Christians believe.” The church fathers wrote not only creeds but books (i.e., Against Heresies, Irenaeus)

C. Through heresies, the church was forced to declare which writings were canonical.

D. Through heresies, the church as an institution experientially became important as guardians of the truth. The truth wasn’t given to an enlightened minority, but to the church. The church is the “pillar and support of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15).

E. Through heresies, the church was/is kept on its toes. We need to be always on our guard; fortunately, there aren’t many new heresies, they are almost always old heresies in new garb. That’s why it’s so important to know church history!



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