Thursday, 15 May 2014

On the Pointlessness of Evangelical Anathemata

Never seen this blog before. But Andy Gill lists some famous "evangelicals" (not sure I'd put CS Lewis in that category, anyway) who would be called heretics by other evangelicals.

It's quite a good point. But there is another serious point to be made here, underlined by the inclusion of Martin Luther in the list of "heretics".

You see, to the Catholic Church, Luther was a heretic. Excommunicated for his Diet of Worms, which was presumably not allowed in Lent or something. But Luther put himself outside the Catholic Church, and that made him a heretic. And when Luther decided that we could interpret Scripture otherwise than the Catholic Church determines, he opened Pandora's Box, didn't he. So Calvin could also decide to interpret Scripture his own way. But not poor old Servetus, whom Calvin had executed for.... erm.... heresy. So even Calvin had standards. But not Luther's. And not Servetus's. And not the Popes. Some would call Calvin a hypocritical, murderous old get in a dodgy hat. Me, for example. I would.

Once the genie was out the bottle, "heretic" became a relative, and meaningless term. It's no good one evangelical complaining that another evangelical isn't a proper evangelical. The word can mean what you like. I can declare anathema on Aled Jones because, according to my view of Scripture, walking in the air is proof of witchcraft. That's where we are now.

You can't claim people are heretics because they don't agree with what the Bible says, because if you do, you're actually saying they don't agree with what you claim the Bible says. And that's, frankly, just your opinion. If you want to be able to call people heretics, you need one, unified, consistent, policed, catholic Church.

Most of us haven't got it. We're all heretics now. Except the Catholics, obviously. They're OK.


  1. Though the Orthodox might have something to say about that last statement.

  2. In a book that's still worth reading, after many years, Peter Berger suggested that there's an imperative for us all to be heretics. - His argument is summed up in a YouTube contribution (complete with specially prepared musical soundtrack) - which you may like to consider using at one of your Beaker assemblies. - You can find it here

  3. There's a lot to the general point you make. However, your view of the Lutheran Reformation, or of the Roman Catholic church's attitude to Scripture at the time of the Reformation, are caricatures. Neither Luther nor later Lutherans ever did the 'everyone should interpret the Scriptures themselves' thing that seems to characterise much modern Protestantism.


Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl