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Richard Beck: In defense of heretics

I really appreciated this from Richard Beck today:

People don’t just wake up one day to suddenly and brazenly espouse a heresy. In my experience, you end up a heretic because there’s a gnawing theological issue that’s keeping you up at night. The burden and size of this issue often grows and grows until a lack of progress in its resolution becomes intellectually and emotionally intolerable…

…many people at this point do something very heroic and commendable. They become heretics.

It’s heroic and commendable because faith isn’t being jettisoned. A herculean effort is made to keep and secure faith. Sure, the price is believing in some rather contested, controversial stuff, but the win is keeping you in the orbit of God, the Bible, and the church.

All that to say, heresy might be wrong, but it can be awfully therapeutic. The mind settles and the heart calms and you can get on with the real business of following Jesus in your day to day life. Some people just need to believe in weird, quirky stuff to make the puzzle fit together.

Beck’s reasoning has validity, too, when it comes to beliefs that aren’t heresy but that are outside the theological mainstream of whatever community you’re in.

Our salvation is blessedly not on the basis of mentally embracing exactly perfect doctrine. I’m comfortable, as I think Beck is here, to trust that God knows the hearts and desires of those people seeking Him, and that if He sees it needful to bring my heart around to embrace some belief that I just can’t stomach today, He can do that.

As Beck says at the end of his piece, “a little bit of empathy, understanding and compassion around these issues would do everyone a great deal of good.” Amen.

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