Is Failure to Love the Greatest Heresy?

Question:  I read a blog by Greg Boyd recently that took to task guys like John Piper who tweeted, when Rob Bell’s book on hell came out, “Farewell, Rob Bell.”  He said that the greatest heresy in Christianity was failing to love as Christ loved, even and especially more so than having wrong doctrine.

Answer:  I would agree that Boyd makes a good point but would suggest that his point is not explicit enough.  What does he do with Jesus’ denunciation of the Pharisees (Matthew 23) or Paul’s wish that those who taught that circumcision as necessary for salvation would emasculate themselves (Galatians 5:12) and that if they preach a gospel other than what Paul preached they are eternally condemned (Galatians 1:9)?  Sometimes love means loving those who would be endangered by a false gospel enough to warn them of the voracious and hateful attacks of the enemy.   This means exposing the false teachers’ falsity and making clear what is at stake if you embrace their false gospel.

However, Boyd is right that we are too quick to use the term “heretic” when it applies to someone who really doesn’t compromise the gospel.  We ought to engage those who teach things like Bell has on hell to make sure they are not compromising the gospel.  He claims that he still believes that he must preach Jesus as the only way.  He is, in my opinion, dangerously near the edge, but not over it yet.  Here is where Boyd is right on about how we fail to engage one another lovingly and as brothers and sisters before we shoot off about how heretical they are.  To be fair, Rob Bell has been on the doctrinal edge for many years now in the opinion of many.  Great caution is warranted when embracing his views.  But until he repudiates the core of the gospel, he is our brother and needs our love.

Randall Johnson


3 thoughts on “Is Failure to Love the Greatest Heresy?

  1. Rob Bell needs love and prayer, but should otherwise be avoided until he repents. His false gospel is misleading the flock. Saying that he has been on the ‘doctrinal-edge’ is an unfortunate term, for he is far beyond the edge of biblical truth and therefore should be shunned by the Christian community for his own good (yes) and for the good of the flock. Heresy is heresy–there is not a rating system for it.

    • Thank you for your comment. I am not ready to brand Bell a heretic, so obviously there must be a rating system for heresy. There have to be standards for what is heresy and what is not. I am sure that you can produce evidence that leads you to believe that Bell is heretical, but you would agree that just because someone says he is a heretic doesn’t make it so. For me, the rating system is, “Does he compromise the gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ.” If I don’t believe he has crossed that line I cannot in good conscience declare him a heretic. Nevertheless, I am uneasy about where he stands on these issues and so I believe he bears watching out for. That is why I say he is on the edge. He is dangerously close and people need to know that.

  2. Well, Randall … you’ve done a great job, as per usual, of pounding a nail of truth into a very hard wood.

    I taught my CP class last week about how to interpret the Time Mag front-page article on Rob Bell’s new book. And I really had to fight having, as the old song sings, “That Lovin Feeling,” for Bell as I did my best to teach about his recent challenges to our doctrinal interpretation about hell and the position of the church on our eternal destiny. It was really hard, as Boyd blogs, to retain my sense of Christian love for this man, about whom I’ve read but have to admit I haven’t even read his new book. … But that interview to which you refer your readers even challenged my Christian love for the man even more … as he skirts good doctrinal questions by asking questions or holding a mirror up to the questioner rather than shining a light of enlightenment by directly answering the questions put to him. >>> … This is a tough deal for Christians … and it’s really pulling us apart … even further than we are already pulled. >>> … This morning I went back and reread Rom. 1: 18-32 and just wonder how long God’s mercy is going to allow the world to head in the direction it is without His church shining Christ’s light brightly enough to point the world out of darkness into His light. >>> … Ugh!!! … <

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