It’s hard to become a really good heretic. It can’t be done on the spur of the moment–no, it takes planning, goals, action steps, focus groups and the like. So John steps in to help us:
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for… 2 John 1:6-8
The goal of this “postcard epistle” is to guard the elect lady and her children (v. 1) from those who were coming to them with a different gospel (v. 10). Sort of like those government programs that teach the elderly how to spot the scammers and frauds. What caught my eye was the connection between v. 6 (“walk in obedient love/loving obedience”) and v. 7 (“the heretics are coming!”). What connection is John making between these two ideas? Simply: those who obey the great commandments to love God and their neighbor will be protected against heresy.
Thus, to become a heretic, reading ancient or modern heretics isn’t required. There’s no need to find a way to twist the doctrine of the Trinity or the Incarnation. No, all you need to do is walk a path of disobedience to the great commandments of vertical and horizontal love. All you need to do is squelch your love for God. Don’t pursue Him, don’t pray passionately, don’ t dive headfirst into worship. And when you read the Bible, try your hardest not to get too excited, joyful, convicted or repentant.
If you manage to do that–let’s be honest, it’s not that hard–you’re ready to begin loving yourself more than others. Be sure to mask your selfishness well: continue to do good things for others but do it to prove something, maybe to have something to hold over their heads. Certainly don’t pray for your enemies and try your hardest not to think about them made in the image of God or anything like that. Serve yourself instead. Make worship about you. Indulge your favorite sins just a little. Don’t go too fast–you might get a spiritual ice-cream headache (i.e., “conviction”) and end up repenting. The devil likes slow sin better.
If you’ve gotten this far, successfully setting a path opposite the law of love, just wait. Heresy will find you now. You’ve yeasted and kneaded the dough; just give it time to rise. Doubts about Jesus’ divinity, proud rebellion against the mystery of the Trinity or a pedantic focus on the so-called discrepancies of the Bible will begin to creep into your mind and heart. And some day in the future you’ll wake up and realize that you’ve made it: you’re a heretic now.
Some take-away points:
-Just as all true theology tends toward love of God and neighbor, all heresy will tend toward hate. This may not be apparent at the first analysis but it will be painfully clear at the final one.
-Prayerful obedience to the law of love (i.e., the Ten Commandments or its summary in Mt. 22:37-39) is the best vaccine to heart-heresy. Studying good theology is great but only so far as it leads us to more love.
-At the heart of every sin and heresy is spiritual insanity and illogic. The mother of this insanity is pride, which blinds us to reality. The more we are led by pride, the more blind we’ll be to anything Satan or the world wants to throw at us.