Over the past few days, I have been involved in a lengthy e-mail discussion with some old friends and new friends. In the midst of the conversation, a position I took was compared to that of a heretic, and, in a sense, I was called a heretic. It was not directly calling me a heretic, but he did call another theologian a heretic.
That brings up the question: What is a heretic in today's world? And, Who has the right to define the heretic?
I find it interesting that prior to Constantine making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, Christians only had to fear the Roman Empire. Christians were killed not because they differed on various theological points, but because they refused to differed with pagan religions.
But within one year of becoming the official religion of the Empire, Christian had to fear other Christians. Differing theological opinion was enough to declare someone a heretic and have them burned at the stake. Entire countries went to war because they had different theological takes on an issue. I am sure there were other reasons for the wars (terrority, military power, greed, land aquirement), but no one can deny that Christians began killing Christians.
Yes, Jesus made strong accusations against the Pharisees and religious rulers. But I believe the Bible demonstrates that it was their practice more than their beliefs that Jesus criticized. He was more concerned that their errant beliefs had led them to errent practice than he was that they had errent beliefs.