Grindstone: “Heresy is necessary”

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – How to cultivate a church that welcomes inquiry and offers real, objective answers to those questions was addressed by a professor panel in the March 26th Grindstone titled “Ministry and Culture: A Discussion on the Emerging Church.”
Panel members David Bertch, Steven Smith, Paige Patterson and John Mark Yeats gave the definition of Emergent thought, the leaders’ reliance (if any) on the authority of Scripture, the importance of being relevant to the Bible, not culture; and the necessity of context and defining terms when dialoging with this branch of liberal, non-orthodox Christianity.
‘Loving Jesus but hating the church,’ a saying of some Emergent leaders, is not a biblical statement, Patterson said. “The Bible says that Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for it. So it’s impossible to say, ‘I’m a follower of Christ,’ and not do anything to help.”
Smith, dean of the College at Southwestern, speculated Emergents came about by their strong reaction, and aversion, to the seeker-service preaching model, which in itself was a reaction to text-centered, and not text-driven, preaching. 
Following this logic, it is possible to say that preaching that was merely built around the text, not explicitly about the text, may have spawned the Emergent movement, said Smith.
Bertch, professor of humanities for the College at Southwestern, advised students to maintain a solid, biblical basis for belief and to read avidly.
“In the college here, we read some very strange books,” he said. “We read some of the worst books, written very well, but some of the worst books and ideas in all of history. Both Augustine and Aquinas taught that heresy is necessary. Heresy drives us back to orthodoxy; drives us to Jesus.”
Bertch and his students are practicing this discipline in his 19th Century seminar, where they are currently reading and discussing the book Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche.
“Nietzsche is one of my favorite philosophers,” says Bertch, “not because I agree with what he teaches, but because he raises all the questions. When you look at what he has to say, you can see his craziness in the midst of what he writes, and yet he’s always had something that can give you a glimpse of the truth. Using the Scriptures, with Nietzsche, you can drive somebody directly back to the faith.”
Yeats, assistant professor of church history, encouraged the cultivation of honest inquiry with a cultural example from the TV series, LOST. The character Hurley, Yates says, is a plant by the show’s writers to help voice viewer questions on where the narrative is headed. As ministers, we should keep the congregation’s questions at a similar level of priority.
“If you can’t get anyone to ask the hard questions, get some people to ask the hard questions for you,” said Yates. “Be ready, be prepared with the Word of God. It’s fantastic to watch your people grow into a culture where they can ask questions, and you get a chance to direct them back to the Word of God. You will see, I think, real, solid growth because you’re showing people that, whenever questions come up, the first place to go is the Word of God. ’”
Audio for the evening’s discussion is available at

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