Heresy, Apostasy, and National Fidelity
In Deuteronomy 13, Moses instructs Israel as to their national obligation to identify, expose, and then root out all heretics and those that would seek to undermine the fidelity of the church, her people, and the entire nation. Throughout the Scripture, God warns, time and time again, of the reality and danger of false prophets who enter into the congregation to sow heretical teachings. By deception these false prophets seek to lead away the “simple” so as to hasten the collapse of the family, the church, and ultimately the nation.
There is more at stake than the corruption of the individual, family, or church. Moses is telling Israel that it is not only the individual, family, or church that is in danger, but also the entire nation. The entire fabric of the culture is at risk when heretics and their damnable heresies go unchallenged and unpunished.
For Israel this was a very serious matter. It was then, and it is so now in our post-Christian age. If we are to be painfully honest we must admit that we are now living in an age of post-Christendom, which is rapidly metastasizing into an age of anti-Christianity. An anti-Christian posture is always evidenced in a nation’s laws, traditions, and especially in the toleration of blatant wickedness in the private and public sector. This anti-Christian culture is not simply compartmentalized to America, but rather it extends into all of Western civilization along with the entirety of the known world. While Christianity may have the largest professing devotees of our modern era, the majority of those who hold to basic Christian doctrines have not been, heretofore, culturally relevant. This is because they have bought into heretical teachings of dispensationalism, monasticism, and pietism, which force a retreat from the Great Commission’s global command to disciple all nations. Once the church abandons the culture a vacuum is created and national apostasy follows.
Heresy and Its Effect
The effect of heresy is not compartmentalized to any specific group nor does it seek to remain compartmentalized. The effect of heresy is pandemic and systemic. It corrupts the entire national and social order from the bottom upward, to the point of utter collapse if left unchecked. This is the nature and progression of all sin, but especially that particular sin that seeks to undermine and pervert societal stability. Whenever sin is not readily identified, exposed and then dealt with expediently, it festers to the point where it eats away entire generations, even those generations which follow far into the future, thus being a systemic and generational malady. Added to this cultural disintegration is the fact of God’s wrath upon it for its infidelity and apostasy.
Consider the Root of the Modern Heretical Teachings of the Post-Christian Church
At the risk of over-generalizing the problem, it is safe to say that the post-Christian modern church has fallen irreparably into the snare of damnable heresy. That heresy goes by the name of humanism. Humanism (or as it is sometimes referred to, secular humanism) is the starting point of all heresies and all behavioral out-workings of anti-Christian conduct. It is no less a religion than Christianity or Islam since it is rooted in a belief structure that man is the epistemological standard for all truth. Humanism is the root of all idolatry and the starting point of all paganism. The individual who holds to a humanistic ideology is self-centered to the point where he or she legitimizes a self-imposed set of standards concerning right and wrong, good and evil, based upon man’s fallen, sinful, fallible, and rebellious God-hating nature.
Humanism is the religion of the self-autonomous man. It is an attempt to be as God, without any accountability to the true God of Scripture. It is self-seeking, self-satisfying, but always at the expense of God’s truth, the soul’s salvation, and ultimately at the expense of entire nations. From this point of origin (the humanistic point of origin) all other heresies stem.
R. J. Rushdoony observes:
Humanism begins by affirming the natural goodness of all men as against the Biblical doctrines of the fall and man’s depravity. It [then] affirms the sovereignty of goodness, truth and beauty, and their prevalence and pre-eminence among men. Before long it despises these things in favor of their reverse … The implicit goal is anarchy … every man would be his own law … He [The humanist] insists upon the priority of the individual … man has an inalienable right to be free to do as he pleases … freedom is the moral absolute which means anything goes … Basic to all their activity is an implicit and explicit belief that the will of the individual is the only law.1
The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics describes humanism as the “philosophy of putting man into the center of the intellectual universe” (Vol. 6, p. 830).
Humanism’s maxim is clear and simple: Man is the measure of all things. It is this ideology that is mainstream in both the world and in far too many mainline Christian churches today. While this religious presupposition—humanism is a religious presupposition—is to be expected in the realm of the reprobate, and in the world, it is frightening to see it commonly in the church and in such force.
The Christian church is to be the bulwark against humanism. Its task is to identify humanism’s tendencies and then deal with them Biblically. But too many churches do not understand what humanism looks like. They fail to see the secular and worldly nature of it mostly because they are steeped in it and overtaken by it. Once the church becomes humanistic in its orthodoxy and orthopraxy, she becomes blind to its existence. This blindness is due in part as a result of their repudiation of the sovereign Lord and His law, and in part by the active judgment which God imposes upon a rebellious people.
Humanism is a cunning enemy. It attaches itself to the tendency in man’s rebellious nature to be as God and begins to seduce the flesh accordingly. It then transforms itself into an “angel of light” making the gospel of Jesus Christ the gospel of the “self-made man” who only errs but never really sins. Humanism camouflages itself so well that those who are deceived by it are also self-deceived into thinking that humanism is not a damnable sin and therefore does not have to be handled as sin.
Thomas Boston sheds some light on the deceptive nature of man even without the help of false prophets: “There is in the mind of man a natural proneness to lies and falsehood, which favors his lusts.”2
Too many do not understand that sin is the transgression of God’s law and so they do not equate humanism with lawlessness. Yet that is exactly what it is. And while these individuals continue outwardly to profess the name of the Christ, even to the extent that He is their Lord, they are in fact lawless rebels who have embraced an anti-Christian theology. Consider the warning in Matthew 7:21–23:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
These individuals of Matthew 7 were not immoral people. They were not openly profligate sinners. They were probably nice moral folks, even Christian folks who understood not only Jesus as Saviour, but Jesus as Lord. Yet according to the Word, their profession was an empty profession. They had an understanding of the mind but not the regeneration of the heart. They were void of saving faith and perished in their self-deception. In Luke 6:46–49 Jesus again calls these types of people to account:
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
To call Jesus “Lord” and not remain obedient to His law-word is hypocrisy. It is a hypocrisy based upon secular humanism and self-seeking autonomy. Whenever the ideology of humanism, in any of its shapes and forms, is promoted, either from the pulpit or from the ranks of professing Christians, those proclaiming it must be considered false prophets and workers of iniquity.
Consider the consequences when secular humanism goes unchecked and mutates to become aggressively worldly and carnal.
Secular humanism’s worldliness and sensual carnality is an anti-Christian ideology which is the most prominent ideology of the twenty-first-century world, and now at home in many of the churches. It is a world-loving, moralistic, therapeutic deism that has absolutely nothing to do with the gospel of the Scripture. John is clear in his denunciation of worldly carnality: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him”(1 John 2:15).
To the secular humanist this is offensive language since the world, its carnality and empty promises, is the pinnacle desire of the humanist’s heart. So whenever the law of God warns against this, there is rebellion. The problem that Christians have is that whenever they think of false prophets, they automatically think of men who espouse theological falsities such as falsities against the deity of Christ, the ontological Trinity, the doctrines of grace, and so on. Those, however, are obvious and they are not the only damnable doctrines that are warned against in Scripture. In fact, these heresies are readily identified and shunned even by the professing humanistic Christian. Those who hold these obvious heretical doctrines are of the minority, compared to the false doctrine of and lure of secular humanism. The warning against false prophets also is a warning against those who promote secular humanism in its every shape and form.
As the second generation of Puritans began to move away from their parents’ strict definition of sainthood, church elders were faced with a serious problem of whether or not to admit the adult children into full membership even though they exhibited a worldly disposition. This was called a Halfway Covenant membership. It was clearly a compromise of the Biblical faith. It was this compromise that led to the demise of the fidelity and strength of the church and paved the way for the Unitarian heresy to overtake the church and the culture. The compromise opened the door to humanism which took a firm hold on the culture by the 1700s.
Why is God So Intolerant Against Secular Humanism?
1. It is a declaration of war against God.
Whenever man asserts autonomous authority or opinion over the law-word of God, it is a declaration of war against His legitimate majesty. When men of reprobation, with or without a profession of Christ, opt to do whatsoever their heart tells them, when it is plainly opposed to Scripture, they are telling God that they will not have Him to reign over them. By their rebellious actions, they are actively seeking to destroy the authority of Christianity by subjecting it to a man’s opinion. This is a declaration of war.
2. Secular Humanism is deceptive.
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:11).
The false prophets of humanism often try to convince others into thinking that obedience to God’s law is oppressive. They believe that the warnings against sin, carnality, worldliness, and autonomy are unkind and unloving. They define divine love in humanistic, tainted emotional terms. By doing this they come to the conclusion that whenever the Word of God is preached faithfully, with the thunders and the warnings, it is not the word of love. Yet God’s warnings are the explicit proof that He loves His people. If He warned not, He would not truly love. Whenever love is redefined by autonomous man according to the false prophesies of humanism, Biblical warnings and counsels are seen as austere, hard, unloving, harsh, unkind, intolerant, abusive, despotic, tyrannical, and downright mean. Consider these warnings:
And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the Lord, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass. (2 Chron. 19:10)
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him notwarning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezek. 3:17–19)
Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezek. 3:20–21)
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezek. 33:7–9)
Note how Paul shows that the entire ministry of the saint is one of warning.
Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:31)
To the Corinthians he yokes love with warning for the one is proven by the other:
I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. (1 Cor. 4:14)
He then gives the charge of warning to Timothy as the first part of His pastoral obligation over Christ’s church:
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. (1 Thes. 5:14)
This pastoral charge of warning was given so that the congregation might become mature, steadfast, rooted and grounded in the faith. It was a method of training and discipleship resulting in the congregation’s resolute and tenacious work for the advancement of the Kingdom. Paul’s mission was to warn and then teach every man:
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Col. 1:28)
3. Secular Humanism tears apart the simple as a ravenous wolf.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matt. 7:15)
A wolf does not only kill and devour the sheep, it searches them out and hunts them. It quietly stalks them, patiently watches them, and observes them in order to get as close as possible before striking. If the wolf’s sheepskin disguise looks genuine enough he can successfully mimic the sheep. When finally he gets close enough, gaining their confidence—while they are busy grazing in the field, not watching, not listening, busy with their appetite for the produce of the earth, concerned about their own bellies, blindly going about their own worldly business, concerned only about their own lives—then the wolf strikes. He begins by tearing the fleece. He then tears the flesh. The wolf then goes for the neck, sinks his teeth into the fleshy part until he punctures the jugular, causing the bleed out. It kills the sheep and then proceeds to devour it. This is how the false prophets of secular humanism kill and devour the sheep. They come in by stealth and seduce unto death by bleeding them of their life’s blood.
Moses’ concern for Israel was that once the people settled in Canaan they would be accosted by the false prophets of carnality and sensuality. Over time, if these false teachers were not rooted out, the people would grow weary and the worldliness would wear them down to the point of acquiescence. Moses was warning Israel of the influence of self-adulation and autonomy and at the same time telling them how to combat it.
His answer then is the same as it is now: theonomic Christian Reconstruction, i.e., a reordering of the entire culture according to the Word of God beginning with the individual, then the family, then the church, and then the culture. But the end goal is the culture. Moses had already warned the people to police their own families and to maintain a consistent fidelity within the halls of the Temple. Now it was time to counsel them how to purge the nation.
Let’s look carefully at this dominion strategy, by first dissecting it, and then applying it to our own modern time.
Whenever Israel took over a city in their dominion quest, and heard of false prophets and their teachings in the land, they were to,
1. First, search out the cities in order to ascertain whether or not the report of heresy was true: “Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently” (Deut. 13:14 ff.).
2. The second thing Israel was to do was to take action. They were not to remain idle. There was to be a total and complete removal of the idols, and the false prophets of the occupied land. The land was to be devoted wholly to the Lord. They were to “smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.”
If we are to apply the wording of these commandments to our New Testament age we find that the smiting of the inhabitants with the edge of the sword amounts to condemning the wayward heretics with the law-word of God. Yet this smiting was not a smiting for good but for evil. It was imprecatory. It was not a “Jesus loves you and you need to accept Him” message. The smiting with the law-word of God amounts to imprecatory condemnation in public—Biblical condemnation and public imprecatory prayer. Remember this was a declaration of war by the heretics. They were attacking God’s Kingdom, seeking to destroy God’s people. They were seeking to subdue God’s world by their wicked philosophies. This act of violence demanded an answer of like violence. It demanded an answer of Biblical imprecations. Imprecatory declaration and imprecatory prayer are Biblical tools for the subduing of the enemy.
Next, Israel was then to do away with the idols of that land with fire:
And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the Lord thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again. (Deut. 13:16)
Fire is another term for the law-word of God: “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29). The reference here is to the total destruction of lawlessness. There was to be a total and complete removal of the idols and their ideologies. The land was to be devoted wholly to the Lord.
Moses then tells Israel:
And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers; When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God. (Deut. 13:17–18)
God tells Israel that they are not to listen to the false prophets nor are they to tolerate any of the idols of the land. They were not to hold onto the cursed thing but rather they were to destroy it, so that the anger of the Lord would turn from them. This was the only hope for Israel. If they refused they would be destroyed. If they obeyed, then God would show them mercy and bless the entire nation by fulfilling His covenant commandment to multiply Israel into a mighty and holy nation.
Christian churches must begin both to declare the law of God publicly against the wickedness of the land and prayerfully before the Lord in imprecatory supplications.
David declared in the days of his affliction and threat to the Kingdom of God and the honor of His name:
For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love. (Psa. 109:4)
Note what he asks of God:
Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the Lord continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. (Psa. 109:6–15)
Imprecatory prayers and public Biblical condemnations are only the beginning. There must be an actual rooting out of all heresies. The church must become culturally relevant by becoming politically relevant by voting out wicked rulers who will not uphold these penal sanctions against heresies, and voting in God-honoring men. Rulers are commanded to encourage God-fearing laws and then uphold them. To accomplish this means the people of God must get involved. To get involved means to sacrifice and give to the Kingdom your time and effort. Pressure must be placed upon the pastors who refuse to call the culture and its leaders back to ethical conformity to the law of God. Until Christians resume these godly practices, taking the fight to the enemy, the enemies of Christ will continue to plunder our families, our churches, and our nation.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, To Be as God (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2003), 10, 20, 28, 29, 31.
2. Thomas Boston, Human Nature in Its Four Fold State (n.p., n.d), 94.
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