Last week I described the contemporary Unisex Heresy that manifests itself in a multitude of ways. Another pervasive heresy of our times is the notion that limits Jesus to someone Who is meek and mild, non-judgmental, merciful, compassionate, nice, kind -- to the exclusion of any other attributes and His oft-stated interest in the truth.
This heresy bears a great deal of similarity to an early Christian heresy labeled Marcionism. That heresy rejected the mean, judgmental God of the Old Testament in favor of the nice God of Jesus. In fact, it rejected the Old Testament as canonical for Christians and even denied that Yahweh was God. That heresy has never disappeared. Like so many heresies, it reappears. This one reappears when people read various passages of the Old Testament. Messiah College Professor Eric A. Seibert has written a book, Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God (2009), in which he describes the reactions of his students, many of them believers, to the demanding, vindictive, genocidal, lying God presented in the Old Testament.
I say that the current heresy about Nice Guy Jesus bears a great deal of similarity to Marcionism because the current heresy rejects any image of Jesus where He, like the God of the Old Testament, is judgmental. The heresy rejects accounts of Jesus upending tables, cursing fig trees, calling people to repent, commanding them to avoid lust in their hearts not just fornication with their bodies, and informing them if they don’t avoid sin they will go to Hell -- even if He has cured them of their leprosy, lameness, blindness. He didn’t say “Be perfect, as Your Heavenly Father is perfect,” but as Anthony Ensolen wrote on March 26, He must have said, “Be nice, even as your imaginary deity is nice.” Anyone who adheres to this heresy has simply never read the Gospels. (They are like those who espouse the “spirit of Vatican II” but have never read the documents of the Vatican II Council.) Anyone who adheres to this heresy cannot, in good faith, say the Nicene Creed: “I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ…[Who] will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
The contemporary heretics assert that being compassionate, being “nice,” is sufficient for salvation, and that belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior (savior from what?) and adherence to His commands is not necessary. Indeed, Jesus makes no demands. He makes no judgments. According to this heresy that has become pervasive over several decades, compassion trumps all moral analysis of good and evil, of right and wrong. Father Robert Barron recently addressed this heresy in his January essay, “Why Having a Heart of Gold Is Not What Christianity Is About.” Before that, on October 19, Pope Francis, at his talk at the close of the Synod on the Family, referred to it as a “temptation,” the temptation of “deceptive mercy”:
The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [Italian, buonismo; “do-goodism”], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the do-gooders, of the fearful, and also of the so-called progressives and liberals.
To my knowledge, this heresy has no name. Maybe Deceptive Mercy Heresy would be an appropriate one.
Spero columnist James Thunder is an attorney and syndicated writer.