Craig Blomberg on heresy

Craig Blomberg has an intriguing article entitled “The New Testament Definition of Heresy (or When Do Jesus and the Apostles Really Get Mad?)” (pdf). I greatly appreciate Blomberg for several reasons, mostly for both being what I regard as a orthodox evangelical of great integrity who also resists the group-think of many in those circles.

He concludes his article with the following summary:

The collection of false teaching and immoral behavior that NT authors most strongly oppose is an interesting one. A strong insistence on both the full deity and the full humanity of Christ naturally appears. Salvation by grace through faith, countering all forms of legalism, nomism, and ethnocentrism, proves central, but one must submit to the resurrected Jesus as total Master (Rom 10:9–10) and exhibit the fruit befitting repentance. The only absolutely crucial eschatological tenet is the fact of Christ’s still future, visible return. With respect to what systematicians usually include under “sanctification” appears an insistence on keeping security and perseverance in balance, and on avoiding the twin errors of defeatism and triumphalism, including in its extreme forms perfectionism. After that, one is hard pressed to find further absolutely central theological tenets for which NT writers strongly contend.

At least as crucial as correct theology is correct behavior. The NT strongly opposes antinomianism, immorality more generally (especially in its twin, opposing manifestations of asceticism and hedonism), and a factious or a divisive spirit. It insists that stewardship of one’s material possessions functions as “exhibit A” of the good works that must necessarily flow from the life of one truly redeemed. It consistently places morality above ritual, an observation that should address us loudly in the current evangelical “worship wars”!

Our inspired authors clearly oppose non-Christian religions and their practitioners, but their dominant strategy is to call them to repentance via making the gospel as winsome as possible. The harshest rhetoric is almost always reserved for the ultraconservative religious insider who transgresses key boundaries, especially leaders who should certainly know better. By way of contrast, the last century of American evangelicalism has majored on creating extensive doctrinal statements to separate itself from outsiders, usually adding numerous adiaphora to more central matters. The ETS is a rare exception but, paradoxically, our doctrinal statement lacks any requirement for salvation. And when evangelical “lifestyle” statements have addressed ethical concerns, the lists have often proved quite different from NT vice and virtue lists.

In short, our tendency has been to fight our fiercest battles at the theological periphery of evangelicalism, where we believe the limits of tolerance have been exceeded. We rarely ask who in our midst may be equally misguided (and possibly even more dangerous) because they have drawn the boundaries too narrowly rather than too broadly. As Arland Hultgren’s survey of the earliest eras of Church history reminds us, one can become heretical by being either too broad-minded or too narrow-minded.

Personally, I think it would be helpful to build on Blomberg’s survey by trying to elucidate the inner logic which connects the “essential” doctrines listed there, and which equally distinguishes those doctrines from non-essentials. If we could do that, we might be on our way towards a more complete answer to my question here.

Further, due to my own interests du jour, I’d like to see if there are any submerged (or not so submerged) connections between what is categorized as heresy in the NT and what is condemned on an equal level in the OT.