Many, if not most, Christians today will tell you that Christianity is primarily about “believing ideas about God, Jesus, etc.” To be a Christian, for many, actually means to believe those things. Of course, Christians will disagree as to which list of beliefs are essential and which are secondary (“open hand”). But, the basic idea that Christianity equals beliefs seems to be pretty common.
But, the irony is that when you start talking to active, card carrying, tithing church members, it seems that most don’t actually believe all of the things that their churches have told them that they should. Most people have many other primary reasons for being a part of a church, rather than because they “believe” it gives them access to “the truth.” This is most painfully clear with a branch of Christianity like the Catholic Church where the leadership “believes” that birth control is sinful while its members almost unanimously use it. I think if you could actually get most Christians to be honest about the “essential doctrines” like the Trinity, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and so on, a similar disconnect would be much more apparent. Which actually creates a very strange scenario, where the majority of those who are supposed to be “in” might actually be considered “out” by the Deciders (if people actually felt comfortable having these kinds of conversations).
I’ve argued in many different ways recently why I think this whole approach to Christianity is misguided.
The more original, radical (“at the root”) use of the word heresy simply means “to choose.” My first point here is that if anyone believes the creeds, they have chosen to do so. That sounds pretty simple. But, many times the argument for creedalism is made that these things are simply “given” and all the “believer” must do is “accept” them. As if these things simply fell out of the sky. As if they actually exist somewhere in the universe, and our responsibility is to “discover” them. Of course, that is ridiculous. But, I don’t think many people consider that if one believes something to be true, they have chosen to do so. And, this makes each individual responsible for the things that he or she chooses to believe. In this sense, everyone who believes anything is, by definition, a heretic. I think the dichotomy between “those who choose to believe” and “those who simply accept what is true” is a false one. There are very few “givens” in the universe; Christian doctrines certainly don’t belong in that category.
In this new age of Christianity, I believe that the choice to commit to the propositional statements contained in the creeds is actually, in another sense, heretical. The second, most common, use of the word heresy is holding opinions contrary to the orthodox beliefs of the church. If “the new orthodoxy” is a description of the trajectory of ones life, rather than a list of beliefs that one adheres to, then putting those beliefs above ones way of life is “the new heresy.”
To be a faithful Christian, a radical Christian, in this new age is to reject creedalism.