Roger Olson: We Are All Heretics

During a sermon in our Reformed fellowship I was taken aback by a statement made by our pastor who said,

“You know, we need to understand that we all possess some heresy.  There is no way we all have it down perfectly.  We are actually all heretics in some area and until we are open to and humbled by this we will remain blind and never move forward toward the truth.  As Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,’ Jesus replied. ‘But you remain guilty because you claim you can see’  (John 9:41).”

Likewise Roger Olson humbly confessed:

“Everyone harbors some heresy in his or her heart and mind.  The only question is–how serious are the heresies one holds?  Of course, nobody thinks they harbor any heresies (in the sense of theologically incorrect beliefs).

“…I have never met a Christian who was one hundred percent theologically correct. Scratch hard enough and you’ll always find some heresy beneath the surface (if not on the surface).  That’s true for me as much as for anyone else.  If I thought I held no heresies, I’d think I had already arrived at the fullness of truth–something even the apostle Paul did not claim.”

I think this attitude is the beginning of “seeing.”  Each time we cling to being right we make one more step toward being wrong and polarizing the Body of Christ.  Perhaps God set it up so that alone we will never have it all together so that only all together we might have it all.  Maybe it will only be as each of us humbly admits to “being wrong” that we will find what is right, together.  As another adage goes:

“None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Here is a passage from Kathryn Schulz’s book Being Wrong:

“We can’t enjoy kissing just anyone, but we can relish being right about anything…On the whole our indiscriminate enjoyment of being right is matched by an almost equally indiscriminate feeling that we are right…A whole lot of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything…our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient…

Individually and collectively, our very existence depends on our ability to reach accurate conclusions about the world around us.  In short, the experience of being right is imperative for our survival, gratifying for our ego, and, overall, one of life’s cheapest and keenest satisfactions.”

Now I would say that she has us pegged.

But while Kathryn Schulz can observe how we are, and she is extremely adept at nailing it, she does not tell us why we are this way nor what ought to be.  We clearly need to be rescued.  I believe God wants to free us from this perceived “survival” tactic and cheap thrill.  Most devastating of all, it has splintered the Body of Christ into thousands of pieces. But His way is to lead us into the counterintuitive mindset of “being wrong” before we can ever find “being right.” I think this is what is called humility.  If we die to being right we might just “find our lives” by finding The Right and The Truth, and The Life, together.

There is so much in Scripture that magnifies this interdependence upon one another as the Body of Christ.  The call to unity is so prevalent in the Bible that I think we have ceased to take it seriously.  John 17 is Christ’s prayer for our unity and the startling thing is that Jesus declares unity as the number one way the world will know that He is who He said He was and that He is the Savior of the world! So here we are as the Church implementing all these “missional strategies” to save the world and Jesus says that the most powerful and effectual missional strategy known to man is unity.  But we appear to have given up on it and have moved on to human methods and marketing.

So what if each of us surrendered our egos and “heresies” to Christ and took up what is missing in our theology revealed to us in the differing viewpoints in the Body of Christ?  What might that look like?

Now I may be accused of “trying to be right” by simply posting this.  But first, I do believe I am right in saying we are all wrong in some areas!  We must be, for we have not yet reached that unity that Christ prayed for (and thus guarantees will take place btw!)  Second, I have gone through a lengthy process of being confronted with where I have been wrong which has led to a coherent synthesis of many different viewpoints (which up to this point I had pronounced as wrong or even “heretical”).

I have found a cohesive theology where all the Evangelical and Fundamental traditions of the Church contribute a significant and vital voice, TOGETHER.  But I had to squeeze through the narrow gate of “being wrong” to enter.  In other words, we each must give up some old “sacred cows” and at the same time make some “paradigm shifts” to begin forming ONE unified theology.

To illustrate:  If we were standing before representatives from each tradition of evangelicalism where each brother and sister in Christ was proclaiming to us the things they treasure about Christ and the Gospel, at the same time, what would we hear? What if together the message of the Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Missional, independent, whether  Calvinist or Arminian, liberal or conservative, were channeled into one message at one point in time?  What would that message together be?

Would we not hear the following?:

“The Lord is good to all He has made.  He loves all His creation and is The Savior of the World not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  He is also sovereign in His power accomplishing all that He purposes and wills to do. No desire of His can be thwarted and His word shall not return to Him empty.  All whom He loves has been atoned for and therefore redeemed.

He was lifted up in order to draw all men unto Himself with every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. He is a missionary God who is pursuing His creation with relentless love and compassion in order to bless them through His Body.  Therefore God’s purpose of election is to bless us to be a blessing to every nation on earth. 

He is a God of justice which means we are to be about works of mercy and setting things to rights not just bringing consequences to bear upon sin.  His justice is restorative and therefore we are to set about doing justice not getting justice.  God’s kingdom of restoration and “all things new” is one in which we can begin participating in right now as a foretaste and glimpse of what is to come in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

The “last word” of our God is that of resurrection and life not the cross and of death.  Our God is a God of redemption whose purpose is to destroy the works of the devil, conquer the last enemy of Death, reconcile all things to Himself, making all things new in order to be all in all.

He is preparing us all for a day when He will remove the veil from all peoples and will wipe away all tears and prepare a feast of rich food and wine for everyone.  Death will be ended and time will be no more as God will be everything to everyone.”

(From: Psa 145; 1 Jn 4:14; 2 Pet 3:9; Isa 46:10; Job 42:2; Isa 55:11; 1 Jn 2:2; Jn 12:32; Phil 2:10; Gen 12:2; Jonah; Micah 6:8; 1 Cor 15:26; 1 Jn 3:8; Col 1:19; Rev 21:5; 1 Cor 15:28; Isa 25; Rev 10:6) Note the above summary is all from Scripture!

Thus far Roger Olson says he finds Christian universalism “unbiblical and illogical.” But I see rather a cohesive, believable, breath-taking Story of redemption that gives rise to a hope for unifying the Body of Christ like never before!

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  

John 17:20-23


Here is a post script from Peter Hiett on this topic of “being wrong” in order to be right; to find the Truth, the meaning:

We ought to learn one extremely valuable phrase:

“I don’t know.” That’s called, “speaking the truth.”

You are not saved by what you know but by who knows you.

We’ve really struggled with the phrase “I don’t know” ever since the Serpent said, “Hey, do you want to be like God? Do you want to know stuff?” And we chose to know rather than be known. We chose to know about the good, rather than to be known by the good – the ONE who is GOOD.

Peter Hiett, Epiphany: The Creator That Does Not Fail 



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  1. John R. Gavazzonij says:

    Ahh; what a sweet aroma of truth.

  2. John R. Gavazzonij says:

    Paul: “that ye might know WITH ALL THE SAINTS.” Our interdependence has been a note the Spirit has struck in my heart many times in recent years.

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