Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Paul says in Galatians that the person who does not believe this gospel let him be anathema, accursed, that is “go to hell.” What is this gospel? Consider the doctrine of atonement. Does Paul teach penal substitutionary atonement, that is, Christ suffered in the sinner’s place to propitiate the wrath of God where the punishment the sinner deserved is put on, imputed to, Christ? Some say the Bible does teach that, and that is why they reject Christianity (see Randall Rauser’s “The death of Jesus, the rape of a woman and concept called imputation” and comments), while others, the majority of Christians, say that the Bible does not teach that, and that is the reason why they are Christians. If penal substitutionary atonement is in the Bible, the question is, “Is it a damnable heresy?” There is heresy and damnable heresy. James White explains this distinction to a caller on his “Dividing Line” (October 29, 2013; 10 minutes from the end).
Here is my transcript:
(My clarifications are in square brackets).
Caller – How would you define heresy? Michael Brown, on his Line of Fire, describes it as an error that will send them to hell if they believed it.
White: That’s [that kind of heresy is] a damnable heresy. There are damnable heresies and non-damnable heresies. At least in the history of the church, that has been the case. And so a damnable heresy is a heresy that would demonstrate that the person promoting it is not in Christ. It would involve a denial of Christ, a promotion of a false Gospel, etc. indicative of a person who is not a follower of Christ. There are people who would hold to a heresy but are not damned a a result. So, for example, there are Christians, who out of ignorance are modalists [God is not a trinity but takes on alternate roles of father, son, holy spirit]. If the only people going to heaven have a perfect knowledge of the trinity, well, heaven is going to have a lot of space left over. The difference being between a person who knows the truth of what the trinity is and denies it, and a person who does not know what the truth is, and out of ignorance denies those type of things. So, there are all levels of heresy, and some are minor things. I mean you could make the definition that heresy is anything that involves false teaching. Since none of us has a perfect understanding of all things in this life, then we are all heretics on some level. I’ve got blind spots some place and I am going to find out what they re after this live is over. If you make the standard perfection – this is where hyper-Calvinists, hyper-Arminians and hyper people in general fall off the boat is they end up drawing the circle so tightly that they have to stand on one foot to remain in it. Ans so on that level, everyone would be a heretic. So, I think there needs to be some thought put into how exactly you would define these things. I would consider Todd Bentley a heretic. I would consider Benny Hinn a heretic. Their teachings are false and their lives are false. They’re obviously doing this for money, fame, power, they’re robbing the sheep blind, and that’s the kind of heresy unfortunately today in the Charismatic movement you’re not allowed to call that heresy or call them heretics or false teachers, false prophets o anything else because look at all their “fruit” quote unquote.
Caller – How would you distinguish, how would you define blasphemy from these things? Is that just an error?
White – No, well, I mean, the specific term mean to speak against. So, for example, when Jesus speaks of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, not being forgiven in this age or the age to come, the person is guilty of an eternal sin. He says this in the context of all sorts of things spoken against the son of man will be forgiven him but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. The reason for t hat is that the Holy Spirit is the means by which repentance comes…The point is you’re speaking against something. We need to be careful what we identify as blasphemy. It’s pretty easy to rile up your base by pulling out the blasphemy term, but fundamentally from a biblical perspective a blasphemous teaching would be a teaching that is so obviously false tat it speaks against the character and truths of God… For example, being drunk in the Holy Spirit; hat is clearly an attribution to the Holy Spirit of God of activities that are directly contrary and to his character and purposes…We have to be careful that every tine we see somebody doing something that is inappropriate in worship that that necessarily is blasphemous. We have to be very careful. It is certainly a very strong term. It’s been used against me many times by many a person saying “your teaching I blasphemous.” What they mean by his is that they disagree with my teaching. A consistent Arminian [your faith causes God to remove your heart of stone and regenerate you] would find my teaching [faith follows regeneration] blasphemous; in the same way that I would find their consistent teaching heretical. There has to be some specific speaking against the character and attributes of God for that to be an appropriate use of the term. We must be careful when we use it because it’s easy to slip into when we are preaching, you get all riled up, and you’re really convinced that what you’re saying is true.
End of transcript.
Jesus said, as White indicated, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28). The reason why they are guilty of an eternal sin – and thus – eternal damnation – is given in the next verse: —30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Yet Jesus also says that if they do not believe that “I am he” (the Messiah and arguably the divine Son of God as well), this would be a a damnable sin: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24, ESV). Here, Jesus is talking to Jews who “believed in” (falsely) him. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:31-33, ESV). As White says, we all have blind spots. The question, though, remains: “What kind of blindness is damnable and what isn’t? In other words what does a professing Christian have to disbelieve to be addressed like this”
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.