Vol.XIII No.VI Pg.4
August 1976

Those Fatal Steps

Robert F. Turner

At Freed-Hardeman College (1934) President Hardeman made a chapel talk on Psm. 1:1-2. He said walk not by the pool room, nor stand there, nor sit and watch the players. In typical Hardeman fashion, he was telling us to avoid the first steps to a life of delinquency. The Latins have a proverb for it: Obsta Principiis, or, resist the beginnings. Changes in our life, and in the church, come gradually. They often develop with little opposition because we do not recognize the fatal steps to error.

It has been charged that there are. Religious Steps to Atheism but this obviously cannot refer to genuine Christianity. Truth does not lead to error. One must acknowledge, however, a correlation of Heresy, Sectarianism and Denominationalism (abuses of true religion) to current rejection of the church, and to subsequent infidelity and atheism. We seek to define these developments, and determine the fatal steps that lead to each.

HERESY is doctrinal opinion that departs from orthodoxy; automatically assuming a standard. The Jews called Paul a heretic (Acts 24:5, 14) and Christianity a sect — using Judaism as the standard of orthodoxy. But heresy is more than honest difference in religious matters. Vine says it, Denotes a choosing, choice; than that which is chosen; and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion which is substituted for submission to the power of truth... There will always be differing conclusions drawn by honest men as they grow in knowledge, and this alone is not heresy. But babes and adults in Christ must have identical attitudes: be of one spirit one mind striving for the faith of the gospel (Phil. 1:27). When one forgets that God is master of all and allows personal preference or the prospect of advantage (see Vine) to dictate his conclusions, he is soon trapped in heresy. The fatal step is taken when one becomes opinionated and self-willed — loses his cool if he is questioned, or crossed. Heresy is best tested by open Bible study.

SECTARIANISM is kin to heresy, and comes from the same word. It is the party spirit; and a SECT is formed when self-willed and opinionated people are drawn together and allow their conclusions to form the boundaries of their fellowship. This is a cunningly deceptive step, so easily taken. We reason: the true church is that body of people who accept and obey the truth — right? We accept and obey the truth, therefore we are the true church — right? Then, only those who do as we do are members of the true church!! The switch from divine to human standard is made so smoothly that even members of a group called Church of Christ may not recognize its presence. We couldnt be wrong!

Since we must act in keeping with our convictions (Rom. 14:5, 22-23), and honest convictions may differ, some think this is a dilemma. It is not. A true Christian acts, and fellowships, in keeping with his convictions, but remains open for further enlightenment. The Fatal Step toward Sectarianism is taken when we measure ourselves by ourselves (2 Cor. 10:12-f); when the way we do it is substituted for honest Bible study. (continued on next page)