Error: On the Deceit of Falsehood
“Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself” (St. Irenaeus of Lyon).
Throughout the centuries of Christianity’s existence, God has called the Church to defend the truths of the gospel against heresy. Heresy is a problem because it divides the unity of our Lord’s body. It creates schism, and it promotes the dissemination of misunderstanding. Heresy gives non-believers the impression (perhaps the truthful impression) that Christians do not have the necessary humility to cooperate with each other. In sum, heresy destroys the justice and the peace of God’s kingdom.
How are we to counteract the heresies of our day? I have a few suggestions, and I’d love to hear what you think, too.
1) “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Before we even begin to critically question the beliefs of others, we must examine our own beliefs and our own intentions. For instance, I ask myself, “Am I arguing for the sake of argument, for my own sake, or for Christ’s sake?” An honest answer to this question may reveal that we need to speak to Christ about a given situation before we take action. If it is not God’s will for us to intervene, then we should not intervene. However, it may be the case that our Lord is telling us to stand up for our beliefs, in which case we should prepare ourselves in prayer and then respond according to God’s intentions for us.
2) “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1). Many times, adherents to heresy will disguise their false teachings beneath a web of eloquent speech or sentimentalism. Typically, the opposing argument will run in one of these two directions. If the other person uses big words or subtle arguments, then try to lead that person to deconstruct his or her argument to its roots. In this manner the bare fallacies will reveal themselves. One way of facilitating this deconstruction is by asking lots of questions. These questions may prompt him or her to reconsider a given premise. Additionally, a thorough round of questioning will demonstrate whether or not the “opposition” truly understands the issue at hand. If the other person resorts to a sentimental interpretation to support his or her false beliefs, then remind that person that religious truths are not dependent on feelings. Whether I feel God or whether I do not, God is present with me. Whether I feel justified or whether I do not, God alone will decide whether or not I am justified. Feelings are not enough. Truth transcends our feelings.
3) “Love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4). Reaching a resolution or a conversion may take time. Do not lose heart. Seek knowledge in the faith, pray for humility and for the other person, and persevere in the hope that comes from God. Heresy is a serious problem, so it requires a serious plan of action. In time, the truth of God will prevail, but we must trust that he will do the heavy lifting in his own good time.
May God bless all who defend the faith. May he ignite a passion for truth within the hearts of his chosen people.