7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you.
The great theologian Thomas Oden died a couple of months ago. His passing is a great loss. One of the interesting things about Oden is his testimony, a testimony I first heard when he came to lecture at Southwestern Seminary when I was a student there in 1997. Oden’s story was one that saw him go from a Christian upbringing to becoming a radically liberal and skeptical movement theologian to coming back to orthodox, biblical Christianity. As a result, Oden had a deep understanding of the seductive power of heresy and how otherwise faithful Christians can be pulled into it. One of the observations that he made was the perceptive point that modern theological liberalism has simply gotten rid of heresy as a category. In other words, it is impossible to be called a heretic in the modern leftist seminary or university because heresy is simply not seen to exist in that world. Here is how Oden put it:
It seems worth noting that the liberated seminary at its zenith has finally achieved a condition that has never before prevailed in Christian history: Heresy simply does not exist. Christian doctrine and catechesis after long centuries of struggle against heresy, have finally found a way of overcoming heterodoxy altogether, by banishing it as a concept legitimately teachable within the hallowed walls of the inclusive multicultural, doctrinally experimental institution. This is an unexcelled accomplishment in all the annals of Christian history. It seems to give final expression to the quest for the flawless community.
No heresy of any kind any longer exists. You cannot find one anywhere in the liberated seminary – unless, perhaps, you might consider offenses against inclusivism. There is absolutely no corruption of Christian teaching if under the present rules all notions of corruption are radically relativized. Not only is there no concept of heresy, but also there is no way even to raise the question of where the boundaries of legitimate Christian belief lie, when absolute relativism holds sway.
It is like trying to have a baseball game with no rules, no umpire, and no connection with historic baseball. Yet we insist on calling it baseball, because a game by that name is what most people still want to see played.”