I call it that because it’s an accurate description … and because “A Generous Orthodoxy” was already taken.
I’m not going to attempt to defend it; only to propose it. Or, rather, to quote it:
I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be (or “will have been”) bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be (or “will have been”) loosed in heaven.
The heresy is in my interpretation. It comes from my hermeneutic that maintains there may be more than one correct/right/valid way to interpret a given passage of scripture; that scripture may have many complex layers, given the complexity of the One who reveals it and the creatures He created.
In this quote from Jesus (Matthew 18:18), the burden for making some decisions within the fellowship of believers seems to rest upon believers. It does not say, “Whatever God binds and looses in heaven, you had better be absolutely certain that you perfectly understand and inerrantly bind and obey on earth.”
It just does not say that.
The context is Jesus’ teaching on teaching children well; on handling conflict; on forgiving others – all in answer to the question “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
(Insulting question on its face, isn’t it? Especially to ask of the One who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.)
But the answer seems to be that those who are bold enough to live Christ-like lives are given the authority within that kingdom to exercise judgment … judgment about what is right and what is wrong – not about who is right and who is wrong. Because this enigmatic quote is sandwiched between the admonition to go to a brother who has sinned/or has something against you – and in two or three agreeing to ask God to do something for them.
Am I imagining it, or is this all connected? Not just a dissociated grouping of various sayings by the Master, but an ongoing thought:
Somebody has a problem with someone else. They get together. One is stubborn. The other brings friends who validate his point of view. If the stubborn one remains stubborn in the matter before the whole big group, the others are to turn away from him. What they have decided – binding or loosing – will be (or already will have been) decided the same way in heaven. Because God will listen to those two or three and decide that way.
Given the fact that the original language can be interpreted in two different tenses, I even see the tinge of meaning that the God who was, who is and who is to come rules on the matter from the perspective of eternity.
Does that mean that eternal law is cast in that decision?
What happens when two different sets of two or three agree on points of view that as far from each other as the east is from the west?
Does God bind their belief on the ones they have gone to and spoken to about this matter? Does He require them to follow their siblings’ belief even though they do not hold it?
Or does God bind belief on the one who holds it?
That, to me, is the gist of Romans 14 – that our instruction isn’t to go imposing our beliefs on other brothers and sisters, but to try to avoid offending their consciences while remaining true to our own. That God holds us responsible for remaining faithful to the beliefs we hold, not that they hold. That there are some things that are just simply a matter of conscience.
Eating meat sacrificed to idols is apparently one of those things. Participating in ritual sex with a temple prostitute is not.
Maybe that’s why the Spirit’s support for the resolution of the Council at Jerusalem seems so tepid in Acts 15. The letter goes out from the council phrased “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us ….”
Was that because the Spirit was in favor of half of the measure – forbidding fornication – but was not interested in passing church law on matters that were primarily Jewish kosher food and sacrifice customs? Matters that were moot, since Christ put animal sacrifice to death and since sacrifice to pagan gods was empty ritual because those gods were imaginary?
If that’s so … how many times have we as Christians made our walk with Christ much more difficult by binding items of belief on ourselves that Jesus never intended us to bear? Are our consciences so burdened with nonessential beliefs that we’ve bound our own hands and hearts to do good in His name?
I’m thinking about stuff that has passed for doctrine within my lifetime, folks … and some of it that still passes for doctrine, even though they’re things that scripture doesn’t even mention.
I’m thinking about forbidding charity to missionary societies, orphan homes, Bible camps and anything else that smacks of “cooperation.”
I’m thinking about requiring accountability partners, multilayered church authority hierarchies, signatures on documents of commitment, attitudes of being 100 per cent “sold-out” 24/7.
I’m thinking about forbidding applause, hands raised in worship, new songs, old songs, solo voices, musical instruments, silent contemplation.
I’m thinking about a few dozen other things that have absolutely nothing to do with preventing or guaranteeing our closeness to God through His Son.
But most of all, I’m thinking about a mindset that requires explicit, detailed authority and permission (referenced from isolated book, chapter and verse) for everything that God supposedly wants us to do as being a very damned convenient excuse for not doing anything at all.
Pardon my French, but that’s the word that comes to mind … because if God does bind these very restrictive beliefs – good, bad or indifferent – on a Christian, then the least violation of that voluminous rulebook is an act of self-condemnation. (Isn’t that the very kind of thing Jesus was talking about when he said the Pharisees were eager to bind on others a lot of rules they had no intention of keeping themselves, nor in helping others keep?)
And if they are so bound on earth – and manage to remain true to those beliefs – does that mean that they would remain bound to them in heaven?
Wouldn’t that take some of the life out of the party both here and hereafter?
The point, to me, is that a lot of our self-devised rules are pretty arbitrary. They serve to separate, not to unite. They do so by creating castes of “I’m better than you” folks who can live by those rules and look down on those who don’t; who can preach them into hell for their infidelity. They create super-apostles versus lesser believers who can never feel confident of their faith. They foster an “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude that is totally inconsistent with the truth – that we are all wrong, and only Jesus is right.
You see, I’m not sure that Matthew 18 is entirely about the proper procedures for handling conflict between brothers.
I’m thinking it might also be good tongue-in-cheek advice for how not to impose your fifty-volume perfect-bound personal rule book encyclopedia on someone else: Just leave them alone. Let them struggle through their own challenges, not yours. Because if you love them, you can’t possibly excommunicate them forever, based on your imperfect knowledge and your imperfect judgment.
C’mon. Can you really picture Jesus saying, “… treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” without a hint of a smile playing at the side of His mouth? The One who came from heaven to redeem pagans and to call tax collectors to follow Him?
Is it possible that the struggle to determine and dedicate one’s self to what is right is far more important than being eternally right about the details of rules and regulations? Wasn’t it Jesus’ consistent teaching that the Pharisees and Saducees had found God’s own rules insufficient and lacking, producing volumes and layers of their own interpretation and legislation to complete the deficit?
Didn’t He say that we will be judged as we judge others?
Wasn’t it for freedom itself that He set us free … not to live lawlessly, but in love with Him and each other?
Isn’t all of that the heresy that He instigated with regard to man’s view of God’s Word, which is Himself?
Ain’t it called grace?