Many people like heresy because they think it is new. They say that standard, orthodox Christianity is dry and boring, while a new take on Christianity is wild and exciting. G.K. Chesterton would laugh at those people. Chesterton compared true Christianity with a man holding on to dear life behind galloping horses, swaying to the left and to the right, white-knuckled and desperate to keep from falling. Heretics, on the other hand, are the ones who have given up and fallen on the side of the road. Their predicament, while more unfortunate, is far easier.
Let me explain. With almost any true Christian belief, there is a balancing act to keep it from falling into a heresy, which is almost always conveniently located on either side of the doctrine. For instance, if someone asks if Jesus feels wrath or love towards sinners, you may be falling into a trick question. The answer is both, Jesus is both the Christ who wept over Jerusalem, and he is the judge who will come back as the final judge of everyone in that city. Now that’s hard to grasp, but it is Christianity.
But, because it is hard to grasp, if you want to remain solidly Christian, your theology won’t be dry and dusty, you will instead find yourself swaying back and forth, desperately trying to hold on to what is true. What is flat and dry is every attempt to get rid of the tension. For instance, you can get rid of that tension by only emphasizing the love of God. Say that God loves everyone unconditionally and that he will never judge anyone and you will get rid of the swaying. But your steadiness will be the stillness of a man who is firmly in the gutter on the side of the road. You have left Christianity.
But there is another way to minimize the tension. You can go the other way, the road I like to call the road of Westboro. This is where you don’t shy away at all from the doctrine of judgment, hell, or punishment, but there is also no grace, no love, and no tears for those who are perishing.This position, like the one above is both stable, consistent, and not hard to hold on to. The only thing that it is not, is Christian. Again, in trying to minimize the swaying, you took a seat in the dirt.
Both of those two options are easy, what is hard is to hold the middle and balance yourself behind the galloping horses. This is why, not incidentally, a lot of error starts not as a problem of doctrine, but rather as a problem in emphasis. Both individuals and churches begin to slide before they leave the orthodox faith. The man who downplays the wrath of God is a few unchecked years away from denying it. This is one of many reasons why community, especially uncomfortable community, is important. You need to be discussing doctrine with people who differ in emphasis from you. They are God’s means of grace to keep you thinking rightly. Because as we try to keep our balance on this precipitous ride called orthodoxy, it will be our conversations with believers who don’t believe like us, our humility, and our corporate commitment to submit to scripture that will keep us from the edge.