Heretics usually fall into the role.
Seldom does a man wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, read the morning newspaper, put on his clothes, and then stare himself in the mirror and say “Today, I shall become a heretic”. Heretics usually start by staring in the mirror and saying, “Today, I shall be a difference maker”.
Consider Sabellius. Sabellius became what is now known as a modalist. He was deeply concerned with maintaining the biblical truth that God is one. He also wanted to maintain the biblical truth that Christ was fully God. These two truths seemed to Sabellius to be neglected. And so he re-emphasized those truths but whilst doing so neglected another important truth; namely, that God is three distinct Persons.
Tertullian responded to the modalists by clearly showing how Scripture presents “one substance consisting in three persons”. But Sabellius was unmoved in his position. He would eventually be condemned as a heretic in 220 AD.
His story is not unique. In fact most who find themselves outside of orthodoxy follow a similar pattern. You can see this same trajectory even in our own day. So if you want to fall into the roll of becoming a heretic here is how it will likely happen:
Step One: Have a desire to be an epic difference maker.
Step Two: Find a truthful doctrine that is being neglected or under emphasized
Step Three: Make your ministry about restoring this precious doctrine.
Step Four: Begin emphasizing this truth to the expense of other equally true doctrines
Step Five: When people begin to question your overemphasis and/or your negating of other truths consider this the price of being an epic difference maker.
Step Six: Continue undeterred. Begin fighting the other that your opponents are emphasizing as if it is actually the error which caused your new found truth to have been underemphasized. (Ex: The reason the Oneness of God was being deemphasized was because of the Trinitarian formula). Find ways, then, to minimize the other truth—or even show that it is an error.
Step Seven: Emphasize your truth and now totally deny the other truth. Congratulations you are now a heretic that has denied a key doctrine of Scripture.
There is another step along the way that is almost always present in the life of heretics; namely, personal sin which corresponds to the newly discovered teaching. The words of Aldous Huxley, sadly, can at times fit professing Christians who begin tampering with sound doctrine:
I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning…The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.
I’ve seen far too many people fall down this slippery slope. I’m convinced it begins on step one. What I see driving more modern heretics than anything else is our penchant for celebrity. With blogging and social media one can move through the seven steps much more quickly than previously. Therefore, it is all the more necessary that we heed the word of 1 Timothy 4:16. “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
You could be the next heretic.
As soon as you start shaking your head and saying, “nah, not me” your moving away from the heart of 1 Timothy 4:16 and onto the path of falling. Diligently watch your life and your teaching. This is non-negotiable.