Which is worse: a heresy of doctrine or heresy of behavior?

image from www.shirtcon.com In response to a thoughtful comment left on my recent post about the wild ride of the blogosphere  regarding Rob Bell's new book, I offered the following reflection— And please understand that this is a reflection in progress.   It is not a perfect propositional or systemic position by any means—:

(March 2, c. 9pm):  "Some close friends have told me that a quick read of my blog could make it appear as if I am encouraging a lack of accountability for orthodox truth. This certainly is not my intent.

And in fact, over the last 24 hours I have begun to pray through a couple deep questions to which we should all be held accountable: 1) Which does God value more, a right doctrine or right behavior? 2) If it is possible to have a heresy of doctrine, then is it also possible to exhibit a heresy of behavior?

As I work through these two questions in consideration of Scripture, I'm [wondering if perhaps] true doctrine is married with true behavior… and vice versa. Perhaps they go together. In other words, godly doctrine will never be devoid of godly behavior, nor will truly-right behavior ever be devoid of truly-right doctrine. Faith without works is dead = Demons believe the truth about God, but reject him. Pharisees with solid doctrine but improper behavior were scorned by Jesus. And yes, false teachers must be corrected. Good Samaritan, + Matthew 25, etc. Seems that doctrine and behavior go hand in hand.

Atheist-cartoon So we have found ourselves in the "Christian" blogosphere with someone whose doctrine is very presumably incorrect but whose Christian behavior has been for the most part kind and loving towards others (he's not perfect I know)… AND we also have many people whose doctrine is perhaps "correct" but whose behavior in the process has been at times inappropriate, if not wicked. This is the theme of my blog post– We lose our voice if our doctrine is not married to behavior. Doctrine, true orthodox historical doctrine, is never segregated from true orthodox behavior.

Having said all that. I'm as guilty on both counts as anyone I know. Thanks be to God for Romans 5:8."

——– I post this comment now because it has become my frame to discuss both the doctrinal and behavioral issues overwhelming the current debate of Bell's forthcoming book.  Simply, I long for each us to pursue right doctrine and right behavior.  In God's eyes, I'd really like to avoid a heresy of either one.

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

4 thoughts on “Which is worse: a heresy of doctrine or heresy of behavior?

  1. Great to dialogue with you on this subject, CZ. Those passages are profound in this situation. Thank you. I read and re-read 1+2+3 John this morning. Great guidelines for doctrine+behavior in those letters…

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  2. Thank you Ken for your post. After I commented on your previous post re the Rob Bell fuss I was thinking about two scriptures; John 17, Christ’s high priestly prayer, specifically where He prayed for His church to be one as He was one with God. And then Luke 7:47 where Christ was speaking to Simon the Pharisee and He said, “But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” I think the verses speak for themselves. I cannot add anything further.

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  3. great word Ken.. lets do as Peter suggests…
    GRACE (Heart/Actions), KNOWLEDGE (Head/Doctrine)
    2 Pet 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen”

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