By David Ryle
We are, each of us, the inheritors of heresy.
Every child, woman and man is the beneficiary of a prize won through countless demonstrations of heretical heroics and the daring exploits of truth-loving rebels who broke away and ventured out from the flock of accepted ideas, who willingly endured shame, punishment and death for the sake of a truth others held to be false. Our forbears, our Great Ones have always been those who struck out, alone (for a time) to lead us in that great desert-parade into the Unknown, the Other-Than.
The better part of our present understanding, knowledge and wisdom is hand-me-down heresy. It is a robe of many colors, custom-made by generations of heretic-tailors, each adding some new color, some new hue, some new pattern which was not only considered unfashionable at the time, but the damnable ruination of the entire garment.
Those things we hold to be true, which we consider to be self-evident, are accepted as orthodox because that is how they are presented to us. They are seldom appreciated for the acts and words of defiance once required to purchase them. Taking them for granted, we handle lightly many ideas and understandings that were bought with blood and refined in the flames.
We all like to think we are the standard-bearers of a timeless, unchanging Truth. But we aren’t. We are the heirs of heresy. No one who says the Earth is round can deny it. No Protestant; no Catholic; no Christian; no Muslim; no Jew; no child of Abraham- who left all that he knew, including the gods of his own family, the god of his limited understanding, to venture out into the Great Beyond of Life with God- no descendant of his could say otherwise. It would be very difficult to give a full estimation of just how much you and I benefit from what once was considered wrong, erroneous, false, misleading or in any other ways heretical.
So, here we are. And here is the question: have we reached the end of understanding? The limit of knowledge? Can we define God? Or is there more to be revealed? If so, is there any way for us to break out of the accepted norms of our limited understanding without the aid of heresy? I don’t think so. Do you hate me for saying so? Will you burn me at the stake for suggesting it?
I have ideas of a God Who transcends all of my previous notions. I have a suspicion that if I revealed what I know in my heart to be true, my dear friends would make quick work of readying the furnace. There is something at work in the world, a hunger and a thirst that will tease the truth from your lips and then lovingly drive nails through your hands and your feet.
But I am unafraid. I am happy with my heresy, though slow to speak on it. It needs to ripen on the vine before it is crushed and the seed falls into the ground to die. And you have your truth, too, you heretic.
Will you be faithful to it? Will you be a witness? Will I?
David lives and serves at New Jerusalem Now, a spiritual recovery community in Philadelphia, where he cultivates friendship, garden vegetables, and the occasional heresy.