1: renunciation of a religious faith
2: abandonment of a previous loyalty: defection
Twice in recent months our elders have been told that our church is headed down the path of "apostasy". Both times that was the word used. We were both amazed and offended by it.
While I fully expect that not everyone agrees with or understands the vision and methods of ministry and outreach we utilize to accomplish the purposes God has for us, to bring a charge of "apostasy" is, indeed, a far stretch and shows a lack of understanding.
Charles Ryrie, a most-respected theologian in evangelical circles, gives the following indicators of apostasy. I'm quoting him in full, so it is rather lengthy, but I also do not want to pick and choose, either.
1. The doctrinal characteristics of apostasy. These include at least three: (a) a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity (1 John 2:22-23 ); (b) a denial of the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ (1 John 2:22 ; 4:3 ; 2 John 7 ). In John’s day this took the form of denying the true and real humanity of Christ, though it also takes the form of denying the true deity of Christ. Rejecting either the Trinity or the Incarnation denies the existence of the God-Man which is essential to our salvation. If Jesus Christ were not a man He could not have died; but if He were not also God, that death could not atone for sins; (c) a denial of the doctrine of the return of Christ (2 Peter 3:4 ).
2. The Lifestyle characteristics of apostasy. Defection in doctrine always brings a decline in morals. Paul lists eighteen characteristics of such declension in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 . They are: love of self, love of money, a spirit of pride, blasphemy, disobedience to parents, lack of thankfulness, lack of holiness, lack of natural affection, unceasing enmity so that men cannot be persuaded to enter into treaties with each other, slander, lack of self-control, savagery, opposition to goodness, traitors, headiness (rashness or recklessness), high-mindedness, love of pleasure, a pretense of worship without godliness of life.
Basic Theology, Chapter 83
That leads me to the following conclusions:
1. Nags Head Church remains orthodox in our beliefs! We have defected from none of the above (or from any articles in our statement of faith, for that matter) and continue to hold a high view of Scripture, Christ, Trinity, etc..
2. Nags Head Church maintains a high view of holiness in the life of the church because we hold individuals in the church accountable for their morals. We still practice church discipline for those who choose to depart from a godly lifestyle.
3. Therefore, we must not be "apostate" nor are there any signs, based on Ryrie's summation, that we are headed in that direction.
4. Criticisms such as "apostasy" that clearly have no merit are typically generated by sources with an extremist agenda (they abound in the media and online), whether it be a mixture of politics and religion or be from the far left or right. The Apostle Paul found himself accused of heresies from within and without Christianity, even in those early years. We should not expect less.
5. Everyone should have access to a dictionary.