On Thursday night, NBC Nightly News showed a tweet by Dr. Russell Moore, leader of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, calling the leading religious figure in Donald Trump’s life, Paula White, a heretic. The NBC reporter asked White, “Do you think it is because you are a woman?” “No,” I loudly replied. “It’s because she’s a heretic!” But, of course, no one could hear me in my living room.
Interestingly, the same day, I listened to a free lecture from Reformed Theological Seminary from their History of Christianity I class . I’ve been working through this class on their free app, and Thursday’s lecture was on the Council of Nicaea which produced the Nicene Creed. For many of us, the word heretic is simply a pejorative term. But among the church fathers in the history of Christianity, it had a specific meaning, that someone was teaching a belief in the name of Christ that didn’t match orthodox Christian faith.
But here we have another word, orthodox. What does it mean?
Orthodoxy (from Greek ὀρθοδοξία, orthodoxia – “right opinion”) is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion. In the Christian sense the term means “conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthodoxy
It’s been interesting to study the history of Christianity and the development of the creeds by the early church fathers to combat heresies. The primary ones were around the nature of the Trinity and particularly around the nature of Christ. The more you study it, the more you get how concerning the debate last year over Eternal Subordination of the Son was in terms of the orthodox Christian faith. As a result of this class and that debate, I’ve been using a more discriminating eye as I evaluate what books I do and don’t recommend. For a time, I used some books by conservative men and women whom I now recognize as being fuzzy on the Trinity in a way that would have concerned the church fathers. Because these authors were conservative on gender, I mistakenly assumed they held closely to conservative orthodox faith. But I have found that is often not the case.
I have also met more women equally burdened as I for discipling women in the faith of our fathers, understanding how Scripture led early church fathers to affirm old creeds and how those should still constrain us for today. These women believe that an orthodox understanding of the Trinity and nature of Christ are essential doctrines for Christian women, and their writing and teaching affirm these doctrines.
Which leads me back to Paula White. There are a lot of folks who hold to an orthodox understanding of the faith with whom I disagree on secondary issues. I am presbyterian. I have attended baptist churches in the past, but I also tend to disagree with them about church polity. I have attended methodist churches, but I disagree with them around Arminian doctrine. But while these are big issues, historically, they have been secondary to divisions over the very nature of God. And Paula White operates in a theological system that denies the basic tenets of the nature of God and the Trinity from an orthodox Christian view.
One example is her affirmation of the statement that “Jesus is not the only begotten Son of God … He is the first fruit.” She is either denying the deity of Jesus or elevating believers to deity. She goes on later to say in a CNN interview that she affirms the Nicene Creed. But saying you do doesn’t actually mean that you do. I wonder if she even understands the Arian heresy the Council of Nicaea was called to address?
Some might have a problem with Paula White because of her marriages or because she pastors as a woman. But grievously, not that many understand the problem with her understanding of Christ. But you should. And if you are interested in knowing more theology and history of orthodox Christianity so you recognize among either conservatives or liberals what is not actually the historic Christian faith, I highly recommend the RTS app and the History of Christianity I class by Dr. Donald Fortson. I listen while driving on errands and can usually finish a lecture a day doing so. And, sisters reading this, we need to know orthodox doctrine!