Pristine Grace

Nine Dishonest Tactics of Heresy Hunters
by Brandan Kraft
Nine Dishonest Tactics of Heresy Hunters

    As a believer, I’ve spent many years reading various authors, various books, and commentaries.   I’ve spoken with dozens of men and women about every seemingly conceivable theological topic you could imagine.  And after nearly twenty four years of operating theological websites and chat rooms as well as hosting a theological discussion forum, I believe I’m experienced enough to write this article regarding the tactics of heresy hunters.  A quarter century of close monitoring of heresy hunters in their favorite environment (the internet) has me battle hardened and weary.  I hope that this paper will be used to help folks avoid the inner heresy hunter, as well as help folks learn how to spot heresy hunters in the wild.

    I’ve addressed the topic of heresy hunting in other articles I’ve written.  While I don’t deny there is a need to point out false doctrine, in my circles, we could do with a lot less heresy hunting.  For the record, I define heresy hunting as a desire to exalt one’s self through the exposure of false doctrine.   This is nothing new, but the internet has given everybody a platform, and so it seems more prevalent today.  It's even more prevalent today in the age of social media, than before in the days of just internet discussion on a bulletin board.  Even back in the early days of the internet, people were kinder and more honest with each other in my opinion.  There is nothing wrong with pointing out error, but it becomes evil when self is inserted into the mix.  And from my experience with the many hunters, pride seems to be the motivating factor.  Sometimes the behavior doesn’t start with pride as the source, but it can lead into to it.  Sometimes the behavior starts with genuine alarm and concern for something that is false.  But then after prolonged exposure of falsehood, the concern for the truth sometimes wanes and the real driving motivator becomes pride.  Once the exposer of false doctrine is patted on the back with praise and honors from other folks in their pack, the feedback loop is introduced which stokes their pride and the behavior starts again; and seeming genuine love of truth wanes and is exchanged for pure pride.  The exposer of false doctrine has then become a heretic hunter, and over time they will become more and more dishonest with others and even themselves.  Admission of wrong doing is often too painful to contemplate, so they continue on the path of battering God's sheep unnecessarily.    And here are some of the tactics they use.

    No. 1: Eisogesis to Build and then Tear Down Straw-men

    I’d say the number one dishonest tactic of the heresy hunter is the building of straw men through eisogesis.  Eisogesis is simply reading into the text something that isn’t there.   It sure is easy to tear down something that isn’t true.  It sure is easy to tear down an argument that the supposed heretic doesn’t even believe!  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve run into not just heresy hunters that use this tactic, but even pastors, from the pulpit even!  Many churches have needlessly split over straw-men arguments.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of being dishonest about what someone else believes.  When straw-men are built up and torn down, that may impress a large number of people.  But the victory is false, and all they have done is exposed themselves as being dishonest.  The heretic hunter is usually not looking for truth, but for something to expose and condemn.  And instead of being truthful with the text of which he is applying his criticism, he reads into it something that he can condemn it for.  Here’s an example:

 “God is merciful to all men."

Heresy Hunter : Here we go again!  John is saying that God is merciful to all men.  He’s a dumb arminian that believes God loved and died for everyone, therefore everyone receives mercy.  I’m so sick of these arminians and their heresy!

“The Gospel is NOT an offer.  It’s a declaration of righteousness only for God’s elect.”

Heresy Hunter:  Aha!  This dingbat says the Gospel is not an offer and that only righteousness is for “the elect.”  He obviously does not believe the Gospel is to be preached to everyone, but only the elect.  He’s a hyper-calvinist!

    These sort of sophmoric responses should be easily spotted by the audience, but sheep are dumb by nature.  They need guidance and they easily fall for straw-men arguments because sadly in many cases, they checked their brain in at the door when they joined a church and agree to listen blindly to everything their favorite preacher says.  Internet personalities also have their gangs of groupies that lap up everything said by said teacher.  People just nod their heads in agreement, and before you know it, they're repeating the same fallacies and attacking other sheep with stupid arguments.

    No. 2:  Poisoning the Well / Association fallacies

    Heretic hunters will often poison the well when exposing people they perceive to be heretics.  Before pointing out something they deem to be heresy, they will first attack the supposed heretic for something completely unrelated.  Examples of poisoning the well:

"Before you listen to this guy, may I remind you that he once spent a night in jail / cheated on his wife / some other salacious scandal."

    The poisoning the well fallacy is often used in conjunction with association fallacies.

"Before you listen to this guy, may I remind you that he has an article from John Wesley on his website. John Wesley was a slime-ball arminian."

    This sort of fallacy is hard to avoid.  People by nature are tuned to judge with their emotions rather than with scripture, and good reasoning.  The association fallacy is one that men carry around with them all the time, and they cannot seem to be rid of it.  It is simply incoceivable to many people that even their worst enemies might have something good to say.  Even a blind squirrel can find a nut, and a broken clock is right twice a day.  But this is not true on the heresy hunting grounds!

    No. 3: Slapping Labels

    Heresy hunters do love to label people.  I sometimes think it’s their favorite hobby.  And to the heresy hunter, nothing feels better than slapping a label on somebody and then condemning them for having that lable, or using it as an excuse to be critical of everything this person says.

"There he goes again!  Brandan is a hyper-calvinist, you can’t listen to anything he has to say."

"Look at John over there!  He’s an arminian, therefore nothing he says can be of any value."

    Instead of slapping a label on someone we disagree with, maybe we should just slow down and listen to what the other person has to say.  Every person is a unique individual, one created and formed by God.  We need to stop trying to shoehorn everyone into nice and neat compartmentalized slots and realize that not everyone thinks the same way or the same thing.  The heresy hunter is not happy killing innocent civilians with his spiteful attacks, but wants to see uniforms on his dead opponents littered on the battlefield.  This way it's justified.  This way the hunter can live with his conscience.  Labels are the speciality of the heresy hunter's weaponry, and every heresy hunter learns to use this basic tactic early in their hunting career.   

    No. 4 : False Comparisons

    False comparisons are often made to sully the name of the preacher or theologian that the heresy hunter despises.  The person that is being hunted is often compared with known false teachers, so their quotes are taken out of context in order to "prove" they are a producer of provocative heretical material.  Charles Spurgeon for example is often a target by many heresy hunters I’ve met online.  They even have websites dedicated to “exposing” all the errors of this man.  Some have gone on to say he’s even a Satanist!  Here is a real example heresy hunters have used.  I just stumbled across this one just before I wrote this article. :

Spurgeon: “We must be born-again from above; the Holy Spirit must, by His Divine Energy, enter into us and make us new creatures, for such a heavenly birth is essential to Eternal Life.”

Heresy Hunter:   "Here Spurgeon combines the biblical teaching of the Holy Spirit entering into us and making us new creatures with the occult/World Religions teaching of Divine Energy.   This is syncretism. Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, while blending practices of various schools of thought.  Other names for "divine energy" are: prana, Universal energy, the energy of life, chi, qui, and more.  Divine energy is found in the occult and world religions--not the Holy Bible.   Spurgeon's constant use of syncretism is conditioning Christians to embrace the one world religion."  - Charles Spurgeon Uncensored

    Notice that the heresy hunter not only unfairly compares Spurgeon to a teacher of the occult, but he takes Spurgeon's words completely out of context, and reads something into them that is not there and thus produces a false implication.  Heresy hunters often take snippets and short phrases to make their point while ignoring the rest of the things their target has said which prove the complete opposite.  While the words “divine energy” by Spurgeon in this quote are not my choice of words to describe how God regenerates a soul, I cannot come to the same conclusion as this heresy hunter, and will think the best of Spurgeon based on other things I've read by him.  In my opinion, false comparisons like these are not only dishonest, they are completely disgraceful, and for anyone, let alone a professed believer, to even associate themselves with this filth should repent in sackcloth and ashes!  I hesitate to even share that link above, as there is so much on that page that is simply revolting.  The trashing of this man's character has been taken to new levels of absurdity and dishonesty!  These heretic hunters, and anyone who encourages this type of malicious slander are guilty of heresy themselves.

    No. 5 : False Implications

    False implications usually go hand in hand with false comparisons.  But the heretic hunter will often condemn an individual for false implications.  While the implications may appear to be real to the hunter, the hunter fails through ignorance or just plain dishonesty to really talk to others and determine what the actual propositions are that one believes.  Here's a very common example:

RC Sproul : I believe Arminians are Christians, barely.  (Source: YouTube)

Heretic Hunter: Aha!  You say Arminians are brothers and that means you think Arminianism is a true expression of the Gospel [a false implication], and therefore you are a heretic!  Don't listen to RC Sproul, he's an arminian.

    Notice how the heretic hunter immediately accuses RC Sproul of believing Arminianism is true, even though RC Sproul has explicitly stated that he does not consider arminianism to be a valid expression of the truth.  Regardless of how one feels about RC Sproul's thoughts on the matter, we must be careful not to be dishonest with his statements.  However, the heretic hunter immediately looks at the logical implications of such a  statement as he perceives them to be, recognizes the apparent error of those implications, and then condemns the person for supposedly having those implications as the actual beliefs of the individual without giving the person an opportunity to explain what he means.  In fact, the heretic hunter doesn't even care to hear what the opposing argument is, he just wants to indict and condemn.  He's not fair to the supposed heretic, and finds him guilty without even giving him a true trial.  The heretic hunter is prosecutor, judge, and executioner!  

    I've said this before, that no matter how famous, powerful, wrong, and truly vile we think our opponent may be, he's still another living and breathing human being, breathed into being by God Himself from the same dust of our own existence.  We are indebted to Christ as redeemed rotten sinners, and therefore we are indebted to him for everything, and for not holding our shibboleths and false implications against us.  We owe it to our opponents to be honest with them and to be merciful and kind with them and avoid putting words in their mouths.  We don't have to hold hands, but we should strive to be seek peace with all men (Rom 14:19).  Part of seeking peace is to be honest  in all of our dealings with the world and with each other.

    No. 6: Sensationalizing Exposures

    The heresy hunter must have an audience!  It’s one thing to look for heresy and just make a note of it for private use.  But most heresy hunters probably can’t help themselves, so they are compelled to display their latest scalps on their social media mantles.  After all, how will damage be inflicted upon their targets unless massive numbers of people are not aware of such salacity?  How will the often ignored heretic hunter be known unless he posts his findings in a sensational video on YouTube with titles like, "My Rebuke of John Macarthur?"  Often, their publishing is just as ostentatious as the heretic they are attacking!  It’s breathtaking to see self-righteous heretics attacked by self-righteous heresy hunters.  

    No. 7:  Crusading

    Heresy hunters use Facebook pages, personal websites, and YouTube videos to make their exposés.  Usually the content will not be focused on positive teaching, but instead on exposure of people deemed as heretics.  Oh, some truth may be sprinkled in here and there, but you have to slog through a lot of rebukes and shock exposure media to get any real meat.   If I encounter media like this, I ignore it now.  This goes hand in hand with sensationalizing.  The crusader will often desire to teach truth, but uses the exposure of heresy as a hook to gain an audience.  This may be due to the fact that the heresy hunter lacks confidence to speak the truth and let it stand on his own.  They use the person they are exposing as a crutch.  Sadly, the heretic hunter needs an enemy to feel good about himself.  Without a crusade, there is no more religion left for the most die hard of heretic hunters.  If they were left alone in the world without anyone to hunt, they'd give up all pretenses of religion.  Crusading is one of the most annoying dishonest tactics the hunters will use, but it's also the one that's most likely to backfire on them.  For the heretic hunting crusader, subtlety is usually not their forté.

    No. 8:  Nit Pickery

    Heresy hunters are nit pickers.  They find heresy in every sermon, article, and every prayer.  Their nit pickery is often cynical and nothing said by their target should be construed as worthy.  If a heresy hunter has it out for somebody, they will go looking for flaws to expose.  This is because they are dishonest people and care only about their appearance before men and nothing for the person they are “exposing.”  They lack love and good will toward other men.  You'd think this constant nit pickery would be enough to lose social media followers and church groupies, but many yet are drawn to it.  

    No. 9: Misuse of Scholarship

    I’ve met a few heresy hunters that lean upon scholarship and their scholarly skills to lob their attacks upon their victims.  They believe that if they phrase their words properly, and present themselves as genuine scholars, then others will take their heresy hunting seriously, even though their scholarship is filled with logical fallacies.  Many have been fooled by false doctrine because it is presented in a scholarly paper or finely worded sermon.  The heresy hunter also uses this technique to indict, twist, and frame an argument that destroys the individual they are trying to expose.  The ignorant will lap it up and think they've been edified.  Shouts of amens, "likes", and shares are glibly cast on social media.   They fail to realize that they've just been conned by a slick salesman who uses fancy words and scholarly skills to destroy their perceived opponent.  

    Conclusion

    There are many more tactics in the arsenal of the heresy hunters.   But I'd say the primary tactic is just plain old dishonesty.  The heresy hunter is not interested in the truth.  Oh, he may seek to wield the truth as a weapon in his pursuits to gain influence and admiration, but his motivations certainly are not driven by a spiritual love for truth and for others.  They are found solely in fleshly pride.   Also note that heresy hunters greatly enjoy digging up dead people and picking at their bones as well as attacking bigger fish that have a larger audience who will unlikely respond to the attack.  It’s relatively easy to make all kinds of false accusations against someone who can’t or won’t fight back.   It's also one of the most dishonest things the heretic hunter does - attacking the defenseless and doing it dishonestly.  It is my opinion that the heresy hunter is a heretic himself who introduces needless quarrelling and causes needless division within the body of Christ.  The Gospel is not seen as something to unite over, but is instead twisted and used in a deviant form to divide the sheep.  If anything is to divide, it should be the Gospel in its pure form, and that between the world and the church — not the dishonest tactics of men motivated by evil pride.