Apostasy Vs. Heresy…What Does It All Mean?

I get into a lot of…um…“discussions” with those who disagree with my use of the words “Apostasy” (apostate) and “Heresy” (or heretic) when I call out the false teachers of the day and their false doctrines. I thought I’d take the time to memorialize the distinctions between the two (or four) terms, and defend my continued use of them. Plus, I figure I could just forward this article as an answer to future criticism instead of having to type it all out again…

In his book “The Truth War”,  John MacArthur explains what an apostate is:

An apostate is therefore a defector from the truth—someone who has known the truth, given some show of affirmation to it, perhaps even proclaimed it for a while—but then rejected it in the end. The typical apostate may still purport to believe the truth and proclaim the truth; but in reality he opposes the truth and undermines it. He is a traitor to the faith and secretly an enemy in the Truth War. But he wants everyone to think otherwise. Most apostates seek to remain within the church and actively seek acceptance among the people of God. Because everything they do undermines faith and corrupts the truth, such people pose a grave danger to the health of the flock—even though they usually bend over backward to appear friendly, likable, and pious. That is why Jesus compares them to ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15)

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines the word “apostasy” as:

An abandonment of what one has voluntarily professed; a total desertion of departure from one’s faith, principles, or party; esp., the renunciation of a religious faith;

And it states that an “apostate” is:

One who has forsaken the faith, principles, or party, to which he before adhered; esp., one who has forsaken his religion for another; a pervert; a renegade.

Likewise, Webster defines the word “heresy” as:

An opinion held in opposition to the established or commonly received doctrine, and tending to promote a division or party, as in politics, literature, philosophy, etc.

And it states that a “heretic” is:

One who holds to a heresy; one who believes some doctrine contrary to the established faith or prevailing religion.

Many argue that using these words is “inflammatory” and “vile rhetoric” – hearkening back to the early church when folks were burned at the stake.

The truth is that based on the technical definition of the words, the terms “heretic” and “apostate” are rightly applied to Carlton Pearson, Oprah, the pope, many (if not all) Word of Faith false teachers and pulpit pimps, and anyone else who blatantly twists the Word of God and the doctrines of our faith to suit their fleshly purpose.

So there you have it – if we sincerely believe in the concept of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), then we can’t be afraid to call a spade a spade – even if it ruffles a few feathers.

***hat tip to defending contending for the MacArthur quote***


4 Responses to “Apostasy Vs. Heresy…What Does It All Mean?”

  1. 1 escapeetoo June 27, 2008 at 9:19 am

    ST-Good post! Apostasy and Heresy are at the root of most, if not all, pulpit pimps and club owners. Most of them “start out” in the path of truth but at some point, either conscientiously or un-conscientiously slip into darkness. I saw this first hand at Club Hustle & Flow. Slowly over time as the Club owner got more and more popular so did his lack of humility to the word of God. Slowly I saw him get puffed up and slip into apostasy.
    But there is hope even for him. The word of God says in
    Proverbs 16:4

    “The Lord works out everything for His own ends. Even the wicked for a day a of disaster.” (NIV)

    Thank God that He humbles us and our humility allows us to approach Him. Every heretic will have his or her humility moment.

  2. 2 speaking truth June 27, 2008 at 9:38 am

    I agree brother – the Lord does work everything out and He knows who the sheeps and goats are, so we’ll eventually find out which one our former pimp really is.

    Eventually, the words “heretic” and “apostate” will become like badges of honor worn proudly to illustrate the “deeper revelation” that these wolves have “discovered”.

  3. 3 Douglas K. Adu-Boahen June 27, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Great stuff, ST! I used to be confused regarding the two, untl my pastor set me straight, so it’s great to see someone clarify it for others.

  4. 4 david June 29, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    this is the time that the people will have itching ears and hate the truth, but this the time of seperating sheep from the goats, those who are his are coming out from among them, his sheep hear his voice and will not follow the voice of strangers they run, jeremiah loved the people of the lord of host so much the lord had to put him in a ditch so he would not stand between the wrath of the lord and the people, most people would be shocked that the lord said that their are times that you do not pray for them because he will not hear you, most would still in rebellion pray causing the wrath to come on them, the great falling away is slowly happening, we should be in the beginning of the fifth seal, but the fullness of the gentiles are not complete yet, but it is almost to dark to work, just about time to go into the house to shut the door, for the truth i have been put out more than once, and seperated from, the world knows that the time is short, on the commerical they are crying to the lord just for a little bit longer let me be my self, most of the church knows that women are not teach and preach to men, but as the catholic church said the church was above the holy scriptures, that is christianity, the ones that say they are like christ, messiahs, i have not met one that was a christian that by his stripes i could get healed by, but i have seen many that worship him with their mouths and their hearts are far from him, but those that are his are sealed, and dont have to worry about falling, faithful is he that promised to keep you from falling, that one thing that will seperate you is unbelief, those that are his are working for their crowns not worrying about sin, BECAUSE YOU ARE DIED, BLESS OUR JESUS, if you are died, i never saw died people make decisions, and one cried to another, holy, holy, holy,is the lord, all the earth is full of his glory, amen and amen

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