. . . the proper use: a “heretic” is someone whose teachings or beliefs extends beyond legitimate doctrinal difference to “undercut the very basis for Christian existence”. I here quote my friend and former colleague, Harold O.J. Brown’s book, Heresy.Heh, so what do you think: Is Da Vinci Code heretical or is it so far from orthodoxy that it can no longer be called a heretical? I appreciate posts like McKnight's that clarify meaning and language. Kudos to a good post—and the comments are interesting, too.
Most importantly, heresy pertains to the central doctrines of God and Christ. Heresy is established by orthodoxy and orthodoxy was established by the classical creeds (Nicea, Chalcedon, etc). The interactive development of our term then is that interaction of Christians both with Judaism and with doctrinally, dangerous dissent by those who claimed to be Christians (like the gnostics or the docetists).
Here’s the rule on the proper use of the term “heretic” or “heresy”: anything that denies Nicea or Chalcedon, etc., is heretical; anything that affirms them is orthodox. We should learn to use the term for such affirmations or denials.
Example: Atheists are not heretics — they are not advocating the Christian gospel and deviating seriously from it but instead don’t believe in any of it. I once wrote of someone that they were so far removed from orthodoxy they could no longer be called a heretic. We need to see this important clarification: heresy has to do with those who claim to be Christians and are teaching something that fundamentally attacks the entire basis of the gospel.
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them: "I'm here to introduce you to this God.... He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him!" ~Acts 17