Let’s meditate a little more on the danger of unholy hatred towards heretics. I believe that the parable of the Good Samaritan was not merely intended as a good example of how we are to relate to one’s another, but was a rebuke to the Pharisees who fancied themselves as orthodox and prided themselves in this supposed orthodoxy. They were certainly not orthodox, as Jesus points out, since they added their manmade traditions to scripture and sought to justify themselves according to works of the Law, but Jesus, in his preaching, convicts us by cutting us to the heart and getting at our idols.
Like most of Jesus’ most important teachings, I believe the parable of the Good Samaritan is both misunderstood by liberals and conservatives, and is intended to be a scandal to them both. Contra liberals, Jesus is not rebuking the Pharisees for an inordinate concern with orthodoxy by telling the story of a Samaritan heretic whose good intention indicated that he was a member of the Kingdom of God despite his incorrect doctrine. Jesus certainly cared a great deal about doctrine, rebuking the Pharisees for adding to scripture and the Sadducees for taking away from scripture.
Jesus had no tolerance for heretical bibliology and would not have tolerated the doctrine of the Samaritans any more than he did the Sadducees or the Pharisees. What we ought to take away from this is that this is quite a scathing rebuke against the Pharisees who prided themselves on what they believed to be orthodoxy and yet had no practice to show for it. They were not orthodox, as we have said. But their idolatry was orthodoxy. Wemust keep in mind that what makes idolatry so seductive and difficult to combat is precisely that an idol is oftentimes something inherently good that we abuse. Orthodoxy is not bad. On the contrary, it is one of the most important things in all the world. But it is possible to pervert the function of orthodoxy such that we see it as the only important thing, and practice as irrelevant. We must not think that Christianity is nothing but the construction of adequate mental models for our doctrines and syllogisms for our arguments.
I believe what we ought to take away from the parable is that a preoccupation with orthodoxy at the expense of orthopraxy makes us practical heretics because it shows that we do not really believe what we preach. Practice indicates what a person really believes. Yes, monergistic Christianity is alone orthodox Christianity but if it does not result in practce, in this case, loving one’s neighbor as oneself, then it shows that we do not really believe what we say and are no less heretics than Mormons or Roman Catholics.
Indeed, one could take the parable of the Good Samaritan and transpose it to the modern day and turn it into something like the parable of the good Mormon or of the good Roman Catholic. What a thing to tell to an audience of Calvinists. The point would not be that the Mormon or the Roman Catholic has demonstrated that he is a member of the Kingdom of God because of his orthopraxy and that his unorthodoxy does not matter or that he is not excluded in spite of this unorthodoxy.
We must be very clear that doctrine is of deadly importance. I can guarantee that unless my interlocutor is a conservative, Presbyterian covenantal Calvinist, I will offend said person deeply at some point in our friendship by my intolerance of their errant doctrine. I may also do so unlovingly, but my point is precisely that if I do so unlovingly, I sin grievously and defame the name of the orthodox doctrine I love and turn others away from it when I would have the world embrace it. We ought to do the one, believing correct doctrine, without neglecting the other, loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
I hate Mormonism and Roman Catholicism very passionately. I have sometimes, probably more often than not, been more fleshly than godly in my expression of my hatred for these things. I must love my Mormon neighbor and my Roman Catholic neighbor as I am already loving myself. We must once again make sure that our anger is not motivated by pride at having correct doctrine, fancifying ourselves as intelligent because our doctrine is good and the other stupid because his doctrine is not, that our opposition to the heretics does not find its expression in a spirit of revenge resulting from having been hurt in the past, and so on.