Wednesday, June 05, 2019

When Someone Is Said to Be Divisive

Most of the time when someone is said to be divisive, it isn't the person who is divisive.  Don't get me wrong.  Some people are divisive.  But most of the time, it isn't a person who is dividing.  Stay with me.

Scripture talks about divisive people.  It is the heretic of Titus 3:10-11.
A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
The term heretick isn't in scripture that much.  It's a word thrown around quite a bit though, usually, I've found, as a pejorative, calling someone a "heretic."  In fact, and I've written about this a few times on this blog, a heretic is a divisive or factious person.  That is who it is in Titus 3:10-11.

I've pastored for 33 years, one year in seminary and 32 years in California since starting the church here, and I've seen the violation of Titus 3:10-11 in a church, like Titus 3:10-11 read.  Factious people enter into a church and cause division.  Usually it isn't doctrinal, but personality based.  Someone doesn't want to do what he's told or fit into the body.  The whole church wants to remodel the kitchen except for one vociferous personality.  Sometimes one person is a regular critic of leadership and it drags everyone down.

The main kind of heresy in a church is personality and pride.  Someone doesn't want compatibility with everyone else.  He wants to stick out and make it about him.  In the few usages of heresy, doctrine also divides.  Someone will divert off the path of truth and try to take people with him.  This could be a perversion of the Trinity, inerrancy, or the gospel.  I think that is the usage of Acts 24:14:
But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.
When the word "divisive" is used today, I don't see it mainly as almost ever used in a scriptural way, either way.  When someone says that you're divisive, they aren't using it according to scripture.
I read this retweeted in a twitter feed, and it's something I've been talking about for years.  The "divisive" one, the heretic, is the one who divides off biblical and historical doctrine.  Just because there is "division" doesn't mean that someone is being divisive.  If I point out unbiblical doctrine, I'm not being divisive.  It's the person who has moved off or from biblical and historical doctrine who is divisive.  Usually it's something new.

After Riccardi got my attention with this tweet, I read another one he made within the same week that dovetails.
When God confronted Adam and Even for their sin, God wasn't the divisive one.  It is at least a wrong viewpoint.  Jesus came to bring a sword (Matthew 10:34).  In other words, Jesus requires separation based upon doctrine, but He's not the cause of the division.  Adam and Even caused the division.  I want to add to Riccardi's thoughts, because here is how I've seen this claim of division occur the most.  I'm going to use the second person to speak to you.

Scripture stands as authority.  You divert from scripture.  However, you want acceptance.  When you don't get it, you say someone is causing division with you.  You don't want to face biblical division, what Jesus brings and requires, so you pervert and confuse biblical division with a wrong kind of division.  You are calling biblical separation, heresy.

A genuine Christian doesn't want to cause division, since unity is important to God.  God requires unity.  This instinct not to divide is reflected by Paul's writing in 1 Corinthians 12:25, "That there should be no schism in the body."  Schism is the wrong kind of division that is being accused.  I want to further digress and use the second person again to speak to you directly.

You want acceptance, not biblical unity, so you are corrupting the grace of God.  You want toleration of error.  You are saying that the person who won't tolerate error isn't being gracious.  Furthermore, you are saying that contradictory doctrines or positions are both supposed to be accepted.  You are expanding a list of questionable doctrines, the ones you want to disobey and still be accepted.

Some of these newly tolerated doctrines, the ones now accepted to avoid being called divisive, are actually also related to the gospel.  The gospel is being perverted and if someone separates over that, he's being called divisive.  I see this trend in the area of the grace of God.  A person who is truly gracious will accept divergent doctrines, because of newly designated uncertainty.  Riccardi started with "doubting God's Word" (see second tweet above).  Doubt removes authority.  Then a person can believe and do what he wants.  False doctrines not in play are now in play and are tolerated.  If I don't accept them, I'm the divisive one.  Do you see how this is happening?

"Divisive" is weaponized by false or cheap grace adherents.  They can disobey true doctrine and practice and get away with it, even be considered orthodox, because doctrinal diversity is this new unbiblical grace, what its adherents are calling "scandalous grace."  As Riccardi said above:
Doctrine may divide, but biblical teaching can’t be divisive. The divisive are those who defect from the truth. 


Bro. Danny Foss said...

Bro. Brandenburg,
As I said in the comment on the other entry, your understanding of "heretick" in Titus 3 is incorrect (and it's the only occurrence in the Bible of "heretick"; heresy/heresies is four times). I will explain why if you will be so kind as to allow me. You define it (near the beginning) as "a divisive or factious person". Are you aware of what modern versions have in that very verse in place of "heretick"? The NIV has "divisive person", NKJV has "divisive man", ASV and NASV have "a factious man", NRSV has "a man who is factious". You gave how modern versions define that! Please explain where you are getting such a definition. Webster's 1828 doesn't have that: "1. A person under any religion, but particularly the christian, who holds and teaches opinions repugnant to the established faith, or that which is made the standard of orthodoxy. In strictness, among christians, a person who holds and avows religious opinions contrary to the doctrines of Scripture, the only rule of faith and practice. 2. Any one who maintains erroneous opinions." You should read David Cloud's entry on that in his book Faith vs. the Modern Bible Versions (pp. 421-422) where he directly rebukes such a false definition as you espoused there. Thankfully you do later clarify you are meaning the divisive one is he who divides off from biblical and historical doctrine (which is akin to Webster's definition).
Yet there are still issues with your article. Please recall what Jesus said in Luke 12:51. "Suppose yet that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:" making Him in effect divisive. The false definition of a "heretick" only of a divisive person would therefore condemn the Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus above all was warning that in following Him this was bound to happen and we are to therefore expect it (see the rest of the context, Lk. 12:52-53 saying it would happen even in the home). And, unity is not an ultimate goal of God for us down here for now--Eph. 4:3,13 are in the context of a local NT church, and Ps. 133:1 is about unity among brethren dwelling together, therefore to expect unity any broader than that is foolish and unwarranted Biblically.
Truth divides--there is no cause to seek for unity when truth would be infringed. The division God clarifies is bad is in Rom. 16:17, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." Please rewrite this because your direction and application is misleading though there are many things said that are good points.

Mark Schabert said...

Agree completely. I have seen this happen where the individual pointing out doctrinal deviation is charged with "sowing discord among the brethren" according to Proverbs 6:19. However, what is really going on is the elevation of fellowship/unity over doctrine.

Another verse that supports what you are writing about is Romans 16:17

Now I beseech you, bretheren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

Again, it is the deviation from doctrine which causes the divisions and offences...not the one pointing the deviation out.

Ken Lengel said...

To Danny's comment about Christ being divisive. I think you are looking at this from a human perspective. First of all, Christ is God. He is Sovereign. To call him divisive because He declares His presence was meant to separate the wheat from the chaff is to not understand He is the Creator of all things. The sheer existence of a Holy God who judges mankind will divide men.

Here is another example. God defines what is sin and what is not. How? because He is also Holy. So by your reasoning, if man sins, is it God's fault because He is the judge of what is sin and what is not? Is God a sinner because He defines what is sin and what is not? No, of course not. Christ cannot be a divider because He is THE Sovereign, Holy, God. Suggesting otherwise misunderstands the nature of God himself.

When I got saved, my family rejected me due to my salvation in Christ. Did it divide us? Yes! But, only because they chose not to believe the truth about Christ and salvation. Christ did not divide us, but the truth about whether or not we needed to be saved did divide us. I accepted that truth. They did not. The division was not Christ but the reality that we all needed the Savior.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I want you to consider what I wrote in its context, and I could only hope you would, because that's what many others are doing when they read this. If you preach the truth to someone and that person separates because he believes an error, and calls you divisive, the person who causes the division is the one in error, and that is the idea of heresy. Heresy breaks from the truth, and the heretic causes the division. Think about it that way, as opposed to the idea that God divides or doesn't divide. These two ideas can be held in one's mind at the same time without contradiction. I get it, perhaps you don't.

Part of the issue is the irony that the words "heresies," "heretick," and "heresy" come from Greek words that are not always translated those three ways.

In Acts 5:17, 15:5, 24:5, 26:5, and 28:22 the Greek word is translated, "sect," in the KJV. It is the identical word that was found in the original, not a different word. hairesis.

In Acts 24:14, 1 Corinthians 11:19, Galatians 5:20, and 2 Peter 2:1, it is in the plural and translated, "heresies." Same Greek word.

Hairitikos is related to hairesis and is only in Titus 3:10, and it means causing divisions, factious, division-making. This is also how it was used in the day in which it was used.

A word with a similar meaning, but different, not the same, is translated "division," diamerismos, which means division or disunity, found in Luke 12:51, used by Jesus, but another form of the same word is translated, "parted," as when they parted Jesus' garments in Matthew 27:35. Also the word was used by Jesus in Luke 11:17 to describe a kingdom "divided" against itself. It was used by Jesus in Luke 22, to explain a father dividing from his son, and other family members from other family members.

The word ophorizo is used in Matthew 25:22 for Jesus dividing the sheep from the goats. That is to remove one party from another party.

Another word, schisma, is found in John 7:43, 9:16, and 10:19, among other places also in its verb form. In 1 Cor 12:25, that word is used, where Paul taught there was to be no schism in the body.

The Greek word translated "divisions" in Romans 16:17 is translated, "seditions," right next to the word, "heresies," so something necessarily different. It is found one other place, 1 Corinthians 3:3, translated "divisions" in a list "envying, and strife, and divisions."

Danny, Webster's dictionary is not a biblical or theological dictionary, defining words as used in their scriptural context. The 1828 dictionary looks at the meaning of the word in the United States in 1828. If you want to get further back, look at what the translators of the Geneva Bible from the 16th century (1560), the same text as the KJV, said about the heretic: "those who stubbornly and seditiously disquiet the Church, and will pay no attention to ecclesiastical admonitions." Even if it isn't a doctrinal issue, a practical one, it is a doctrinal one nonetheless, because pastors are to be obeyed (Hebrews 13:17) and it is the responsibility of every body part to fit into the body.

There isn't a textual variant in Titus 3:10. It's the same Greek word translated in every version. There is nothing sinister in their translations of the Greek word. There isn't an attack on the King James Version there. I don't know what David Cloud wrote, but he's not an authority on the meaning of "heretick" in Titus 3:10-11.

The word used by Jesus in Luke 12:51 is not the same word as Titus 3:10. Jesus isn't being divisive in the sense of Titus 3:10 or even schism. There is a parting or dividing that occurs in families, like the parting of Jesus' garments at the cross.

I'm going to stop here. I'm not going to rewrite, because what I've written I stand by. I don't understand your opposition to it either.