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.If a biblical doctrine divides, that’s no fault of the doctrine but of those who defect from it. Doctrine may divide, but biblical teaching can’t be divisive. The divisive are those who defect from the truth. To say a particular doctrinal stance is divisive is misguided rhetoric.— Mike Riccardi (@MikeRiccardi_) June 5, 2019
After Riccardi got my attention with this tweet, I read another one he made within the same week that dovetails.
The first human sin consisted in (1) doubting God’s Word and His goodness, (2) rejecting His Word as the authority for life, (3) asserting man’s own autonomous reasoning as the authority in place of God’s revelation, & (4) breaking God’s law. Every sin since consists in the same.— Mike Riccardi (@MikeRiccardi_) May 28, 2019
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.