Orthodoxy is important. The word literally means “right belief” and it is vital to a growing Christian’s life. Some “Christians” today shrug off orthodoxy as though it were merely conservative stuffiness, embraced only by those who believe they have everything together and that their way is the only way to do something.
But I say again, orthodoxy is important. The excesses of certain traditionalists who make everything a matter of orthodoxy should not be used as an excuse for permitting and even embracing unorthodox belief. Not all teachings are equal, so while there may be some leeway in the style of music we play, the clothes we wear, or the type of church we attend, there should be little to no leeway for matters of salvation. Affirming the Bible as the inspired, inerrant word of God is not the a trifling matter like whether or not to preach from behind a pulpit.
I came across an article some time ago on CNN’s belief blog. It was written by Craig Gross, the founder and “pastor” of XXXchurch.com. His “ministry” seeks to help men and women break free from addictions to pornography. A noble pursuit, though his methods have been criticized by many others (they set up booths at porn fairs and I’ve never heard of them wanting for volunteers).
Gross’ article wasn’t about porn however. It was about Judas. Back when the internet was all abuzz with Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, everyone was asking about hell and who goes there. Gross tried his hand at answering the question, “Is Judas Iscariot in hell?” His response is seriously unorthodox and causes me to question what kind of gospel he proclaims (see Galatians 1:8-9).
Here’s part of what he says:
Let me tell you a little bit about what the Bible says about Judas:
He was personally chosen to be an apostle by Jesus.
He spent 3 1/2 years traveling with Jesus.
He saw all the miracles of Christ in person.
He watched as Christ healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out demons.
In terms of experience with Jesus, whatever you can say about Peter, James and John, you can say about Judas.
On top of all this, he handled the money, which is most of the time the most trusted one in the bunch. No one suspected that Judas would betray Jesus, which tells me he was a believer.
He further states:
Peter left the room and denied Jesus three times. Judas left the room and sold Jesus out for 30 coins.
One committed suicide, and one went on to build the church as we know it today. Both Peter and Judas committed the same sin. They both denied Jesus. But why do most people think one goes to heaven and one goes to hell?
Gross may be able to spin a few facts about Judas, but he ignores the most important ones. Why do most people think one goes to heaven and one goes to hell? I don’t know why most people do, but I know why I do: Jesus says so!
The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24, ESV).
John records Jesus praying in his gospel,
While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled (John 17:12).
Add to these unequivocal statements from the mouth of Jesus the fact that Judas didn’t repent of his sin (that’s what distinguishes him from Peter), and we have a pretty airtight case from the pages of Scripture that Judas is not in heaven.
The important thing here is not whether Judas went to hell or not, though the answer is pretty clear. The important thing is whether the Bible is true and authoritative for all matters of faith and practice, and if it tells us how we can know for sure if we are going to heaven or not. Gross ends his article in the negative saying, “And I believe that where you end up, God only knows.”
The essence of the gospel says otherwise.
Orthodoxy is important.