Excerpt of A Handbook for Heretics

The following is excerpted from A Handbook for Heretics. © John W. Sloat, 2001.

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We are in the middle of a second reformation. The reformation of the 1600s came about as a result of the church's involvement in secular politics. Distracted by wealth and power, it had abandoned its original purpose, to be a spiritual force in the physical world, to help establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Those who broke from the established church wanted to restore its spiritual dimension and reclaim the right to think for themselves. As a result, they were labeled heretics.

The current reformation is also the result of the church's involvement in politics. But this time it is religious politics. Much of the church is so busy defending its tradition and protecting its power that it has once again turned its back on its spiritual commission. It has confused winning members for the institution with winning souls for the Kingdom. The fact that the church cannot see the distinction between these two realities, the institution and the Kingdom, is at the heart of the problem. Many current and former members want to be free to think for themselves, to discover what spiritual truths may lie outside the bounds of the church's tradition. But those who try to do so are still labeled heretics.

The tension within the church is caused by two different schools of thought.

  • One is comprised of those who believe that revelation is an ongoing process, that God is immanent and intimately involved in the daily life of humankind. These people believe Jesus literally when he says, "I have much more to tell you,"
  • The other includes people who believe that the revelation is complete, that God has spoken the final word, and that discipleship means adhering to the tradition and the confessions of faith. But believing that the truth has been fully revealed means defending that truth against change, and this results in the conviction that any further so-called "revelation" is either misguided or demonic.

This modern reformation comes out of a period of explosive spiritual discovery in which God is showering us with fresh data about the reality, structure and nearness of the spiritual world. Several years ago, a friend and I launched a website dealing with some of these current spiritual phenomena. We hoped to provide a bridge between the two schools of thought, the traditionalists and the millions of people who have had non-traditional spiritual experiences. But much of this new information is rejected by the church because it conflicts with its time-honored theology.

This rejection was demonstrated when my denomination took one look at our website, labeled it heresy, and forced me out of the ministry in which I had served for forty-three years.

The church needs to confront the reasons why it is losing members, why so many people find it less and less relevant, and why there is such a wealth of extraordinary spiritual experiences being reported by ordinary people. These people, far from being heretics, have discovered that Jesus meant it literally when he said that he had much more to tell us. This book is written to let them know they are not alone, to offer support for their point of view, and to provide material which they can use in study groups.

A Handbook For Heretics describes the new reformation which is taking place in our day and shows that those whom the church often labels as heretics are actually the leading edge of a new spiritual age. The church must decide whether it will continue to focus on the past, ignoring what God is doing today, or whether it will open itself to the continuing revelation and become part of this new dispensation.