Sometimes I feel like everybody’s a heretic. Maybe that isn’t the best way to put what I mean, but it seems like two groups are inclined to jettison people from the ranks of the orthodox. On the one hand, we have those who don’t want anybody to be orthodox. They’ll find any little foible from an historical figure and use that as a way to call their faith into question: “Abraham Lincoln expressed some doubts once, so he wasn’t really a believer.”
On the other hand, you have people from within the church who point accusing fingers at anybody who, even for just a brief season, shows some weakness. “Abraham Lincoln expressed some doubts once, so he wasn’t really a believer.”
The first group seeks to diminish the church by excluding potential members. The second desires to improve the church by setting the bar for its members impossibly high.
I’ve heard Ulysses S. Grant presumed among the pagans because of his infrequent attendance at church, while various Founding Fathers have been categorized with the infidels because they once read Voltaire. Recently, I took up the topic of the once-orthodox Michael Gungor who is now at least questionable. Perhaps I was unwittingly joining that second group.
What brought this into my mind today was an excellent article about Robert Robinson. Robinson wrote one of my favorite hymns, the one that gives this site its name, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” After coming to Christ as a young adult, Robinson spent many years as a successful pastor, but there is question as to how orthodox he remained in his waning days.
He died just after spending time with Joseph Priestley, one of the most infamous political and theological radicals of the late eighteenth century. Priestley and his fellow Unitarians (who denied the deity of Christ) were quick to claim Robinson as one of their own.
Is this a case of Priestly and his ilk trying to co-opt Robinson or attempting to discredit him? Or is the knock on Robinson–if there truly is one of consequence–the action of the over-zealous faithful seeing the speck in their brother’s eye despite the beam in theirs.
In the long run, of course, the important thing is not whether I can categorize Robert Robinson, Brooks Robinson, or Smoky Robinson as to their orthodoxy. What matters is that I maintain myself where the Spirit wants me to be. The rest, God can attend to.