by Anna Kitko, Ratio Christi Regional Director for Tennessee and South Carolina If you clicked on this article thinking it was going to be a hit piece on the latest Christian pop sensation Lauren Daigle, then you are in the wrong place. No, quite the contrary, this article is about a false teaching that crept into the Christian church early into the fourth century. Wait, so exactly what does that have to do with Lauren Daigle? I will explain in a minute. There are two main rules of thumb that I teach my students.
First: There is a God and you are not him.
Second: Satan is not very creative. It’s to the second point that I would like to draw your attention, dear reader. Old issues and false teachings that the Church has dealt with in the past have a tendency to become re-packaged and re-distributed to new generations of Christians. The complete failure of the modern Evangelical Christian to pass even a cursory Church History quiz is a case in point. Don’t believe me that these heresies cycle around? Here are some examples: Jehovah’s Witnesses? That’s Arianism and we dealt with it at the Council of Nicaea.
Mormonism? That’s just Islam presented in a way that pioneer-era Americans would swallow.
Oneness Pentecostal? That’s Sabellianism and that was dealt with in the early third century.
That one church you heard about (you know the one) with the preacher who converted a year ago at the tent revival and is now claiming the title “Apostle?” You know, the one where he is cooking up some “prophesy” to which a rudimentary glance at the Bible should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? Chances are that’s Montanism, and yep you guessed it: the Church condemned that nonsense at the end of the second century. Are you getting the picture I am painting here? Okay, so get to your point then. What heresy is Lauren Daigle going to be equated with? Excellent question. She’s not. I am going to equate the content and caliber of the discussions surrounding her statement on not knowing whether or not homosexuality is a sin. This heresy traces to Donatism: a false-teaching that erupted within the church in 303 AD. Why am I doing this? Because the exact same line of reasoning came up in most of the comments on blog articles dealing with her by folks claiming to be Evangelical Christians. First, let’s quickly cover what happened in 303 AD. Diocletian was Emperor in Rome and had given an edict that would remove all legal rights to Christians and require them to publicly sacrifice to the gods. If this was not enough, the edict also ordered the destruction of churches and the prohibition of assembling for worship. Worst of all was that Christians were to surrender their Scriptures to be burned. This edict began what is called the “Great Persecution” and was the final empire-wide persecution of Christians before Constantine took power and made Christianity the state religion. It was a particularly brutal time for Christians because where previous emperors had sought normative forms of capital punishment for martyrs who refused the edicts (things like crucifixion and impalement), Diocletian preferred to boil martyrs alive in oil. This absurdly barbaric form of death ended up being too much to bear for some of the clergy in Roman North Africa and many opted to surrender their manuscripts. These Christians were thusly referred to as “traditors” for they had traded the faith and surrendered the Word of God to the empire. A particularly rigorous Carthaginian bishop by the name of Majorinus began teaching that such a betrayal was so grievous a sin that it removed permanently, the traditor’s ability to offer or take the sacraments. Meaning that, it was the state of the individual’s character that made things like communion and baptism valid. This began a major schism for the church, because the Donatists began teaching that Christians must be re-baptised by non-traditors in order to be saved. This also meant that the moral purity of the clergy member administering the baptism or communion rite is what gives that sacrament its power. The problem with this movement is that no one is morally pure. Even more importantly, the in-working of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments is not restricted whatsoever by the morality of the administer. And so, the Donatist movement rapidly became one of the most widely spread heresies of the early church. Okay, now back to how this applies today. Take a quick look at the comments section of most major article covering Lauren Daigle’s appearance on The Ellen Show. Also take a look at the comment section of her online interview where she mentions that she is ignorant of whether or not the Bible describes homosexuality as a sin (it does). What we find in the comment section is that rather than there being a discussion of homosexuality in the Scriptures, there is instead a discussion on whether or not Lauren Daigle’s work as a Christian song-writer is valid due to her naiveté on a specific point of theology. Guess what: This is not a salvific issue, and it’s a topic that a brand-new Christian song-writer may not have even dealt with yet on a personal theological level. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the discussion of homosexuality is unimportant, and I am not saying that Daigle’s response (or lack thereof) was to be commended. What I am saying is that watching the initial responses of professing Christians to Daigle’s humble acknowledgment for further study appears an awful lot like the re-birthing of this ancient heresy. And since we have already affirmed Satan’s lack of creativity in how he regularly twists and mars orthodoxy, we should expect to see these old teachings re-surfacing in the new generations of Christians who have no knowledge of such things. The evil one finds happy company with those who suffer from ecclesiastical amnesia. You see, taken on its own, it is a telling implication for someone’s calling and work to be judged as inauthentic on the basis of their assumed failure to recognize immorality. We need more evidence than that to determine someone’s authenticity as a Christian. And it is equally startling, on a spiritual health level, that the vast majority of those individual’s judgments fell into this vein of failed discernment. We ought to be correcting and encouraging biblical maturity of our pop-Christian icons so that they represent orthodoxy accurately to the masses. Not maligning immaturity in social-theological issues at the expense of undercutting a potential beacon of Christian worship in the secular darkness. If Lauren Daigle is inauthentic, then she will be demonstrated as such by a primary failure to witness to Christ’s work in her. We cannot be premature in our disavowal. We ought not to begin teaching the secular masses that we Christians turn ourselves against each other on the basis of moral purity; lest we demonstrate to the world just how hypocritical we truly are and as they will rightly judge us to be! Read more about a thoughtful Christian response in Who is Wrong: the Media, Christians, or Lauren Daigle? Charles Spurgeon once pointed out that for Christians, oftentimes the problem we face is not telling the difference between right and wrong; but rather telling the difference between right and almost-right. Let us all be mindful of the content of our criticisms of fellow believers, lest we allow the great work of our brothers and sisters, who suffered as martyrs, be forgotten and repeated.
Anna Kitko is a Christian Apologist who specializes in Cults and New Religions. Her writing ranges from solving biblical difficulties to training people how to avoid coercive persuasion from aberrant Bible-based groups. She is an avid reader of Christian history and loves to point out ancient heresies being re-packaged and re-distributed in our culture. In addition to being a Regional Director for RC, she personally directs the chapter at University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Anna can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.