“Thinking About Wheat and Tares”: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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75 Responses

  1. Jean says:

    Duane, Nice article.

    I am wondering if you would credit Søren Kierkegaard or any other existentialist theologians in your personal development. It just occurred to me to ask from your focus on experience in this particular article. Thanks.

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    Søren Kierkegaard is certainly important in terms of both philosophy and the so-called “leap of faith”. More important, however, is the traditional evangelical view of experience. Some of us who move on to a more “formal” theology, all too often jettison the idea of “experience” as somehow being “immature” or merely based on emotion. I don’t believe that is the case. If I had to call myself something these days, it would probably be an “Evangelical Catholic”. I believe the experience is valid, as is the formulation of doctrine, an is the scope of the Christian tradition. All of us in the faith find definitive experiences in our faith journeys – some will find it in the eucharistic celebration, some will find it in music or praise, some will find it in prayer, some will find it in the service of others. The experience is not opposed to doctrine, or tradition, or service… it is bound up with them. At least, that is my view…

  3. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    You speak of heresey as a known fact and you identify them as tares. Do you also acknowledge that the tares are planted by Satan and are demonic?
    Also, if we are not to uproot the tares for fear of disturbing the wheat (the good guys / doctrinal truth / proper experience) do you encourage us to a least point out the tares (heresy) to protect the elect from stepping on a turd or a landmine?

  4. Jean says:

    One could say that all life is a collection of experiences. The protases of all the Beatitudes are experiences. The tricky thing is the relationship (if any) between experience and truth.

  5. Michael says:

    I think one has to distinguish between theology that is aberrant and that which is heretical. As an Anglican, anything outside of my tradition is aberrant, but not necessarily heretical.
    Most “heresy” to me centers around Christological and Trinitarian doctrines…thus, I’ll warn about Mormons and JW’s, but not Baptists…

  6. Duane Arnold says:

    I tend to limit “heresy” to Trinitarian and Christological aberrations. Even here, however, we learn. At one point I probably would have considered theosis as borderline heretical, whereas now it is a precious part of my faith. At one point, I probably would have considered the Real Presence to be borderline heretical, whereas now I have a very different point of view. As Maurice said, “people are usually right in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny.”

  7. Duane Arnold says:

    Yeah… What Michael said… ?

  8. Jean says:

    Not to disagree with Michael, but the loci of the Trinity and Christology are arguably vast, approaching the whole pie, unless one reduces, for example Christology to the two natures of Christ. Seen more broadly, however, Christology informs or forms our doctrines of Scripture, Biblical theology, the offices of Prophet, Priest and King, eschatology, etc. In other words, I see Christology all over theology.

  9. Duane Arnold says:


    I understand what you are saying, but I think we’re dealing with Christological issues related to the Incarnation… Yet, even here, the Church has not (yet) made a definitive statement on exactly what human nature Christ assumed – the nature of Adam before the Fall, or the nature of Adam after the Fall. There can be lively speculation, but it remains speculation, not Christological doctrine…

  10. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    In the opening paragraph, heretics seem to be identified as real, and I would guess along with Chesterton not so rare.
    “Chesterton pointed out that heretics have a quite undeserved reputation …”

    To the point of Christology, a Lutheran would declare “all theology is Christology”.

  11. Duane Arnold says:

    Yes, your co-religionist has just done so…

  12. Michael says:

    I’m not a Lutheran…but I don’t think Lutherans are heretics.
    I really wouldn’t even say they are aberrant, though I find some aspects of Lutheranism troubling.
    They fall within the broad bounds of orthodoxy…and I have no problem communing with them 🙂

    So much of what we think are definitions are actually holy speculation that tries to explain things we can barely fathom…

  13. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – is co-religionist different than “my Christian brother / sister?”

  14. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael, I understand that and I feel the same about you Anglican gents — however, without the capability of communing together. 😉

    However, I guess I want to explore what Chesterton mean when discussing heretics.

  15. Michael says:

    I don’t have either a fear of or fascination with, heretics.

    The term has become another wax nose to be twisted at will by different sects.

  16. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael, I mention this just for fun 🙂
    After reviewing all the comments, you are the only one who has drawn a line of what is heresy, those who differ on Christ and the trinity, and who has called out heretics by name – Mormons and JWs

    I thought that was funny based on your last comment. I need to do some research on Chesterton – I don’t know much about him other than he was RCC and was famous for many fortune cookie type sayings.

  17. Duane Arnold says:

    I am a Christian brother to both you and Jean. As we are not in communion, however, I am not your co-religionist… Not a pejorative comment, just a statement of fact…

  18. bob1 says:

    Seems to me that living in this Age of Distraction, shiny objects and fascination with the novel and the new,, perhaps the “tares” can be made to look a lot more attractive than they really are.

    I think the challenge for the orthodox Christian is to present the faith
    winsomely without selling out to these forces.

  19. Duane Arnold says:


    Just had the experience on Sunday of a church with “bright shiny tares”… Not a good experience!

  20. bob1 says:


    I’m reading a fantastic book right now about being a Christian witness
    at this time in our culture…I’d highly recommend it!

    Among the many areas he discusses are how to avoid the bright, shiny and shallow in our personal lives and in the church. Very deep
    and thought provoking!


  21. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks! I’ll take a look…

  22. Em says:

    From what i can gather ? we arent smart enough, nor do we have enough time to weed a wheat field…
    Heresy may stick ? out like a cactus, but tares… ?
    Wouldnt it be better to spend the time edifying our own needy souls?
    Just thinking on it….. a bit…..

  23. Duane Arnold says:


    Good to see your “smiley faces”! Hoping that you are well…

  24. Jean says:

    “I don’t have either a fear of or fascination with, heretics.”

    They are not called wolves in sheep’s clothing for nothing. Therefore, I have a healthy fear of false teaching, besides which I owe my faith entirely to the condescension of God and desire not to test him. Therefore, I try to avoid false teaching and from love of neighbor would warn a Christian brother or sister if I could.

  25. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The new name for heretics – wolves with wax noses. 🙂

  26. Jean says:

    How about Nights in White Satin? 🙂

  27. Em says:

    I am not certain that we can identify or warn our fellow Believers of all false teaching …. we learn line upon line even now…. yes there are blatant teachings that contradict basic Truth, but it is our responsibility to not have “itching ears,” but be learners
    if someone is telling me to mortgage me house to contribute to the church building fund because “you cannot outgive God,” i should be wise enough to know that is tempting God, a forbidden action…. but we have deceitful hearts and need to pray for good teachers and for discernment which God WILL give us IMX
    but it is also true that our mileage does vary. ?

  28. Em says:

    Dr. Duane thank you for asking – it has been a marathon which i am clearly too old for, but i worry for my daughter as her employer wouldn’t take her off the schedule and she has been going waay too long and hard for over a week now… Prayers have been and still are appreciated
    Todays newspaper the Wenatchee World on their Cougar Creek fire update has a great picture of what we see on our hills now if interested, but can’t link to it on this little tablet…
    Going back up to stay in the morning… My heart breaks for those in Calif. So much worse

  29. JD says:

    Two questions:

    1. “We remember that the seed of the wheat and the tares are indistinguishable from one another until they are fully grown.”
    Shouldn’t “seed” be rendered seedlings? Otherwise, the enemy, if caught, could claim “I was only sowing what appeared to be wheat.”

    2. Can we even call this a discussion of theology without any quote of a bible verse?

    Just wondering…………

  30. Duane Arnold says:


    1) The enemy is fully aware of what he is sowing….
    2) Yes, we must turn to Scripture, but we remember (as in the Temptation) the enemy makes use of Scripture as well.

    We have to remain true to the experience of Christ in our own lives…

  31. Michael says:

    “Can we even call this a discussion of theology without any quote of a bible verse?”


  32. Michael says:


    Thank you for checking in…and telling me which fire to watch up there.
    There’s so many of the damned things going between the two of us I can’t keep up…

  33. Michael says:

    Jean, MLD,

    The problem here is that what you may consider “false teaching” or “heresy”I might think is under the umbrella of orthodoxy.

    Thus, we end up warning family against family.

    I’m tempted to do so at times myself…and find it one of my less admirable traits.

  34. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael, so under your thought process, it is possible the fathers working on the creeds overstepped boundaries calling heresy what their opponents considered orthodoxy.
    The fathers then would have been warning family against family? Heck, they even did it under the threat of hell.

    My thought – no one thinks their heresy is heresy – not a single person. That’s one heck of a reason to stay quiet.

    You need to listen to the word faith people closer, because your congregants are – and let me say, there is some heresy going on there,

  35. Michael says:


    I assure you that none of my congregants are listening to the word faith people.

  36. Jean says:


    “The problem here is that what you may consider “false teaching” or “heresy”I might think is under the umbrella of orthodoxy.”

    For me, I place no confidence in what I think. I ask: What does Scripture say? It may be that heresies evolve when someone says “the text doesn’t mean what it says.” In recalling Marcian, Pelagius, JWs, Mormons, some eschatologies, universalism, various Christological errors, some atonement theories, some anthropologies, etc., there seem to be a common denominator that human reason has said the text doesn’t mean what it says.

    I don’t think every difference is a polarity between orthodoxy heresy; what you call aberrant others might call heterodox. But if I was a pastor, I would not permit aberrant or heterodox teaching in the congregation, even though I wouldn’t condemn it as heresy. Does that agree with you?

  37. Michael says:

    “What does Scripture say? ”
    More accurately, “how does your tradition interpret Scripture”?

    I don’t allow known aberrant or heterodox teaching in our church…but some would say my teaching is both at times.

  38. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Here is the thing – the word faith people would all confess Christ and the trinity – if they were up to it They would confess the creeds, because that is what they were taught as they grew up in real churches.
    However, on the back end they deny what they confess with their other crazy teachings – and this is an issue – and heresy.

    I am not even talking about the Old standbys who have provided content for TBN for the past 40 yrs. No, there is a whole new generation of false teachers who are now carrying the torch.

  39. Michael says:

    I have contempt for any theology of glory.
    I have even more contempt for the current evangelical/political scene.

    I can engage both without naming it as heresy…because there are God’s people in both camps.

  40. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The fact that there are God’s people in the camps does not lessen that the teachings and teachers are heretical.

    There is a vast difference between Christians aligning differently than you politically and what happens in the word of faith movement. I think you threw that in to soften the blow.

  41. Michael says:


    I think both distort the Scriptures and ethos of Christianity.
    We can debate which is the greater sin, but we won’t convince each other.

  42. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Don’t sell yourself short – you have convinced me of your position.

  43. JD says:

    So, this is a discussion of theology; just not biblical theology.

  44. Duane Arnold says:

    There are a number of issues that come to play in dealing with this subject. Defining terms might help. False teaching and aberrant theology may lead a person down the path to heresy, but may not be heretical in and of themselves. Heresy is a choice to stand outside the mainstream of orthodox Christianity as defined in the creeds and touch upon the person, work and nature of Christ. The Word of Faith people are a good example. Much of the teaching is simply wrong (or false) and some of the practices are an aberration. Some, taking those teachings and practices to a “logical” conclusion may make the “choice” to stand outside of creedal norms… that’s heresy.

    There are other practices, however, which while “wrong” or “false” in terms of Christian norms, do not rise to the level of heresy, but can lead in that direction. Usually we think of this is terms of teaching, but it can also be a matter of practice. For instance, attachment to a body of believers is normative. “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together” is a biblical imperative and normative in the Christian tradition. Yet, even in this community, there are some who are outside of a local body of believers. They are still brothers and sisters in Christ, but the practice is an aberration. It is not, however, heresy, unless or until, someone says being a “solo Christian” should be the norm. At that point we would have to reexamine that practice and belief.

    I think we make a mistake when we use a broad brush and define as “heresy” everything outside of our experience, practice, belief or confession.

  45. Jean says:


    I agree with pretty much everything in your last comment. I haven’t seen anyone in this community, aside from some of the IDM folks who used to post here do what you caution against.

    Calling someone a heretic is essentially a condemnation to hell. That is what some IDMs say against traditions which uphold the Sacraments as means of grace. Also, some Calvinists get darn close to condemning anyone who believes that Christians can fall away.

    You should not encounter a Lutheran who would condemn as a heretic someone who doesn’t believe in the Sacraments nor someone who believes in double predestination or the eternal security of the saints (in a Calvinistic interpretation). Would you get a strong reaction? Yes. Would the two groups commune together? That would be impossible, because the very definition of what a communion is is altogether different.

  46. Duane Arnold says:


    Additionally, we often grow (or at least some do) in our appreciation of the broader Christian tradition. In my youth, the idea of a formal liturgy, or the creeds, or sacraments (rather than “ordinances”) were wholly outside of my understanding and, along with others, I help them to be suspect and possibly false. Time, experience and learning (along with, I believe, grace) have changed my perspective. Not everyone is at the same place at the same time and merely because what is available to my faith is not (or not yet) available to another should call not for condemnation, but for grace and patience…

  47. Jean says:

    Yes, Duane, good point.

    Some call it the crux theologorum.

    Scripture says:

    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

    There is definitely mystery in the Spirit’s work in a person’s life.

  48. Michael says:


    I probably define “biblical theology” differently than you do.
    I see the Scriptures as a redemption narrative and believe that few things do more violence to understanding than proof texting.

  49. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Interesting comment from JD about biblical theology. I know that our seminaries the have coursework in exegetical theology, historical theology and pastoral theology which all derive from what I guess is being labeled as ‘biblical’ theology.

  50. Jean says:

    Proof texting is neither per se good or bad. It is bad if it takes a front seat to the Biblical story or if it is used out of context. But as a compendium of doctrine, for example, as used in a confession of faith or catechism, it is useful.

  51. Duane Arnold says:

    A text out of context is a pretext…
    I’m not a fan of proof texting.

  52. Jean says:

    What do Anglicans use to catechize a new believer or in confirmation class?

  53. Michael says:

    “What do Anglicans use to catechize a new believer or in confirmation class?”


  54. Duane Arnold says:


    For some decades I taught Adult Confirmation classes. We would start with catechisms, but then move on to other materials that would encompass John Stott, CS Lewis, JI Packer, Michael Ramsey and a host of others. The materials came from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the church, the evangelical wing of the church and the broad center. There was usually a healthy helping of Church history, but with more emphasis on the early Church than the Reformation.

    We also taught “civility” in discussing theology. Theology was to be discussed and, at times, even debated… but with civility. Anglicanism is very much about courteous discourse… saying “please” and “thank you”. Some see this as a weakness in the Anglican ethos, yet if I look at the list of people above, I do not see weakness, but remarkable strength. I think what was in common among all of them is that they did not believe that you could “argue someone into the kingdom”. You can present, present again, and again, but it is about the Holy Spirit bringing home the truth of what was presented. Perhaps I should say it is (or at least was) an Anglican distinctive…

  55. bob1 says:

    That civility is something I think is a major strength in Anglicanism…

    I’ve been edified by authors in more than one wing of it, mostly but not exclusively the evangelical wing.

  56. Duane Arnold says:


    Yes, I can read Stott or Packer and then turn to Ramsey… it all carries the same spirit.

  57. Jean says:

    Well, if you start with catechisms, then you are using a document which is a compendium of doctrinal topics supported by proof texts.

  58. Michael says:


    For me, catechisms are a starting point for further discussions, not the last word on doctrine.
    Beyond the creeds, Anglicans are encouraged to think and explore the broadness of orthodoxy.

  59. Duane Arnold says:

    It is what is said in the catechism… the accompanying scriptural references allow for further study, not for use as a singular proof text.

    At least, that is the way I always my classes…

  60. Duane Arnold says:

    Honest… Scout’s Honor… Michael and I are not on the phone ?

  61. Michael says:


  62. bob1 says:

    I wonder if there are 2 definitions of proof text being used in this discussion.

    One is a more pejorative use…for example, the JWs appeal to isolated verses to justify refusing blood transfusions.

    In this version you’ll find Scripture twisting…using the Bible as a “wax
    nose” to twist as you please, ignoring sound exegesis, the wisdom of
    the Church, etc.

    Looks to me like the other use is more like a “prove text”…like in
    a catechism that like Duane said, where the points in the catechism
    point to Scriptures for further study.

  63. JD says:

    Anyone use an unabridged dictionary? I have one. 😉

  64. Duane Arnold says:


    Good point… For me, I just dislike seeing scripture used out of context…

  65. Jean says:

    bob1, Yes, there are two uses. Reference materials, such as catechisms, systematics and dogmatics volumes are handy to norm one’s interpretation of what they’re reading. It is the norming of interpretation by heavily thought out traditions, which are incorporated into such materials, which has led to the tremendous splintering of American Christianity, and sadly the quality of theology has suffered as a result.

  66. Jean says:

    I left out the words “loss of” before “the norming of interpretation….”

  67. bob1 says:

    It is the loss of the norming of interpretation by heavily thought out traditions,…

    Jean, co you mean that the fact that different traditions have different emphases in their catechisms? Or that pastors, etc. in these traditions
    didn’t teach them well to their parishoners? What do you believe has led to this splintering?

  68. Jean says:

    Hi Bob,

    Sorry about my lack of clarity. I was typing from my kindle at the gym. What I was trying to say is that what I have found in non-denominational churches and in some Baptist and Methodist circles is a disdain for Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms. Such churches sort of reinvent the wheel for their theology based on their own interpretation. Some also will follow the theological writings of contemporary best sellers, such as MacArthur, Jeremiah, Idleman, Chan, Ortberg, Keller and other contemporary theologians, but they don’t fink much value in anything that they consider old.

    Part of modernity is the concept that mankind is progressing, and therefore, new stuff is better than old stuff. But the other side of that coin is that a lot of churches today don’t take stock in any tradition whatsoever, and that is a postmodern way of doing theology.

  69. bob1 says:

    Thanks, Jean!

    I’m pretty sure I get what you’re saying.

    Although I would point out that this type of thinking can also infect mainline
    denominations other than the ones you cite.

    Especially because pragmatism —
    what works — is God in much of the Church today. Everything else seems to be secondary. I think pragmatism is an outgrowth of a combo of modernism and business influence.

  70. Jean says:


    I agree. It is pragmatism that seems to be a driving force in American politics, as well as foreign policy.

    I am not a fan of teleological ethics. I think what the Bible describes, and what Jesus modeled was deontological ethics. That is to say that morality and ethics have intrinsic value apart from any consideration of consequences. We take on faith that God is right and good, aside from any short term external consequences or even what our flesh experiences.

  71. Duane Arnold says:

    Even confessional churches can embrace pragmatism… see Michael’s link –

    I’m not as adept as Jean in the use of descriptive terms, but I believe that we have to “marry” the past with the present and the future if we are to make a difference. How to do that is the big question that all of us are struggling with these days…

  72. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    To go along with the link Duane posted just above. Rev Jonathan Fisk back in mid July uses the article to speak to the church growth movement.
    He points to the Pelagian nature of the church growth folks. I found it interesting when it was originally “in my ears” walking along the lake.


  73. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    For Lutherans the CoWo, church growth crowd are embarrassed and refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers — their loss.


  74. Duane Arnold says:


    For once, I agree…

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