“Heresy” and “apostasy” are pretty strong words. Are they the same? Are they different? How are they related?
I want to repeat what I’ve said so often: language is never precise. It is often interesting to look up a word in Strong’s and meditate upon all the different facets of how a word is used in a particular verse, but at some point there is always an area of gray because human language not only is not precise but changes a great deal even in a short period of time.
14 Remind them of these things, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they don’t argue about words, to no profit, to the subverting of those who hear.
15 Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth. 16 But shun empty chatter, for it will go further in ungodliness,
There are reasons that sermons that drill down on obscure or vague definitions in spite of the evidence to the contrary makes my heart ache. It is why Thiel’s controversy with LCG made me scratch my head. Did either side really read the above passage and take it to heart?
Of course, I wrote about this and the meaning of apostasy in “Controversy Over Apostasy (‘Falling Away’) in 2 Thessalonians 2?“:
I can only answer what I would have an issue with here. It is the same one I’ve already pointed out. How do you fall away from something you’ve never embraced in the first place?
The Greek word apostasia is G646. It translates it as “a falling away, defection, apostasy”. “Defection” is probably a more familiar term. You cannot defect from an army you’ve never belonged to. Dictionary.com backs this up in the definition of apostasy:
noun, plural a·pos·ta·sies.
a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.
~ Dictionary.com (bolding mine)
Apostasia is also used in Ac 21:21, where the meaning is quite clear.
21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake [apostasia] Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
~ Ac 21:21
Again, you cannot “forsake” something you’ve never embraced, even if you were once forced to do so. Children may forsake the ways of their parents, but that means when they were small they had to comply.
This goes well beyond just false teaching! False teaching can result from deception, even about small things. However, a “forsaking” is an active choice. When we look at the Exodus, we see that God sometimes hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and sometimes Pharaoh’s advisors hardened his heart. However, most of the time, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. The point isn’t that he apostasized, but rather he chose a lie over the truth.
“Choice” is where “heresy” and “apostasy” intersect. It is implied in apostasy, but it is at the core of heresy.