I know, it isn't a word but a phrase, so I cheated and hyphenated it. What is soft-heresy? It is, categorically, heresy, but it is indirect and so close to being biblical that it fools people into thinking it is right or at least not heretical enough to worth a second glance. Neither would it be considered a damnable heresy. For the uninitiated a damnable heresy is such that if one holds the view expressed by the heresy they bar themselves from the kingdom of heaven mainly due to the fact they are believing a false gospel (Gal. 1:7-9). One example of this would be the belief that Jesus is not God but rather a man who became a God. Another would be the belief that Jesus was spirit and never man in the flesh.
On the other hand plain heresy can be any teaching that is contrary to the sound teaching of the Scripture, but isn't of such a nature that one would forfeit salvation if they held to it. Some people prefer to avoid the harshness of using the word heresy and instead use the phrase false doctrine or heterodoxy. One such heresy would be the belief that God expects believers to be circumcised or that one must not eat pork (i.e., the dietary laws of the O.T.) or even hold a deistic evolutionary view of creation. Although clearly contrary to the teachings of the N.T., one could still hold such views and be a true follower of Christ. Many denominational variations are the result of such heresies or false teachings and I could spend many pages listing them.
Finally, there are heresies which, although not damnable, are rather benign looking. So much so that many Christians receive them as part of their theological package without even questioning their biblical veracity. I've started calling these soft-heresies. Think of them as analogous to soft-porn. Soft-porn is still porn. It is addictive and enticing and easily causes the viewer to think thoughts that are ungodly and dangerous. Regular porn (including hardcore) is easily identified as wrong by most (I wish I could say all) evangelicals. But soft-porn flies under the radar of most. If they go to a movie that shows a women in her underwear, perhaps topless or rear nudity, or a couple making love they will hardly bat an eye. They see it in underwear ads in catalogs or pass through particular sections in the mall and don't even give it a second thought. Some would argue from this that we have matured enough as a culture to not let such things bother us. We've gotten over it. But the truth is we simply have been desensitized to it. We, as the prophet Jeremiah lamented, "no longer know how to blush" (Jeremiah 8:12). But this desensitization doesn't keep us safe from the damage. It simply sets us up for a fall when the damage does occur. It blindsides us.
Soft-heresy serves a similar function. We've become so use to it that we think of it as normal theology. We think it biblical because it looks and sounds biblical. But in the end it is very destructive. What are some examples? Well, some forms of the word of faith movement fall under this. Some forms of the health and wealth gospel movement would be here too. Much of what is coming out of the so-called latter rain movement would also fall under this label. "Wait, aren't the teachings in these movements heretical?" you ask. Yes they are. However mainline churches aren't accepting the teachings of these movements wholesale. Rather they are allowing bits and pieces of these teachings to enter their lives and churches. They are embracing flavors of these teachings without, at least in their own minds, accepting the entire framework of the false doctrines.
Another more specific example would be Jesus Calling, the devotional by Sarah Young in which she is(and this is the only way I can explain it) quite literally channeling Jesus. What she writes sounds biblical. In fact, much of it is biblical in that what she says Jesus is telling her can be found in the Bible. However, the problem comes from the fact she is speaking for God. Believers, even those in conservative, non-charismatic, churches are reading this book and raving about it. So if it is (mostly) biblical what is my problem? Once believers accept, either explicitly or implicitly, the idea that believers can channel God or at least say "Thus says the Lord..." (even if it is only implied) they open themselves to a whole number of potential problems. Top on the list is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture which gets thrown out the window. Soon they are accepting teachings and testimonies that, although not anti-biblical, are not biblical either. Think "Heaven is for Real". It is a slippery slope. After all, if God can speak outside of his Word then what is to say his Word is complete or, for that matter, even right for our culture and times? Perhaps God has changed his mind on some things such as homosexuality, divorce, the roles of men and women or even the way of salvation? Before long we are running to the next person telling us that "God told them" or we are hearing voices ourselves and God's Word becomes supplementary at best.
I truly wish I could say I am being melodramatic here, but the fact is our modern church is a testament to the harm soft-heresy eventually leads to. What are we to do about it? First, we need to get back to studying our Bibles as the inerrant Word of God, wholly sufficient and completely truthful. Second, we need to call a spade a spade. If someone is teaching outside of God's Word things about God, heaven, hell or any part of our faith we need confront them, in love, using the only true "Thus says the Lord": the Bible. The days are short, the times are evil and the enemy has dressed himself as a sheep and is ravaging the flock. Now is not the time to be Mr. (or Mrs.) nice-guy. Now is the time to stand up for the truth and preach, in season and out, the whole council of God.