"If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him: only those who keep to what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them." (v.9, Jerusalem Bible).
This is a little different to the next verse which speaks of our human response to heretics. Here in verse 4 we are solemnly warned that when we go beyond the teaching of Christ we do not have God with us.
At the heart of all theological debates, including those within the Anglican Communion is the question of the 'doctrine of Christ' (to use a phrase from the constitution of ACANZP). What is it? What goes beyond it? What keeps us within it?
John in this verse challenges us about the big picture of theological debate. The point of debate is to clarify the teaching of Christ. To fail to do this, to end up going beyond the teaching of Christ is to run the worst of all human risks, the risk that we no longer have God the Father and Son with us.
We sometimes joke that If God left the church, Would anyone notice?
In the midst of our debates it is quite possible that we would not notice that God was no longer with us. Debates have that ability to focus our attention on the debate and not on (say) the truth, or on the fact that the debating hall is burning down around us.
What if we debated with eyes open to the possibility that if we get the outcome wrong, if we go beyond the teaching of Christ, then we can no longer presume God is with us.
It is possible to have the form of religion without the content. To be sure we have the content with the form, we need to pay attention to what we teach and to strive to stay within the bounds of Christ's teaching.
LIkely I will add to this post as I reflect further on 2 John over the weekend.