And other Christian heresies
Definition of heretic
1religion :a person who differs in opinion from established religious dogma (see dogma 2);especially :a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church who refuses to acknowledge or accept a revealed truth
• The church regards them as heretics.
2:one who differs in opinion from an accepted belief or doctrine :nonconformist
If you find serious fault within the structures of the church, you’re not alone. Christians have been finding faults among their fellow saints from the very beginning. Heresy has become more often noticed and spoken of by those outside organized religion than those within it. Some pretty obvious deviations from what Christ said provide easy targets for critics, both uninformed and informed, and those who participate in organized religion and those who don’t.
For over 300 years, the Christian faith expanded rapidly with little centralized leadership despite serious opposition, spawning varying beliefs among different church communities. Most of the root beliefs were the same but not always, and serious fundamentals were being twisted within certain groups. In the fourth century, the basic beliefs of Christians were confirmed by gathering the church leaders of the time. Known as the Council of Nicea, this group established a standard doctrine of faith for the followers of Jesus Christ. The church now had a unified understanding of beliefs. The Council had been called for by the Roman emperor Constantine due to his own conversion to Christianity from pagan beliefs, he accepted their doctrine and established it as the accepted religion of Rome. The other thing put in place was centralized earthly leadership attached to the ruling government. Those who refused to accept the newly established order were labelled heretics and either killed or forced underground by Roman authorities.
For the next 700 years these tenants of faith held together Christians as a single group. But as religious practices grew and hierarchy expanded, eventually there was a split. Known as the great schism, the catholic (universal) church was divided into two distinct factions, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic. The Eastern Orthodox dissenters were essentially accusing the church of heresy and didn’t want to be under Roman authority, so they split off and formed their own central leadership. These two groups continued to grow both in size and religious rules, divided by region and leadership for another 500 years, quieting any major dissent under the guise of silencing heretics. Then came the Reformation. A movement of faithful Christians of various levels of authority within the Roman church who were essentially labeling the Roman Catholic church and it’s leadership heretics.
Commonly blamed on Henry the VIII wanting a divorce, the reformation storm was brewing long before he was even born. With the major turning point coming through Martin Luther, the reformation gave heresy its biggest and broadest introduction to the average person. Suddenly everyone was vying for position as the new leadership of proper Christian faith. Since that time the number of Christian denominations has continued to grow, with each new division sighting another perceived heresy as their need to start a new group rather than be included with another.
According to the oldest of Christian communities, everyone not following their established and eternally updated doctrine and practices is a heretic. According to the newest of Christian communities, every group already existing are heretics. So as it turns out, all Christians are heretics depending on who you ask. It doesn’t carry the weight it once did, beheadings, torture, burning at the stake and the like doesn’t go on between rival Christian communities or individuals like it has in the past. There are vast and growing differences in beliefs and practices among those who consider themselves Christian, thankfully the desire and acceptability of killing each other over them has settled. Disagreements once grounds for scourging and execution have been accepted as theological differences worthy of little more than a roll of the eyes.
(to be continued…)