What is Heresy?

The Greek word ‘Hairesis’ originally meant a sect and the word thus came to mean the teaching of particular group as distinct from the teaching of the church at large.

Heresy in full sense, implying the rejection of a doctrine known certainly to be of faith by one who sees himself as willing to accept the authority of a revealing in other matters, appears somewhat unrealistic and psychologically improbable.

There have been many heresies in the history of the church: what follows is a brief list of those which have had the greatest impact on the church’s life.

1. Arianism:

In AC B.C an Egyptian Priest named Arius (336 B.C) taught that in the trinity, the son of God is a creature, and that there was a time when the son was not. Economical council condemned arius and proclaimed that Father & Son are humousios, that is , of one being .

2. Nestorianism:

Nestorius Bishop of Constantinople (428-431) was accused by Cyril of Alexandria of having so emphasized the distinction between the divine and human in Christ and that he had considered the human in Christ and the divine son of god to be two persons. The Third Economical council, E Phesus (431) Condemned Nestorius. But it led to the next heresy Monophysitism.

3. Monophysitism:

Nestorius had separated the human & divine too much. But Eutyches eliminated the distinction, claiming that there were two natures before the incarnation of the son but only one nature after it. It is called Monophysis. But council of Chalcedon condemned both in 451 and taught that Christ is one person with two natures, one human and one divine.

4. Heresy of John Wycliffe:

The major heresy of the 14th C was that initiated by John Wycliffe, who adopted Berengaria’s Eucharistic position concerning the permanence of bread and wine after consecration and propounded questionable doctrine concerning the church and the ownership of property.

5. Protestantism:

It is principally on the dogmas of justification, predestination and sacra mental theology that the reformers departed from orthodox belief. It demands that the Bible is the sole source of faith to the rejection or neglect of tradition.

6. Deism:

This heresy is made Voltaire. He is the father of this heresy. He says that there is no link between God and man.

7. Liberal – Protestantism:

In this heresy lutur says, “anyone can interpret scripture on its own”. That is to say he can interpret based on the reflection he gets. They slowly rejected the importance of scripture. They limited the scripture into human understanding.

8. Hegelian pantheium:

According to this heresy, world is the mixture of thesis and anti-thesis. It is not distinction from divine reason. Human reason can known anything that is reason for them. It is the problem of intellectualism.

9. Americanism:

By the end of the 19th C the term ‘adaption’ meant a dangerous tampering with the faith, as is witnessed in the so – called heresy of Americanism. Isaac T. Hecker extolled the activity virtues (humanities, democratic fellowship) to the depreciation of passive virtues. (Subjection to, authority humility).

10. Phantom heresy:

Leo XIII cautioned against this heresy and these active and passive virtues and by referring to them as Americanism with the implication that they were widespread, created what F. Klein called a Phantom heresy.

11. Gnosticism:

Gnos means knowledge according to this heresy, knowledge alone. Christ who has appeared on earth is not a Messiah, he is a teacher who is sent from heaven to teach or deliver a saving doctrines.

12. Marcionism:

This heresy says that god of old testament is a demiurge. It means God is a being like any one being which has an extra power to create.

13. Manichaeism:

This heresy says that the world is evil. They looked upon the material work as the darkness of the prison. They don’t accept the Body. For them body is an evil and world is a prison.

14. Montasticium:

According to this heresy, the fullness of spirit had not been communicated through Christ and the apostles but only through monatus. Whatever is powerful more than the human beings or in the world is called monatus.

15. Eunomisticism:

This heresy says that God can be perfectly known by human mind that is God can be restricted by man.

16. Lutheranism:

In the place of transubstantiation Luther defended consubstantiation in which Christ becomes present in the substance of the element not hypostatically, but in a transcendent through real manner.

17. Baianism:

Baius’s fundamental tenet was God’s creation of man in a state of natural integrity, so that after the fall all his action were not motivated by a nature vitiated towards concupiscence and thus evil to God. It was condemned by Pius V on October 1, 1567.

18. Laxium:

The theory of probabilism (It is licit to act on a probable opinion even through the opposite is more probable) was accepted and taught by the Jesuits, and attacked by Jansenist Blaise Pascal in his “Letters provincials (1657) as dangerous casuistry. It was condemned by Alexander VII on September 24, 1665.

19. Caesarium:

State interference in the affairs of the church was much more significant than the ancient Byzantine Casesaro – Papism or the pope – king quarrels of the Middle Ages. Europe Christians communities no longer a part of Catholicism, opposition of monarches to Rome not only politics but also Principal of faith.

20. Anglicanism:

Anglicanism is the Erastian idea of the state ascending over the church in ecclesiastical matters took hold in the west ministry Assembly (1643) and in the ideal secularization of the church as conceived by Thomas Hobbes.

21. Gallicans Liberties or Gallicanism:

Gallican came to a crisis when Louis XIV attempted to extend the regalia roya (right to the revenues of vacant sees). Louis XVI adopted the four Gallicans Articles of 1682. These were conciliarist and limited the exercise of papal primacy to the customs of the French Church these articles became a formula of Anti – Romanism.

22. Febronianism:

In Germany, the suffrage bishop of trier, Johann Nikolaus Von Hontheim, under the pen name of Justinus Febronius, attacked Roman Power as compared to Papal primacy and as founded upon the False Decretals and advocated an ecclesiastical order that was regulated as much as possible by Episcopal and civic control. Celement XIII had condemned Febronianism in 1764.

23. Josephinism:

Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II, whose toleration Edict of 1781 supressed certain religious order, placed exempt monasteries under diocesan control and required civic authorization for the publication of papal documents. It was condemned by Pius VI in the bull “Auctorem Fidei”, August 28, 1794.

24. Pelagianism:

Pelagius claimed that human beings can discipline themselves so effectively that they could be saved by their own free will, independent of divine grace. St. Augustine defected pelegianism saying, that human nature is caused by original sin and we are born damned, unable to do anything perfectly good. God chooses to give his grace to those whom he has chosen to save, and God knew before he created the world whom he would save.

25. Iconoclasm:

The Eastern Church had a long tradition of venerating icons, that is, images of God, Christ, Mary and the saints. Theoretically, the icons were supposed to point beyond themselves to the person they portrayed, but inevitably some were venerated. The seventh Economical Council, Nicea II (787) defended the veneration of icons and condemned iconoclasm.

26. Catharism:

The cathars considered the union of the body and soul to be a “mixed state” (Good and Evil) caused by the devil. They rejected Christ’s incarnation, marriage, the resurrection of the flesh, and even the eating of animal products. They moved on to reject the sacraments and the doctrine of hekk. The twelth economical council, Lateran IV condemned the cathars in 1815.

27. The kultur kampf and old Catholics:

In the 19th C Caesarism appeared in the anti – Romanian of chancellor ottovon Bismark. His Kultur Kampf oppressed the Church, interfered in its education processes, limited its disciplinary power by the May Law (1873) and exiled religious orders.

28. Traditionalism:

Some Catholic Theologians proposed theories of traditionalism, placing the norms of human certified in the “Sens Common” rather than in distributed individual intellectual ability. For traditionalist God is the first object of our intelligence, established as type of optimistic rationalism. But George Hegal and Friedrich Schelling proposed that it was within human power to deduce the mysteries of the trinity and incarnation.

29. Jan Hus:

The Cather’s heresy had social overtones that of Jan Hus had national ones. Hus became acquainted with the teaching of John Wycliffe, who had argued that only Clergy in the state of grace could own property and that the civil authority could deprive clergy not in that state of their property. Hus argued against clerical immorality and misuse of power.

30. Jansenism:

Cornelius Jansen wrote a book called Augustinus. It emphasized the need for a special and irresistible grace was from God for salvation. Since this grace was irresistible, the over tones of Jansenism were both predestinationist and deterministic. Celement XII condemned Jansenism in 1713.

31. Adoptionism:

It is 18th century Spanish heresy which held that as god, Christ was by nature truly son of god, but, as man, only God’s adopted son.

32. Agosticism:

In Greek it means ‘not knowing’. According to this heresy we cannot know anything with certainty about God, the other world and the after life.

33. Albigensianism:

It is a medieval heresy by Albi. It understood redemption as the soul’s liberation from the flesh, dismissed matter as evil, the Scaraments and the resurrection of the body. In 1215 the heresy was condemned at the Fourth Lateran Council.

34. Apollinarianism:

It is an Christological heresy from a bishop of Laodices, Apollinarius (310-390) intent on defending christ’s full divinity against the Arians, he undercut his full humanity by holding that Christ had no spirit or rational soul, this being replaced by the divine logos.

35. Binitarianism:

It is the heretical denial of the Holy Spirit’s divinity and belief that there are only two persons in God.

36. Docetism:

The early heresy which held the son of God merely seemed to be human being. Christ bodily reality was considered heavenly or else a body in appearance.

37. Ebionitism:

It is the heresy of an ascetic group of Jewish Christians in the first and second centuries. They considered jesus to be the human son of mary and Joseph, a mere man on the spirit decended at Baptism.

38. Eutychianism:

Heresy associated with Eutyches(378). He saw Jesus in “Mono – Physite” view. He denies that Christ also has a human nature like ours. It was condemned in 448 at a home synod in Constantinople.

39. Monarchianism:

A term coined by Tertullian. It is a heretical belief that so stressed the unity of God as to deny a true divine son with a distinct existence.

40. Monotheletism:

It means one will. The heresy which maintained that Christ, despite his having a human nature, lacked a human will and possessed only one (divine) will.

41. Modalism:

The heresy that so stressed the divine unity as to deny “Father”, “son” and “spirit” are personally distinct. They are only three manifestations or ways in which the one god is revealed and acts in creation and redemption.

42. Modernism:

The only heresy which has had significance for twentieth century Roman Catholics is Modernism. The Modernists accepted the advance in biblical exegesis and church history taken for granted by liberal protestants. The Christ of History is thus less than important to know whether he instituted a church, since the Holy spirit guides its progress. In 1907 Pius X condemned the Modernists.

43. Pantheism:

It means “All (is) God”. Doctrine identifies God with the universe. Some interpret the divine in natural terms (naturalistic Pantheism) and others interpret in divine terms, (emanationistic Pantheism). Pantheism can also be seen as a form of imprisoned theism. The first Vatican council condemned it.

44. Patripassianism:

It means “suffering of the father”. This term is coined by Tertullian. He mocked as having driven out the spirit and crucified the father. Another modalist, Noetus asserted that it was the father who had been born and suffered on the cross.

45. Unitarianism:

It is really a modern heresy, developed by Martine Cellarius, Michael Servetus and Faustus Sozzini. It rejected the divinity of the son, and Holy spirit and accepts only one divine person.

46. Zwinglianism:

This heresy is initiated by Ulrich Zwingli. They rejected the authority of the pope.

Albert Pushparaj

I Year Theology

Good Shepherd Seminary, Coimbatore

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