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608083.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 9:15 am Reply with quote

Can you name a heretic?

Possibly. It seems that heresy doesn't have any very specific meaning but basically applies in its religious sense to anyone within a church whose beliefs are unorthodox or at odds with those of the ruling body.

If you said Martin Luther however take a klaxon and see me after school.

In case you missed it, Pope Benedict XVI declared that Martin Luther actually wasn’t a heretic. According to the Pope, Luther never intended to split the Catholic Church, which is actually true. He never intended to split, but was trying to invite a dialogue and discussion over the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Many don’t realize this, but the 95 Theses he nailed to the church doors was written in Latin, not German, which was the language of the people. If he was trying to insight a rebellion, he would have written them down in a language the people could understand.

Similarly for Henry VIII...

Henry VIII was not declared a heretic (at least I can find no mention of it) and separated the Church of England from Rome while the Pope was still delaying a decision on his marriage. He was later excommunicated but that is a different matter.

and Galileo Galilei...

Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642)
was found "vehemently suspect of heresy," namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to "abjure, curse and detest" those opinions.

Which I suppose means not guilty as long as you appologise - so another non-heretic. Incidentally the eppur si muove (And yet it moves)quip was almost certainly not said by Galileo and is not mentioned until 100 years after his death.

Thomas Cranmer (2 July 1489 – 21 March 1556) was excommunicated at the same time as Henry VIII whom he served as Archbishop of Canterbury and he was found to be a heretic by trial during the reign of Mary I. The fact that he had tried to install Lady Jane Grey on the throne doubtless played a significant part in his downfall and subsequent trial for treason by the state.

Henry VIII had no aversion to levelling charges of heresy and William Tyndale was, at Henry's behest, tried for heresy burned at the stake in Belgium for publishing a Bible in English. The Coverdale Bible in English was later approved by Henry and placed in every English church.

You could also have mentioned

Arius (AD ca. 250 or 256 - 336) a Berber Christian priest from Alexandria, Egypt, noted for the Arian heresy which essentially asserts that Jesus did not always exist but that he was brought entirely into being rather than manifested in human form.

Jan Hus (ca. 1372 Husinec, Bohemia – 6 July 1415 Konstanz) a Czech reformer and heretic burned at the stake in 1415; a well known lager enthusiast and he of Hussite fame his unconventional views on ecclesiology formed the roots that lead eventually to the Lutherian protestant church.

Pelagius (ca. AD 354 – ca. AD 420/440) was an ascetic who denied the doctrine of original sin, later developed by Augustine of Hippo, and was declared a heretic by the Council of Carthage.

Ion Zone
608096.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 9:38 am Reply with quote

Galileo Galilei..

His big mistake there was the whole 'Simplicio' debacle. Great at what he did, but not very nice to a lot of people, even ones he was supposedly friends with.

608216.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 2:15 pm Reply with quote

Heresy is derived from the Greek word hairesis, which simply means the chosen belief of a given sect, and was used without any negative connotation (Josephus described the Pharisees, Sadduccees using the term), indeed it appears in Acts 24:5 where Christians are referred to as “the hairesis of the Nazarenes”. As with so much, though, Paul quickly came to apply a negative sense to the word and by the time of his Letter to the Galations ‘heresy’ was being listed alongside idolatory and other “works of the flesh”. It also appears in the Second Letter of Peter where he asserts that “false teachers...shall privily bring in damnable heresies”, which shows the beginnings of the definition of heresy as incorrect choice.

Leonard George, author of the ‘Encyclopaedia of Heresy and Heretics’ wrote that the formula for heresy (whether political, religious or whatever) is the same through the ages “I have the Truth. You do not. My proximity to the Truth allows me to oppress you, to force you to say and do things in which you do not believe, to imprison and mutilate you, to take your belongings, to make you accuse others of wrong views, and even to execute you - for your own good.” He offers as a definition “heresy is a crime of perception - an act of seeing something that, according to some custodian of reality, is not truly there.” Heresy, therefore, is always relative to orthodoxy. Every tradition has its heresies and from the perspective of those conventionally labelled heretics, the orthodox themselves are heretical.

In common usage, though, a heretic is simply someone who is at odds with the orthodox teachings of the Catholic Church. Over the ages there have been two principal kinds of heretics: those who question the divinity of Christ and those who dispute the triune nature of God. The most historically interesting of the former being the Arians who were declared heretics literally over one iota of difference, did Christ have the same nature as God (homoousios in Greek) or a similiar nature to God ([/i]homoiousios[/i] in Greek)? For the latter, the most well known are the Bogomils and their various offshoots - notably the Albigensians of Southern France - who followed a Manichaean or Dualist philosophy in which God possessed two natures or existed in two persons, light and dark, and that all fleshly things were of the dark while all spiritual things were of the light.

From the Fall of Rome onwards Orthodox Christianity had marched ever on, converting pagan kings (and thus their subjects) as it advanced, but around the year 1000 these newer heresies began to appear in growing numbers and the Church began to feel more threatened. The dualist heresies proved especially popular with the urban poor and the newly rising merchant classes who had, as yet, no certain place in society. At the same time demagogic preachers arose all over Europe and attracted substantial followings among the peasants, offering them a more direct, simpler, route to God than the often distant and highly ritualised Church.

Some of these men employed their oratorical gifts in the service of Orthodoxy - Bernard of Clairvaux or Peter the Hermit, who preached so powerfully that they moved tens of thousands to abandon their lives and march to Jerusalem. But others such as Tanchelm of Antwerp preached a highly individualistic creed (and also went a bit mad, dressing in gold cloth and requiring his followers to drink his bath water) that took the Word of God directly to the people - a theme which was to re-emerge down through the centuries and which was even to be employed in the Orthodox fightback by the Dominican and Franciscan mendicant orders.

Each of those two orders would have been considered heretical a few hundred years earlier, and leaders of groups similar to the Franciscans were condemned as heretics but elements of their philosophy were to continue and to form part of the basis of the Reformation. Heresy has tended to thrive in times of great social upheaval, orthodoxy requires stability, certainty and authority, it requires a changelessness and an adherence to established practice. Heresy delights in confusion and in novelty, it rises up when literature begins to flourish and where human imagination explores the dark boundaries, it appears where science begins to show us that there is more to know than we had thought, and it is with us when we reach out into the unknown.

(Lopped out of a paper I wrote many years ago - I’ll pop some specific heretical groups up later, some of them were quite fascinating, as was the response of the Church to them.)

Last edited by exnihilo on Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:57 am; edited 1 time in total

608229.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 2:57 pm Reply with quote

Akhenaten, heretic pharaoh of Egypt and first monotheist in history is my favourite.

Curious Danny
608238.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:09 pm Reply with quote

It is one of the great ironys of history that while Mary I was hated by Protestants for burning them as heretics, the protestants didn't disagree with her methods for dealing with heretics - they just believed catholics were heretics and protestants weren't.

608275.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:45 pm Reply with quote


but plant a few trees to balance it all out.

Ion Zone
608282.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:49 pm Reply with quote


608289.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:56 pm Reply with quote

Curious Danny wrote:
It is one of the great ironys of history that while Mary I was hated by Protestants for burning them as heretics, the protestants didn't disagree with her methods for dealing with heretics - they just believed catholics were heretics and protestants weren't.

That's not strictly true. Most protestants didn't think the Catholic Church was heretical, they thought it had lost its way and needed to be reformed. For most of them the idea was that there should remain one single, united Church but with the abuses of the middle ages removed. It was the intransigence of the Church to such reform that caused other, new churches to be established (and to then splinter). The game ever since has been ecumenism without ever compromising on any of the little points because it's the little points which make each church so certain it's right.

Ion Zone
608296.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 4:00 pm Reply with quote

There is a current move to reform on with talk of services being held for Catholics buried in Protestant cemeteries.

Curious Danny
609016.  Sun Sep 06, 2009 11:59 am Reply with quote

Either way, the protestants sort of loss the moral highground after the way they treated Catholics once they were back in charge.

609295.  Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:33 pm Reply with quote

I'm not sure the phrase 'moral high ground' can really be applied when referring to two groups whose major problem when deciding how they should treat each other was the tricky decision between flambé and barbecue.

609331.  Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:52 am Reply with quote

Just to inject a little note of historical fact in here, Mary I's four year reign saw 280 people sent to the stake for "heresy" (not true heresy, of course, merely a refusal to acknowledge the Pope's supremacy) and her sister, Elizabeth's, forty-five year reign saw around a quarter of that number of Catholics burned - not for being heretical but for plotting against the life of the Queen.

(Eamon Duffy's Fires of Faith is a good introduction to the Marian Counter Reformation, for those interested.)

609333.  Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:59 am Reply with quote

Ion Zone wrote:
Galileo Galilei..

His big mistake there was the whole 'Simplicio' debacle. Great at what he did, but not very nice to a lot of people, even ones he was supposedly friends with.

In fairness, Galileo's works had been condemned long before that.


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