A heretic is a person who while a Christian creates controversy, dissension, and division concerning doctrine and belief within the Orthodox Christian church. Such issues arose early in Christ's Church, being noted in a number of the letters of the Apostles, notably in Titus, Timothy, Peter, and John.
As used in Titus, in the New Testament, the word heretic comes from the phrase hairetikon anthropon which is best translated as "one who fosters factions"; that is a person who uses controversy to cause division in the church. Thus, the center of the use of heretic is toward individuals who create factions that espouse an unorthodox idea than to the idea itself, the heresy.
While differences of opinion arise within the church, traditionally these differences are debated and, under God, brought to a common doctrinal and religious understanding by conciliatory means. At times such agreement could not be developed and the parties championing the new ideas, if they continued to press their position, were found to be in heresy and the individuals were declared heretics. Notable examples of heretics during the early centuries during period of the Christological Controversies are Paul of Samosata, Arius and Nestorius.
Among the Apostolic references in the New Testament of incidents of heresy are the following:
Titus 3:9-11 (KJV)9: But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject, 11knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
2 Peter 2:1-3 (KJV)1: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that brought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingerth not, and their damnation slumberth not.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 (KJV)3: If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
3 John 9-11 (KJV)9: I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not. 10Wherefore if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doeth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. 11Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
Heresy, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a "theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the ‘catholic’ or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church..."
The word "heresy" comes from the Greek αίρεσις, hairesis (from αιρέομαι, haireomai, "choose"), which means either a choice of beliefs or a faction of dissident believers. It was given wide currency by Irenaeus of Lyons in his tract The Detection and Refutation of False Knowledge (commonly known by the title of the Latin translation, Contra Haereses (Against Heresies) to describe and discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. He described his own position as orthodox (from ortho- "right" + doxa "glory" or "belief") and his position eventually evolved into the position of the early Christian Church.
Early Christian heresies
Urgent concerns with the uniformity of belief and practice have characterized Christianity from the outset. The process of establishing orthodox Christianity was in full swing by middle to late first century when Paul wrote the epistles that comprise a large part of the New Testament. On many occasions in Paul's epistles, he defends his own apostleship, and urges Christians in various places to beware of false teachers, or of anything contrary to what was handed to them by him. The epistles of John and Jude also warn of false teachers, as does the writer of the Book of Revelation.
During the first three centuries, Christianity was effectively outlawed by requirements to worship the Roman emperor and Roman gods. Consequently, when the Church labeled its enemies as heretics and cast them out of its congregations or severed ties with dissident churches, it remained without the power to persecute them. However, those called "heretics" were also called a number of other things (e.g. "fools," "wild dogs," "servants of Satan"), so the word "heretic" had negative associations from the beginning, and intentionally so.
In the middle of the 2nd century, three unorthodox groups of Christians adhered to a range of doctrines that divided the Christian communities of Rome: the teacher Marcion, the pentecostal outpourings of ecstatic Christian prophets of a continuing revelation, in a movement called "Montanism" because it had been initiated by Montanus and his female disciples, and the gnostic teachings of Valentinus. Early attacks upon alleged heresies formed the matter of Tertullian's Prescription Against Heretics (in 44 chapters, written from Rome), and of Irenaeus' Against Heresies (ca 180, in five volumes), written in Lyon after his return from a visit to Rome. The letters of Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna to various churches warned against false teachers, and the Epistle of Barnabas accepted by many Christians as part of Scripture in the 2nd century, warned about mixing Judaism with Christianity, as did other writers, leading to decisions reached in the First Ecumenical Council, which was convoked by the Emperor Constantine at Nicea in 325, in response to further disruptive polemical controversy within the Christian community, in that case Arian disputes over the nature of the Trinity.
Irenaeus was the first to argue that the "proto-orthodox" position was the same faith that Jesus gave to the apostles, and that the identity of the apostles, their successors, and the teachings of the same were all well known public knowledge. This was therefore an earlier argument on the basis of Apostolic Succession. Irenaeus' opponents claimed to have received secret teachings from Jesus via other apostles which were not publicly known. (Gnosticism is predicated on the existence of hidden knowledge, but brief references to private teachings of Jesus have also survived in the canonic Scripture.) Irenaeus' opponents also claimed that the wellsprings of divine inspiration were not dried up, the doctrines of continuing revelation.
Before 325, the "heretical" nature of some beliefs was a matter of much debate within the churches. In the early church, heresies were sometimes determined by a selected council of bishops, or ecumenical council, such as the First Council of Nicea. After 325, some opinion was formulated as dogma through the canons promulgated by the councils. Each phrase in the Nicene Creed, which was hammered out at the Council of Nicea, addresses some aspect that had been under passionate discussion and closes the books on the argument, with the weight of the agreement of over 300 carefully selected bishops from around the empire. However, that did not prevent the Arians who were defeated at the council of 325 from dominating most of the church for the greater part of the fourth century, often with the aid of Roman emperors who favored them. In the East, the successful party of Cyril cast out Nestorius and his followers as heretics and collected and burned his writings.
The church had little power to actually punish heretics in the early years, other than by excommunication, a spiritual punishment, or, as in the case of Arius, assassination (Though this would me a matter of contention, as he was supported by the Royalty, and his end was rather strange. It is described as thus: As Arius was journeying to cocelebrate the Divine Liturgy with the Bishop, who had be pressured into doing such as a sign to the people that there wasn't really any difference between Arian and Church belief, tradition tell us Arius stopped to use the facilities. Some short time later his follower went in to check on him, as he had taken a long time. Apparently, his intestines had passed out of him.). To those who accepted it, an excommunication was the worst form of punishment possible, as it separated the individual from the body of Christ, his Church, and prevented salvation. Excommunication, or even the threat of excommunication, was enough to convince many a heretic to renounce his views. The Hispanic ascetic Priscillian of Avila was the first person to be executed for heresy, only sixty years after the First Council of Nicea, in 385. He was executed at the orders of Emperor Magnus Maximus, over the procedural objections of bishops Ambrose of Milan and Martin of Tours.
A number of the beliefs the Church has come to regard as heretical have to do with Christology, the nature of Jesus Christ and the relationship between Christ and God the Father. The historic teaching is that Christ was fully divine and at the same time fully human, and that the three persons of the Trinity are equal and eternal. Note that this position was not formally established as the orthodox position until it was challenged in the fourth century by Arius (Nicene Creed in 325); nor was the New Testament put into its present form until the end of the 4th century (Athanasius of Alexandria first lists the 27 books we have in the current New Testament in 367(?), but disputes continued.
Over the years, numerous Christian scholars and preachers have disagreed with the Church on various issues or doctrines. When the Church has become aware of these beliefs, they have been condemned as heretical. Historically, this often happened when the belief challenged, or was seen to challenge, Church authority, or drew a movement of followers who challenged the established order socially. For entirely secular reasons, some influential people have had an interest in maintaining the status quo or condemning a group they wished to be removed. The Church's internal explanations for its actions were based purely on objection to beliefs and philosophies that ran contrary to its interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and its official interpretation of Holy Tradition.
Some of the major heresies of Church history:
- Bosnian Church
- Jehovah's Witnesses (Appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century in the USA influenced by Arian and Seventh-Day Adventist teachings)
- Macedonian Heresy (from: the heretic Macedonius, bishop of Constantinople 342-346 and 351-360)
- Peter of Bruis
While the term is often used to indicate any nonorthodox belief such as Paganism, by definition heresy can only be committed by a person who considers himself a Christian, but rejects the teachings of the Christian Church. A person who completely renounces Christianity is not considered a heretic, but an apostate; a person who renounces the authority of the Church, but not its teachings, is a schismatic, while an individual outside of the Orthodox Church who considers himself to be Christian might be called Heterodox.
Heretics usually do not define their own beliefs as heretical. Heresy is the expression of a view from within an established belief system. For instance, Roman Catholics held Protestantism as a heresy while some non-Catholics considered Catholicism the "Great Apostasy."
The "3rd Rome" Theory
The idea of Moscow being the Third Rome was popular since the early Russian Tsars. Within decades after the Fall of Constantinople to Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453, some were nominating Moscow as the "Third Rome," or new "New Rome." Stirrings of this sentiment began during the reign of Ivan III, Grand Duke of Moscow, who had married Sophia Paleologue. Sophia was a niece of Constantine XI, the last Eastern Roman Emperor, and Ivan could claim to be the heir of the fallen Eastern Roman Empire.
It is noteworthy that before Ivan III, Stefan Dusan, king of Serbia, and Ivan Alexander, king of Bulgaria, both related to the Byzantine dynasty, facing the decline of the Byzantine empire in the XIV century, made similar claims. Bulgarian manuscripts advanced the idea that Trnovo, the capital of the Bulgarian empire, was the new Constantinople. These plans were never realized as the Ottomans defeated Serbs at Kosovo Polje in 1389, and put an end to the Second Bulgarian Empire in 1396 with the occupation of the Despotate of Vidin. However, the rhetoric developed to this respect earlier in Trnovo was imported to Moscow by Cyprian, a clergyman of Bulgarian origin, who became Metropolitan of Moscow in 1381.
The idea crystallized with a panegyric letter composed by the Russian monk Philoteus (Filofey) in 1510 to their son Grand Duke Vasili III, which proclaimed, "Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will not be a fourth. No one will replace your Christian Tsardom!" Contrary to the common misconception, Filofey explicitly identifies Third Rome with Russia (the country) rather than with Moscow (the city).
Since Roman princesses had married Tsars of Moscow, and, since Russia had become, with the fall of Byzantium, the most powerful Orthodox Christian state, the tsars were thought of as succeeding the Byzantine Emperor as the rightful ruler of the (Christian) world. The word tsar, like kaiser, is derived from the word caesar.
Grand Duke Ivan IV (called "the Terrible") was proclaimed the first Russian Tsar on January 16, 1547. On November 2, 1721, Peter I restyled himself as Emperor and Autocrat of All Russia. The new title was supposed to reflect both the traditional claims of his predecessors and his success in establishing Imperial Russia as a new European power.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Denounces Moscow's "3rd Rome" Theory
"ORTHODOXOS TYPOS": Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Denounces Moscow's "3rd Rome" Theory According to the Athens newspaper To Vima of 8 July, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew responded to the "3rd Rome" theory of the Patriarch of Moscow (which had been brought up for discussion during the 8th International Assemblage of the Russian Orthodox Church) by calling it:
"...foolish, hubristic, and blasphemous," because "...it resounds with the spirit of caesarpapism and vaticanism; something totally unacceptable to the Orthodox Church."
To Vima went on to report that the Ecumenical Patriarch replied specifically to the positions and arguments posited by the attending Church hierarchy and political representatives of Moscow by sending -- via the Secretary of the Assemblage -- letters pertaining to this matter to the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexion; the President of External Affairs for the Russian Church, Metropolitan of Smolensk, Cyril; as well as to some of the politicians in attendance.
Along with other matters, the letter contained the following:
To the representatives of the Russian government, Patriarch Bartholomew stated:
"The gathering together of Orthodox faithful into one flock under the leadership of a single powerful leader, who would be carrying out the agenda of a particular government, will unavoidably lead the Church into becoming nothing more than an organ of that government, and not the means by which mankind achieves salvation."
To the Minister of the Exterior, Ivanoff, he stated the following:
"The involvement of government into the decision-making process of the Church smacks of unacceptable caesarpapism.
During the communist era there occurred an intolerable politicization of the Russian Church.
We hoped that things would be different after the fall of that monstrous system.
However, to our dismay, we see that the current Russian government continues to unhesitatingly interfere, and, indeed, to even 'make policy' concerning matters that are strictly ecclesiastical."
The Patriarch went on to ask the following question of the Metropolitan of Smolensk: "Are you telling us that the unity of Orthodoxy is a question of numbers, political strength, secular and diplomatic power?"
According to the article in To Vima, the Ecumenical Patriarch went on to declare:
"What we have heard regarding the unity of the Church is, in its entirety, an unfortunate echoing of the spirit of vaticanism, which construes unity as a single organizational structure, as opposed to the unity of the spirit and of the heart, which has been the way it has always been construed in the Orthodox Church."
To the Vice President of the Parliamentary Committee, the Ecumenical Patriarch emphasized the following:
"The foolish theory pertaining to a '3rd Rome' is hubristic (in accordance with the ancient Greek definition of this word [having to do with overweening arrogance] ), and blasphemous.
Archbishop Christodoulos, leader (RIP) of Greece's Orthodox Church, greets Pope John Paul II at the entrance of the Athens Archdiocese in Athens GRE
- Letter of the Supreme Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew - [in Greek]
- Letter of Reply from His Most Godly Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria to His All-Holiness the Most Godly Oecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaeos concerning the election of His Grace Bishop Basil of Amphipolis (dated 19th June 2006) - [in Greek]
- Letter of Reply from His Most Godly Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem to His All-Holiness the Most Godly Oecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaeos concerning the election of His Grace Bishop Basil of Amphipolis (dated 9th June 2006) - [in Greek]
- Letter of Reply from His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Paphos, Locum-tenens of the Archi-episcopal Throne of Cyprus, to His All-Holiness the Most Godly Oecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaeos concerning the election of His Grace Bishop Basil of Amphipolis (dated 14th June 2006) - [in Greek]
- Patriarchal Letter to the Prime Minister of FYROM Mr. Vlado Buckovski - [in Greek]
- Letter of President of the USA His Excellency Mr George Bush to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew - [in Greek]
- Letter of His Beatitude, the Patriarch of Romania Theoctist, to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholoemew(14.01.2005).
- Letter to His Excellency Victor Yuschenko, President of Ukraine(22/01/2005) - [in Greek]
- Letter of His Excellency Viktor Yuschenko, President of Ukraine, to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew(21/01/2005) - [in Greek]
- Letter of His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
- Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church
- Dialogue with the Anglican Church
- World Council of Churches (WCC)
- Council of European Churches (CEC)
- Dialogue with the Old Catholic Church
- Dialogue with the Lutheran – Evangelical Churches
- Dialogue with the German Evangelical Church (EKD)
- Dialogue with the American Lutheran Church
- Dialogue with the Reformed Churches
- Official visit of the Pope of Rome Benedict XVI
to the Ecumenical Patriarchate (29-30/11/2006)
AUTOCEPHALOUS AND OTHER CHURCHES
Patriarchate of Alexandria
Patriarchate of Antioch
Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Patriarchate of Moscow
Patriarchate of Serbia
Patriarchate of Romania
Patriarchate of Bulgaria
Patriarchate of Georgia
Church of Cyprus
Church of Greece
Church of Albania
Church of Poland
Church of Czech - Slovakia
Church of Finland
Church of Estonia
METROPOLISES OF THE THRONE
Holy Archdiocese of America
Holy Archdiocese of Australia
Holy Archdiocese of Crete
Holy Metropolis of Arkalochorion
Holy Metropolis of Belgium
of Gortyna and Arkadia
Holy Metropolis of France
Holy Metropolis of Germany
Holy Metropolis of Italy
Holy Metropolis of Canada
of Kisamon and Selinon
Holy Metropolis of Korea
Holy Metropolis of Kydonia
Holy Metropolis of Buenos Aires
Holy Metropolis of New Zealand
Holy Metropolis of Rhodes
Holy Metropolis of Hong Kong
Exarchate of the Orthodox
Parishes of Russian tradition
in Western Europe
Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Ukranian Orthodox Church of Canada
American Carpatho-Russian Diocese
Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate, Chambésy, Geneva
Institute of Postgraduate
Studies in Orthodox Theology,
Institute of Orthodox Theology
in Paris «Saint Serge»
Orthodox Academy of Crete
Ecclesiastical School of Crete
Holy Monastery of
Esphigmenou of Mount Athos
Nikos Deja Vu