A week ago last night we began a historical series in our mens' Bible study on Wednesday night. I'm calling it "Our Debt to Heresy," a title I ripped off from a Modern Reformation issue (May/June, 2001).
I'm not going to post the whole text of each study here, but I will post excerpts. If you spot mistakes, let me know in the comments, and I will take that correction to our study.
Our Debt to Heresy – Week 1: Introduction
· Gnosticism – Can Christianity be reconciled with Paganism?
· Montanism – What is the Nature of Revelation?
· Arianism – Who is Jesus?
· Pelagianism – What is Man?
· The Roman Catholic Church – Who Holds the Keys?
· Manifest Destiny – A New World, New Heresies
Setting the stage:
The Apostolic Age:
- See Acts 17:6 and context - Turning the world upside down
- Read Acts 28:11-31 - Jesus and the Kingdom
- Read Hebrews 2:1-4 - The foundation of the Apostles
The Post-apostolic Period:
- The Christian Life defended: The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus
- Christians and the State: Pliny to Trajan
- General Christian teaching: Didache
Defining our terms:
- Heresy: from the Greek hairesis, meaning “to take or to choose.” In English, the word has come to mean a teaching or opinion that is opposed to orthodox doctrine.
- Orthodoxy: from the Greek ortho, meaning “right, true or straight” plus doxo, meaning thinking or opinion. It is literally “right thinking” (cf. orthopraxy, “right doing”). In English it has come to mean being in conformity to conventional standards. It the case of Christianity, it means holding to “the teaching,” i.e. sound doctrine.
David Calhoun on the Rise of Heresy:
The question is often asked, which came first? Did orthodoxy come first, followed by the heresies? Or did the heresies arise first and then the church in response to the heresies moved to create what we call orthodoxy? One modern scholar has put it this way, “In early Christianity there was no such thing as orthodoxy but only different forms of Christianity competing for the loyalties of believers.” This scholar believed that there were many ideas out there and finally some of those ideas won. Either the ideas of the Roman church, which became the strongest, were imposed on the entire church or, in some way certain ideas won. So in his point of view the heresies come first. There were many ideas and then gradually one idea became called orthodoxy. In that particular way of reading history the orthodox are simply the winners and the heretics are the losers. I describe that not because that is my view but because I want you to see that this question is one that people have given much thought to. The early church fathers did not view it that way. The early church fathers said that orthodoxy came first and then the heresies. The heresies were the innovations, the new things. Orthodoxy was not. Eusebius of Caesarea put it this way, “Orthodoxy does not have a history. It is true eternally. Heresy has a history, having arisen at particular times through particular teachers.” You can date the beginning of Montanism and Marcionism and these other heresies that we will talk about. But orthodoxy does not have a beginning. You cannot date it. Orthodoxy is eternally true and heresies come later, according to Eusebius. © Summer 2006, Dr. David Calhoun & Covenant Theological Seminary
How would we, as 21st Century Evangelicals, answer the question, “What came first, Heresy or orthodoxy?
Why does God allow heresy to flourish even to the point of almost overwhelming the church?
- Gnosticism – almost overwhelmed the church in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries
- Arianism – Was probably the majority report in the church by the beginning of the 4th Century
- The “Golden Age” of the Roman Catholic Church took over Europe almost entirely
- The popularity of Mormonism, the JWs and many other cults today.
Note the warnings of Scripture:
· Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. – beware of false prophets and abusive shepherds!
· Matthew 7:15-23 – bad fruit, wolves, false professions
· Acts 20:25-32 – wolves from without, false teachers from within
· 2 Thessalonians 2 – beware of great deception and the blindness that results
· Jude – earnestly content, for there are enemies of the truth
· Revelation – deceptions, the counterfeit trinity, etc.
We should not be surprised that the truth faces opposition in this world. Perhaps we should be concerned if what we believe and teach does not raise any controversy!
Resources for further study:
· www.churchtimeline.com – includes links to articles on major events and people
· www.monergism.com – oodles of articles on a variety of historical and theological issues from a trustworthy perspective
· www.equip.org – Home of The Bible Answer Man, articles on cults and aberrant theology