Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The 3 Laws of Heresy

I posit that Heresy is like Physics - it behaves in some generally predictable ways. Hence, here they are, the three Laws of Heresy.

1. A Hersey moving away from truth keeps moving away from truth. So, what does this mean? Heresy never just stops with a little error, with being a little off, It keeps getting worse and worse. This is something that one can see historically. Once you end up denying something like the Sacraments, your theology about the Person of Christ continues to decay -- this Law is what led the Puritans of the Northeast to basically fall apart into Unitarian Universalism. This can also be seen in ordination issues. Once you ignore Scripture to let women be ordained, that heresy is going to keep moving further away, and you will lead into homosexual ordination and the like.

2. The popularity of a heresy is proportional to the personal Charisma/Power of it's proponent. Whenever there is a heresy, it's purpose is to pull and distract people away from the clear Word of God. The power for a heresy isn't anything from God, it comes from man. Therefore, the more Charisma, the more worldly sway and power that a person has, the more popular the heresy will be. That's why heretical sects end up being so strongly cults of personality.

3. For every heresy there is an equal and opposite heresy. You had Nestorious and you had Eutyches, you had the Judiazers and you had Marcion, you had Calvinism and you had Arminianism. Every time someone departs from the Scriptures in one direction, another person will depart from the Scriptures in the opposite way.

These are the three Laws of heresy, and historically, they hold true.


The brilliant theo-physicist "George" writes the following, which is worthy of front post notage:

I do think there are relativistic laws though.

The faster you're moving relative to the truth the harder it is to tell how fast other people are moving from the truth.

The point is -- that if you are a heretic, it's not really so easy for you to tell how heretical a different heresy is. E.g. fellowship between ELCA and UM, PCUSA, etc.


Mike Baker said...

Maybe a fourth?

A heresy may become dormant or less obvious, but it never really goes away.

Really good post, btw.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I wouldn't say that this is a "law" because really this goes into the realm of perspective. I mean, as far as we are concerned we don't have that many monophysites running around. . . we don't think of it, but you go to Egypt - all over the place. It's not that it's dormant or that it is less obvious (or more subtle) - it just not observed that often here.

Maybe it would be a more accurate assertion that no individual heresy is ubiquitous?

I also have an adage as well - Satan recycles. Satan recycles heresy.

George said...

I do think there are relativistic laws though.

The faster you're moving relative to the truth the harder it is to tell how fast other people are moving from the truth.

The point is -- that if you are a heretic, it's not really so easy for you to tell how heretical a different heresy is. E.g. fellowship between ELCA and UM, PCUSA, etc.


Brent said...

This seems like a good time to review Charles Porterfield Krauth's 3-step process for error in the church.

Chad Myers said...

Lutheranism fits directly into all three of these rules.

1.) Rejection of various teachings of the Church has lead to rejections of various teachings of Luther and his followers and their followers, etc until you have a Lutheranism that's strayed in several significant ways from Luther's beliefs.

2.) Luther was quite popular at the time for a number of reasons not the least was his propensity for polemics (so popular at the time among him and his contemporaries in and outside the Church). His popularity was bolstered by the support of various nobles who had political and monetary grievances with the Church, etc.

3.) I would argue that Calvin, Zwingli, and Luther, though all "reformers" were counter to each other and each had strong words for the other. Later "reformers" continued the tradition of polemics and changing doctrine.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Ah, but Chad, so does Rome after the Schism with the East...

1. Rome's increasingly divergent attitudes towards Mary, increasing power to the Papacy. . . just keeps growing. Leo the Great wouldn't recognize these at all.

2. And of course, the various Popes have never used personal Charisma and personal Political power to bend people to their opinion, ignoring the Scriptures.

3. And one might also the same of the reforming councils in Rome, or especially a Pope like Leo IX, who in response to the Pornocracy (an err of libertine sexual approaches) completely outlawed by fiat clerical marriage.

Now, I will not dispute that this tendency to be shaken and vibrated by the attacks of Satan happen within Lutheranism - the ELCA is a gross example of this, and the beginings of new reverbations are present in the LCMS, as they always will be.

But the question will always remain this - in the face of heresy, where do we rest? Is it upon the Scriptures, or personal powers and authority? The Lutheran claim is back towards the Scriptures, and not any personal revelation or insight - at least we know how to find our way back and even the worst one in the ELCA has some sense that they ought to find their way back. . . maybe.

Thus is life in this world.

Chad Myers said...

Hrm, you seem to be confusing many different things and muddying the waters.

1.) These were attitudes present since the early days of Christianity. The needed further clarification with the removal of authority of the Church over secular affairs (when it was no longer in charge of running a earthly kingdom/nation). The infallibility of the Pope in matters of faith and morals had been attested to since the earliest days and is even referenced in scripture (Acts 15). Likewise, the Marian dogmas were held by the Church Fathers and the Immaculate Conception is attested to in Scripture (Luke 1:28 where Gabriel implies, in the Greek at least, that Mary has been, is, and will ever be full of grace and favor of God).

2.) The Popes are the people and sinners and can commit great sins, and several were guilty of holding heretical positions (if for a time), though those positions never made it into the official Magisterial teaching of the Church. The teaching of *CHURCH* was preserved, but this Pope or that Bishop may err when not speaking ex cathedra. Luther, however, made his teaching about him (thus it's called Lutheranism, like all heresies are named after their leader). Whenever Lutherans argue, they frequently refer back to what Luther wrote or asserted on that particular point.

3.) Clerical celebacy is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. The church can (and may) remove that discipline or change it in the future. It is not a central matter of faith (i.e. required for salvation). You confuse the two and conflate the one with the other thus muddying the waters. I'm talking about specific matters of faith concerning salvation of souls.

I don't hold Luther's personal sins against, but I *do* hold his approval of bigamy, removing books from the Bible, encouraging private interpretation at the expense of ecclesiastic authority, etc against him.

RE: "Where do we rest? It is ... upon the Scriptures" That's not what the scriptures themselves say. In Matthew 18:17, Christ says to take it to the Church as the final authority. Paul also says to hold fast to the traditions, not to scripture. Scripture is profitable and useful, no doubt, but the ultimate authority rests in the Apostols and their successors in the Church through which all authority on heaven and earth was given through Christ (the keys, and the power to loose and bind Matthew 16:18).

Every Christian (even Mormons) claim that they have Scriptural authority. Only Catholics and Orthodox claim to have Apostolic authority (and they're both right, though Catholics slightly more than Orthodox since Catholics have the Bishop of Rome -- even many/most Orthodox recognize this). Throughout history, even after the East/West Schism, all Christians (except heretics), recognized the authority in the Church, not in Scripture. I mean, it wasn't until centuries later that there even was a reliable collection of "Scripture" so it was convenient for Luther to concoct this new notion since he had the luxury of having a Scripture compiled by the Church. But the Scripture alone is not sufficient for conflict resolution and the Scripture itself explains this.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


First question - why do you like to pop up on Lutheran site and do the "heh, heh, you guys are heretics" sort of thing, when nothing has been said of Rome? Do you actually intend to try to convince, or do you just like to stir the pot?

Second, as to your points:

1. Yes, Rome got a big head early - but the other Sees opposed Rome. Yes, some claimed that they ought to follow Peter (Cephas), but Paul sort of smacks them down in 1 Corinthians. Or one might consider Galatians as well where Paul speaks of his authority coming not from the structure. Sorry, don't buy it.

2. First of all, Lutherans didn't coin the title "Lutheran" - it was placed upon us as a point of mockery. Thus, it would be like if I called a Roman Catholic "Popish" and then used the term to prove that all you did was worship the Pope. That's not even close to a decent position. More over, Lutheran do not just cite Luther, they cite a wealth of theologians in the Church, you know, just as the Roman Catholic theologians of the day did. Both sides cited Augustine and Aquianas. . . does that mean Roman Catholics are just Aquianians? No. This just shows a poor understanding of Church History (especially as a Luther quote is not viewed as binding amongst Lutherans) - try to do better next time.

3. Were people excommunicated for opposing a "discipline"? If so, if the Church says, "If you oppose this discipline you are condemned to the fires of hell" -- that's pretty much about salvation in my book.

Oh, and concerning Matthew 18, did you notice that the order was:
1. Individual consultation.
2. A few individuals.
3. The Ekklesia. Note: The Ekklesia is not a council, but it consists of those called to faith, both lay and clergy. If that is your claim for clerical authority, it misuses the term Ekklesia.

I would recommend to your reading about the Scriptures (which you seem to think the Church didn't really have a concept of relying upon) the works of Ireneaus against the Heretics, where his refutation rests upon a proper interpretation of the Scriptures in accordance with the rule of faith. That shows what the apostolic authority is - to simply pass on what has been received, as has been trustworthily recorded in the memoirs of the Apostles (Scripture) -- the Apostles spoke what Christ told them to speak, and when they did not, Paul opposed them to their face (oh, wait, that was mainly Peter).

P.S. The books Luther removed. . . still in the German translation Luther did - he just agreed with Jerome that they shouldn't be viewed on the same level as the Hebraic Old Testament. That's all - agreeing the translator the Vulgate.

Again Chad,
You are not speaking to some bumpkin who has never looked at Church History, never read the Fathers (in Greek or Latin, no less), never thought about these things. Roman Catholic Doctrine is wrong - it contradicts both the Scriptures and the History and Traditions of the Church - you aren't going to impress me otherwise, so please, don't try to score points here. It's pointless and impolite.