Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization.The term is usually used in reference to violations of important religious teachings, but is also used of views strongly opposed to any generally accepted ideas. A heretic is a proponent of heresy.
The term is used particularly in reference to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.In certain historical Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures, among others, espousing ideas deemed heretical has been (and in some cases still is) met with censure ranging from excommunication to the death penalty.
Heresy is distinct from apostasy, which is the explicit renunciation of one's religion, principles or cause;and from blasphemy, which is an impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things. Heresiology is the study of heresy.
Derived from Ancient Greek haíresis (αἵρεσις), the English heresy originally meant 'choice' or 'thing chosen'. However, it came to mean the "party, or school, of a man's choice," and also referred to that process whereby a young person would examine various philosophies to determine how to live.[ citation needed ]
The word heresy is usually used within a Christian, Jewish, or Islamic context, and implies slightly different meanings in each. The founder or leader of a heretical movement is called a heresiarch , while individuals who espouse heresy or commit heresy are known as heretics.
According to Titus 3:10 a divisive person should be warned twice before separating from him. The Greek for the phrase "divisive person" became a technical term in the early Church for a type of "heretic" who promoted dissension.In contrast, correct teaching is called sound not only because it builds up the faith, but because it protects it against the corrupting influence of false teachers.
Some Church Fathers identified Jews and Judaism with heresy. They saw deviations from orthodox Christianity as heresies that were essentially Jewish in spirit. Tertullian implied that it was the Jews who most inspired heresy in Christianity: "From the Jew the heretic has accepted guidance in this discussion [that Jesus was not the Christ]."
The use of the word heresy was given wide currency by Irenaeus in his 2nd century tract Contra Haereses (Against Heresies) to describe and discredit his opponents during the early centuries of the Christian community. He described the community's beliefs and doctrines as orthodox (from ὀρθός, orthos, 'straight' + δόξα, doxa, 'belief') and the Gnostics' teachings as heretical.[ citation needed ] He also pointed out the concept of apostolic succession to support his arguments.
Constantine the Great, who along with Licinius had decreed toleration of Christianity in the Roman Empire by what is commonly called the "Edict of Milan",and was the first Roman Emperor baptized, set precedents for later policy. By Roman law the Emperor was Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of the College of Pontiffs (Collegium Pontificum) of all recognized religions in ancient Rome. To put an end to the doctrinal debate initiated by Arius, Constantine called the first of what would afterwards be called the ecumenical councils and then enforced orthodoxy by Imperial authority.
The first known usage of the term in a legal context was in AD 380 by the Edict of Thessalonica of Theodosius I,which made Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire. Prior to the issuance of this edict, the Church had no state-sponsored support for any particular legal mechanism to counter what it perceived as "heresy". By this edict the state's authority and that of the Church became somewhat overlapping. One of the outcomes of this blurring of Church and state was the sharing of state powers of legal enforcement with church authorities. This reinforcement of the Church's authority gave church leaders the power to, in effect, pronounce the death sentence upon those whom the church considered heretical.
Within six years of the official criminalization of heresy by the Emperor, the first Christian heretic to be executed, Priscillian, was condemned in 386 by Roman secular officials for sorcery, and put to death with four or five followers.However, his accusers were excommunicated both by Ambrose of Milan and Pope Siricius, who opposed Priscillian's heresy, but "believed capital punishment to be inappropriate at best and usually unequivocally evil." The edict of Theodosius II (435) provided severe punishments for those who had or spread writings of Nestorius. Those who possessed writings of Arius were sentenced to death.
For some years after the Reformation, Protestant churches were also known to execute those they considered heretics, including Catholics. The last known heretic executed by sentence of the Catholic Church was Spanish schoolmaster Cayetano Ripoll in 1826. The number of people executed as heretics under the authority of the various "ecclesiastical authorities"is not known.
In the Catholic Church, obstinate and willful manifest heresy is considered to spiritually cut one off from the Church, even before excommunication is incurred. The Codex Justinianus (1:5:12) defines "everyone who is not devoted to the Catholic Church and to our Orthodox holy Faith" a heretic.The Church had always dealt harshly with strands of Christianity that it considered heretical, but before the 11th century these tended to centre on individual preachers or small localised sects, like Arianism, Pelagianism, Donatism, Marcionism and Montanism. The diffusion of the almost Manichaean sect of Paulicians westwards gave birth to the famous 11th and 12th century heresies of Western Europe. The first one was that of Bogomils in modern-day Bulgaria, a sort of sanctuary between Eastern and Western Christianity. By the 11th century, more organised groups such as the Patarini, the Dulcinians, the Waldensians and the Cathars were beginning to appear in the towns and cities of northern Italy, southern France and Flanders.
In France the Cathars grew to represent a popular mass movement and the belief was spreading to other areas.The Cathar Crusade was initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate the Cathar heresy in Languedoc. Heresy was a major justification for the Inquisition (Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis, Inquiry on Heretical Perversity) and for the European wars of religion associated with the Protestant Reformation.
Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for heresy, but abjured his views and was sentenced to house arrest, under which he spent the rest of his life. Galileo was found "vehemently suspect of heresy", namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, and 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.
Pope Gregory I stigmatized Judaism and the Jewish people in many of his writings. He described Jews as enemies of Christ: "The more the Holy Spirit fills the world, the more perverse hatred dominates the souls of the Jews." He labeled all heresy as "Jewish", claiming that Judaism would "pollute [Catholics and] deceive them with sacrilegious seduction."The identification of Jews and heretics in particular occurred several times in Roman-Christian law.
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In Eastern Orthodox Christianity heresy most commonly refers to those beliefs declared heretical by the first seven Ecumenical Councils. Since the Great Schism and the Protestant Reformation, various Christian churches have also used the concept in proceedings against individuals and groups those churches deemed heretical.
The Orthodox Church also rejects the early Christian heresies such as Arianism, Gnosticism, Origenism, Montanism, Judaizers, Marcionism, Docetism, Adoptionism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism and Iconoclasm.
In his work "On the Jews and Their Lies" (1543), German Reformation leader Martin Luther claims that Jewish history was "assailed by much heresy", and that Christ the logos swept away the Jewish heresy and goes on to do so, "as it still does daily before our eyes." He stigmatizes Jewish prayer as being "blasphemous" and a lie, and vilifies Jews in general as being spiritually "blind" and "surely possessed by all devils."
In England, the 16th-century European Reformation resulted in a number of executions on charges of heresy. During the thirty-eight years of Henry VIII's reign, about sixty heretics, mainly Protestants, were executed and a rather greater number of Catholics lost their lives on grounds of political offences such as treason, notably Sir Thomas More and Cardinal John Fisher, for refusing to accept the king's supremacy over the Church in England.Under Edward VI, the heresy laws were repealed in 1547 only to be reintroduced in 1554 by Mary I; even so two radicals were executed in Edward's reign (one for denying the reality of the incarnation, the other for denying Christ's divinity). Under Mary, around two hundred and ninety people were burned at the stake between 1555 and 1558 after the restoration of papal jurisdiction. When Elizabeth I came to the throne, the concept of heresy was retained in theory but severely restricted by the 1559 Act of Supremacy and the one hundred and eighty or so Catholics who were executed in the forty-five years of her reign were put to death because they were considered members of "a subversive fifth column." The last execution of a "heretic" in England occurred under James VI and I in 1612. Although the charge was technically one of "blasphemy" there was one later execution in Scotland (still at that date an entirely independent kingdom) when in 1697 Thomas Aikenhead was accused, among other things, of denying the doctrine of the Trinity.
Another example of the persecution of heretics under Protestant rule was the execution of the Boston martyrs in 1659, 1660, and 1661. These executions resulted from the actions of the Anglican Puritans, who at that time wielded political as well as ecclesiastic control in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. At the time, the colony leaders were apparently hoping to achieve their vision of a "purer absolute theocracy" within their colony.[ citation needed ] As such, they perceived the teachings and practices of the rival Quaker sect as heretical, even to the point where laws were passed and executions were performed with the aim of ridding their colony of such perceived "heresies." [ citation needed ]
The trial and subsequent execution of heretics under the banner of Christianity came to an end in 1826 with the last execution of a "heretic," Cayetano Ripoll, by the Spanish Inquisition.
Although less common than in earlier periods, in modern times, formal charges of heresy within Christian churches still occur. Issues in the Protestant churches have included modern biblical criticism and the nature of God. In the Catholic Church, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith criticizes writings for "ambiguities and errors" without using the word "heresy."
Perhaps due to the many modern negative connotations associated with the term heretic, such as the Spanish inquisition, the term is used less often today. The subject of Christian heresy opens up broader questions as to who has a monopoly on spiritual truth, as explored by Jorge Luis Borges in the short story "The Theologians" within the compilation Labyrinths .
On 11 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI stated that some Protestant groups are "ecclesial communities" rather than Churches.Representatives of some of these Christian denominations accused the Vatican of effectively calling them heretics. However, Pope Benedict XVI clarified that the phrase "ecclesial community" did not necessitate explicit heresy, but only that the communities lacked certain "essential elements" of an apostolic church, as he had written in the document Dominus Iesus.
Starting in medieval times, Muslims began to refer to heretics and those who antagonized Islam as zindiqs , the charge being punishable by death.
Ottoman Sultan Selim the Grim regarded the Shia Qizilbash as heretics, reportedly proclaimed that "the killing of one Shiite had as much otherworldly reward as killing 70 Christians."Shia, in general, have often been accused by Sunnis of being heretics.
To Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Sikhs were heretics.
In some modern day nations and regions, heresy remains an offense punishable by death. One example is the 1989 fatwa issued by the government of Iran, offering a substantial bounty for anyone who succeeds in the assassination of author Salman Rushdie, whose writings were declared as heretical. Moreover, the Baháʼí Faith is considered an Islamic heresy in Iran, with systematic persecution of Baháʼís.
Orthodox Judaism considers views on the part of Jews who depart from traditional Jewish principles of faith heretical. In addition, the more right-wing groups within Orthodox Judaism hold that all Jews who reject the simple meaning of Maimonides's 13 principles of Jewish faith are heretics.As such, most of Orthodox Judaism considers Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism heretical movements, and regards most of Conservative Judaism as heretical. The liberal wing of Modern Orthodoxy is more tolerant of Conservative Judaism, particularly its right wing, as there is some theological and practical overlap between these groups.
The act of using Church of Scientology techniques in a form different than originally described by L. Ron Hubbard is referred to within Scientology as "squirreling" and is said by Scientologists to be high treason.The Religious Technology Center has prosecuted breakaway groups that have practiced Scientology outside the official Church without authorization.
Although Zoroastrianism has had an historical tolerance for other religions, it also held sects like Zurvanism and Mazdakism heretical to its main dogma and has violently persecuted them, such as burying Mazdakians with their feet upright as "human gardens." In later periods Zoroastrians cooperated with Muslims to kill other Zoroastrians deemed as heretical.
Buddhist and Taoist monks in medieval China often called the other "heretics" and competed to be praised by the royal court. Although today most Chinese believe in a hybrid of the "Three Teachings" (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucian) the bias may still be seen in some teachings and commentaries by both religions. Neo-Confucian heresy has also been described.
In other contexts the term does not necessarily have pejorative overtones and may even be complimentary when used, in areas where innovation is welcome, of ideas that are in fundamental disagreement with the status quo in any practice and branch of knowledge.
Scientist/author Isaac Asimov considered heresy as an abstraction, mentioning religious, political, socioeconomic and scientific heresies.He divided scientific heretics into: endoheretics, those from within the scientific community; and exoheretics, those from without. Characteristics were ascribed to both and examples of both kinds were offered. Asimov concluded that science orthodoxy defends itself well against endoheretics (by control of science education, grants and publication as examples), but is nearly powerless against exoheretics. He acknowledged by examples that heresy has repeatedly become orthodoxy.
Publishing his findings as The Dinosaur Heresies , revisionist paleontologist Robert T. Bakker, himself a scientific endoheretic, treated the mainstream view of dinosaurs as dogma:
I have enormous respect for dinosaur paleontologists past and present. But on average, for the last fifty years, the field hasn't tested dinosaur orthodoxy severely enough. 27:
He adds that, "Most taxonomists, however, have viewed such new terminology as dangerously destabilizing to the traditional and well-known scheme." 462 The illustrations by the author show dinosaurs in very active poses, in contrast to the traditional perception of lethargy.:
Immanuel Velikovsky is an example of a recent scientific exoheretic; he did not have appropriate scientific credentials or did not publish in scientific journals. While the details of his work are in scientific disrepute, the concept of catastrophic change (extinction event and punctuated equilibrium) has gained acceptance in recent decades.
The term heresy is used not only with regard to religion but also in the context of political theory.The term heresy is also used as an ideological pigeonhole for contemporary writers because, by definition, heresy depends on contrasts with an established orthodoxy. For example, the tongue-in-cheek contemporary usage of heresy, such as to categorize a "Wall Street heresy" a "Democratic heresy" or a "Republican heresy," are metaphors that invariably retain a subtext that links orthodoxies in geology or biology or any other field to religion. These expanded metaphoric senses allude to both the difference between the person's views and the mainstream and the boldness of such a person in propounding these views.
Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion, with about 2.4 billion followers as of 2020.
The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, Christian countries, and the Church with its various denominations, from the 1st century to the present.
The Inquisition, in historical ecclesiastical terminology also referred to as the "Holy Inquisition", was a group of institutions within the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. Torture and violence were used by Inquisition for eliciting confessions from heretics. The Inquisition started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent, particularly among the Cathars and the Waldensians. The inquisitorial courts from this time until the mid-15th century are together known as the Medieval Inquisition. Other groups investigated during the Medieval Inquisition, which primarily took place in France and Italy, included the Spiritual Franciscans, the Hussites and the Beguines. Beginning in the 1250s, inquisitors were generally chosen from members of the Dominican Order, replacing the earlier practice of using local clergy as judges.
The Medieval Inquisition was a series of Inquisitions from around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition (1184–1230s) and later the Papal Inquisition (1230s). The Medieval Inquisition was established in response to movements considered apostate or heretical to Christianity, in particular Catharism and Waldensians in Southern France and Northern Italy. These were the first inquisition movements of many that would follow.
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Orthodoxy is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion.
Christian−Jewish reconciliation refers to the efforts that are being made to improve understanding and acceptance between Christians and Jews. There has been significant progress in reconciliation in recent years, in particular by the Catholic Church, but also by other Christian groups.
Christian Church is a Protestant ecclesiological term referring to the church invisible comprising all Christians, used since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. In this understanding, "Christian Church" does not refer to a particular Christian denomination but to the "body" or "group" of believers, both defined in various ways. A prominent example of this is the branch theory maintained by some Anglicans. This is in contrast to the one true church applied to a specific concrete Christian institution, a majority Christian ecclesiological position maintained by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.
A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity that comprises all church congregations of the same kind, identifiable by traits such as a name, peculiar history, organization, leadership, theological doctrine, worship style and sometimes a founder. It is a secular and neutral term, generally used to denote any established Christian Church. Unlike a cult or sect, a denomination is usually seen as part of the Christian religious mainstream. Most Christian denominations self-describe as Churches, whereas some newer ones tend to use the terms churches, assemblies, fellowships etc, interchangeably. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, biblical hermeneutics, theology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.
The Catholic Church, throughout its long history, has on occasion been subject to criticism regarding various beliefs and practices. Within the Church, this includes differences of opinion regarding the use of Latin at Mass, and the subject of clerical celibacy. In the past, different interpretations of scripture and critiques of clerical laxity and opulence contributed to separations such as the schism with the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church has also been criticized for its active efforts to influence political decisions, such as the Church's promotion of the Crusades and its involvement with various 20th century nationalist regimes. More recent criticism focuses on alleged scandals within the Church, particularly alleged financial corruption and the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandals.
Judaizers are Christians who teach it is necessary to adopt Jewish customs and practices, especially those found in the Law of Moses, to be saved. The term is derived from the Koine Greek word Ἰουδαΐζειν (Ioudaizein), used once in the Greek New Testament, when Paul publicly challenges Peter for compelling Gentile converts to Early Christianity to "judaize". This episode is known as the incident at Antioch.
Anti-Protestantism is bias, hatred or distrust against some or all branches of Protestantism and its followers.
The historical revision of the Inquisition is a historiographical process that started to emerge in the 1970s, with the opening of formerly closed archives, the development of new historical methodologies, and, in Spain, the death of the ruling dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. New works of historical revisionism changed our knowledge of the history of the Roman and Spanish Inquisitions.
The history of Christian thought demonstrates that Christianity has included concepts of both inclusivity and exclusivity from its beginnings. It has emphasized these ideas differently, in different ages, and this has led to practices of both persecution and toleration. Early Christian thought established Christian identity, defined heresy, separated itself from polytheism and Judaism and invented supersessionism. In the early 300s, Christian thought entered an age of "triumphalism" which saw Constantine's conversion as proof the battle against paganism had been won in Heaven. In the centuries after Christianity became the official religion of Rome, some scholars say Christianity became a persecuting religion, while others say such episodes were rare. During the fourth century's "Golden Age of Christian thought," Augustine wrote a letter supporting the state's use of coercion which was used in later centuries for justifying persecution.
The term proto-orthodox Christianity or proto-orthodoxy was coined by New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman and describes the Early Christian movement which was the precursor of Christian orthodoxy. Ehrman argues that this group from the moment it became prominent by the end of the third century, "stifled its opposition, it claimed that its views had always been the majority position and that its rivals were, and always had been, 'heretics', who willfully 'chose' to reject the 'true belief'." In contrast, Larry W. Hurtado argues that proto-orthodox Christianity is rooted in first-century Christianity.
A schism is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a split in what had previously been a single religious body, such as the East–West Schism or the Great Western Schism. It is also used of a split within a non-religious organization or movement or, more broadly, of a separation between two or more people, be it brothers, friends, lovers, etc.
Anti-Judaism is the "total or partial opposition to Judaism as a religion—and the total or partial opposition to Jews as adherents of it—by persons who accept a competing system of beliefs and practices and consider certain genuine Judaic beliefs and practices inferior."
Heresy in Christianity denotes the formal denial or doubt of a core doctrine of the Christian faith as defined by one or more of the Christian churches.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Christianity:
Heresy in the Catholic Church denotes the formal denial or doubt of a core doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Heresy has a very specific meaning in the Catholic Church and there are four elements which constitute formal heresy; a valid Christian baptism; a profession of still being a Christian; outright denial or positive doubt regarding a truth that the Catholic Church regards as revealed by God; and lastly, the disbelief must be morally culpable, that is, there must be a refusal to accept what is known to be a doctrinal imperative. Therefore, to become a heretic in the strict canonical sense and be excommunicated, one must deny or question a truth that is taught as the word of God, and at the same time recognize one's obligation to believe it. If the person is believed to have acted in good faith, as one might out of ignorance, then the heresy is only material and implies neither guilt nor sin against faith.
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