by Ken Howard
“I have heard frequent use of the words Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: but I confess myself at a loss know precisely what they mean.”
“It’s very simple old chap. Orthodoxy is my doxy. Heterodoxy is anyone else’s doxy.”
I am writing today’s post to explain my thoughts to a long time friend and associate. Brad and I go way back. We share great respect and affection for one another despite the fact that sometimes it seems we agree on little beyond the acknowledgement that we are brothers in Christ. I am writing to explain why I believe that the way many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are using the term “heretic” is not only wrong, but very injurious to the body of Christ. I am not writing as a conservative Christian or a liberal Christian. I reject those terms as a false dichotomy. For me, following Jesus Christ is enough. And so in this post I do not speak for or against either “side,” but as one Christ-follower to another, and to any who want to listen in (and even comment) as fellow Christ-follower. I speak only for myself, and only to explain humbly what is at the heart of the matter for me, as my understanding of Scripture, the love of Christ, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God have led me thus far.
I should say at the outset that is topic of heresy is personal to me. As a Jewish-Christian, I have had a great interest and have done a great deal of research on Jewish Christianity in the early Church, including an extensive research thesis on the topic during seminary. What I discovered in my research has shaped my thinking on orthodoxy and heresy ever since. From at least the 4th Century on, my Jewish Christian forebears have borne the brunt of the organized Church’s misuse of the terms. Some, like the Nazarene Jewish Christians, were declared heretical at Nicaea and excommunicated as a group not long thereafter on the virulent anti-Jewish insistence of Emperor Constantine. During the Spanish Inquisition, hundreds, if not thousands, of Jewish Christian “Conversos” were labeled as heretics, interrogated/tortured, and executed because the Church didn’t trust their conversions. Even in my seminary days, a respected professor of liturgics argued that combining Jewish and Christian worship elements was “heterodox.” To which I replied, “Christ our Passover?”
So what follows, is my argument against the use of the term, “heretic.”