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  • Heresy Definition and Comments

    Heresy Definition and Comments gbs

    Because I read on this forum comments concerning the heretic, the following is provided for perspective.


    A heresy is a doctrinal position that conflicts with an orthodox doctrine.

    An orthodox doctrine is one formally accepted by one of the church councils.

    Contention exists among some groups over which of the church councils have authority.

    Therefore, the definition of heresy is dependent upon which of the church councils are accepted as orthodox by a particular group.

    There is an assumption that orthodox doctrines are consistent with what is taught in the Bible.

    (1). However, it is conceivable that a doctrine could be biblical and be a heresy if a church council decided an opposing doctrine was orthodox.

    (2). Conversely, a doctrine could be orthodox and be inconsistent to what the Bible teaches. An example of an orthodox doctrine that is inconsistent to what the Bible teaches would be found in the Vatican II Roman Catholic Church Council which declared that both Jews and Moslems were saved by their faith in the same God that Christians worship.

    (3). Also, it is conceivable that a doctrine could be unbiblical and not be a heresy. An example would be the debate over falling from grace and the perseverance of the saints or once saved always saved. Logically, only one of these positions may be biblical, but neither contradicts a doctrine formally accepted by one of the seven early church councils generally accepted by protestants; therefore, since neither can be a heresy, one of them must be unbiblical but not a heresy. The Catholic doctrine concerning Mary is considered heretical by the Orthodox Church.

    According to this understanding of heresy most disagreements among Christians should be between

    (a) which position is biblical or unbiblical rather than calling the others position a heresy;
    (b) the disagreement may between whether a position is orthodox or not by the debaters, and if it is the case that it is not orthodox, it is appropriate to label the doctrine a heresy and the person who holds it a heretic. 4/15/2006 gbs


    Not all orthodox believers are correct in their beliefs and not all heretics are wrong in their beliefs. The distinction is in the application of what is orthodox. There are doctrinal positions in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church which have been approved by their church councils which other branches of Christianity do not accept as orthodox. According to the Roman Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church all Protestant are heretics.

    Among Christians during the first 400 years there were a number of doctrines were believed which at a later date were declared a heresy. Specifically, the nature of Christ, the nature of the Godhead, and the nature of the Holy Spirit were areas of massive disagreements. In some centuries a large majority of Christians believed and taught what would in a later church council be declared a heresy.

    Today, the issue with labeling someone a heretic is the use carries with it an implicit idea that a heretic is not just wrong but is outside the possibility of salvation. This idea of heresy is applied to the LDS and JW with a meaning which Christians think is appropriate. However, saved Christians may also be saved as evidenced by the large numbers in the first 400 years.

    Today’s Christians are mistaken to use the early church councils’ decisions which labeled early Church leaders as heretics as a legitimate argument to discount the writings of every one of the heretics. Strange as it may be to accept, some heretics made significant contributions in other doctrinal areas. Historically, it was often the arguments of future heretics supporting what would become a heresy which became the impetus for the counter arguments which became orthodox.

    According to some branches of Christianity and a number of Protestant denominations I would be classified as a heretic.
    In practice, I do not want to be an orthodox Catholic, but a heretic according to the Catholic Church.

    Knowing Church history drastically changes ones view of heresy and whether or not one is offended by being labeled a heretic. The heroes of the Protestant Church were all heretics according to the Roman Catholic Church. 9/28/2017 gbs
    Last edited by glen smith; September 28, 2017, 02:55 PM.

  • #2
    Heresy was most likely not a concept at play in the disciples of the Lord Jesus during the first decade after the ascension. The Church the day after the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ did not have any of New Testament scriptures. It was impossible for the early disciples to debate as Christians do today over the meaning of New Testament Bible verses. The main controversies were with the Jews over whether or not the Lord Jesus is the Jewish messiah and should gentile Christian keep the law of Moses. The emphasis of the preaching of the Apostles was that the Lord Jesus had restored the relationship of men with God, the good news. This continued to be the understanding in the second, third, and fourth decades after the ascension. More detailed doctrines became issues and were responded to in the epistles of Paul. With this development the early emphasis of being restored to a relationship with God through repentance, forgiveness of sin, following Jesus, and making disciples became more and more doctrinal.

    The following references reveal the purpose of Christ is the restoration of man to God.

    Romans 5:10 NIV
    For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

    Ephesians 1:17-23 NIV
    17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

    Ephesians 3: 9-12 NIV
    9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

    1 Peter 3:18
    18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

    The following references reveal the earliest preaching of the Church.

    In addition to the restoration of the relationship between God and man in can be known what the apostles preached from the Book of Acts. NASB

    In these first recorded sermons there is either the call to repent or the declaration of the Jews rejecting God.

    Acts 2:14-40 brief summary of the sermon by the Apostle Peter

    And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
    ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind
    Jesus crucified and raised from the dead.
    ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence;
    For He is at my right hand,
    This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
    ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
    “Sit at My right hand,
    Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’
    “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”

    Acts 3:11-40 brief summary of the sermon by the Apostle Peter

    “Men of Israel, . . . the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, . . . But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One . . . put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.
    . . . the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, . . . and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time . . . And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

    Acts 4:8-12 brief summary of the sermon by the Apostle Peter

    8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people,
    . . . let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

    Acts 5:29-32 reply by the Apostle Peter

    “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

    Acts 7:2-53 brief summary of the sermon by Stephen

    Stephen is speaking to those of the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, elders, scribes, the Council, and the High Priest.
    Stephen summarizes the covenant history Acts 7:2-5. Stephen declares his listeners have rejected God as did their ancestors.
    51 “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
    Acts 8:12 Philip preaches the good news about the kingdom of God.
    But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.

    Acts 8:30-37 brief description of what Philip told the Ethiopian eunuch

    Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

    And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
    Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:
    “He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
    And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    So He does not open His mouth.
    33 “In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
    Who will relate His generation?
    For His life is removed from the earth.”
    The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
    As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

    And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

    And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

    Acts 9: 19-22 Saul Begins to Preach Christ

    Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” . . . But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

    Acts 10:34-48 Gentiles Hear Good News from the Apostle Peter
    Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
    While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
    Acts 11:1-18 The Apostle Peter defends preaching the gospel to the gentiles.

    And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

    And as I (Peter) began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

    Acts 11:19-21 Disciples preach the Lord Jesus to the Greeks

    But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

    Acts 13:16-41 The Apostle Paul preaches in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch
    Paul gives a brief history of Israel from Egypt to King David.
    “He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’ From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’
    “Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead; and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today i have begotten You.’ As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you:
    ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish;
    For I am accomplishing a work in your days,
    A work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.’”
    Acts 13:46-47 Apostles Paul and Barnabas preach to the Gentiles after the Jews contradict what the Apostle Paul taught.
    Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us,
    ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles,
    That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’”
    The next speech is from the Apostle James in chapter 15 concerning the decision of the Jerusalem Council. The Apostle Paul’s second missionary begins after the Jerusalem Council. After this, with the exception of the Apostle Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill (chapter 17) much of the remainder of Acts is a narrative.

    It is from these early sermons recorded in Acts that the content of the preaching of the first disciples may be found.
    Last edited by glen smith; October 3, 2017, 04:30 PM.