Sunday 7 May 2006

What is heresy?

At his new blog, According to Jonathan, Jonathan Brown has an insightful post on the question of heresy. He rightly highlights the human cost involved in identifying any person as a “heretic.”

The way the term “heresy” functions in theological discourse is an immensely interesting topic. One of the most acute discussions of the concept of heresy is that of Friedrich Schleiermacher, in his Christian Faith, §§21-22. Schleiermacher’s account is especially useful for highlighting the important role “heresy” plays in the construction of dogmatic theology.

Schleiermacher famously categorises the “natural heresies of Christianity” into four basic forms: the Docetic, the Ebionitic, the Manichaean and the Pelagian. Apart from these four forms, he argues, “other kinds of heresy” simply “cannot be conceived.”


Michael F. Bird said...

Ben, I would have thought that by being in the UQ religious studies dept. manifestations of heresy would have been frequent and obvious :-)

Ben Myers said...

Actually, Mike, the heresies are not nearly so common now that you have left the department....


Michael F. Bird said...

What the firecracker are you implying my dear fellow? Moi, a heretec? You haven't talking to any of those Southern Presbyterians have you?

Anonymous said...

Theologically speaking, I think of heresy as a premature rush to conclusions, an inability to wait for the difficult to disclose itself; as a captivity to conventional or fashionable thought-forms; and as an aesthetic disability, a failure of imagination, a kind of beauty-blindness.

Ecclesiastically speaking, however, right on the suspicious hermeneuticists who disclose the deployment of the rhetoric of heresy in what are discourses of power as much as knowledge!

Anonymous said...

The "Da Vinci Hoax" is not a heresy, it is an idiocy, certainly mischievous, possibly malign; but to call it a heresy would be to pay it an unintended compliment.

Because the "great" heretics have always been dedicated and serious-minded Christians who wrote in defence of the faith; indeed, they have often been theological conservatives.

Interestingly, one of the conclusions that Rowan Williams draws in his magisterial study Arius (1987, 2001) is that heresy is usually a form of ossified tradition, and, conversely, that orthodoxy is not a "theology of repetition" but a dynamic process inevitably involving "conceptual innovation", "continuity [being] something that [has] to be re-imagined and recreated" in every age.

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy,

Sorry if you took my post as contradicting you. In my cack-handed way I was really only trying to emphasise your point! "Heresy", "blasphemy" - we'd certainly agree on "crap"!

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