Conformists Die, but Heretics Live on Forever!
So says the blurb on Jan Valentin Saether and Hanne Ofteland
I have always had serious issues with the naming of certain schools
of thoughts as Heresy because the usage of the term has been inflated
by its historical use of it by especially the Roman Catholic Church as license and excuse to persecute,purge,imprisoned and burn fellow human beings.
Moderns who have been fortunate to only suffer the intolerance and banter of what now has become a fringe movement of self-proclaimed conservatives and orthodoxists, tend to adopt the term as uncritically to denote the novelty and progressive nature of specifically their attitude and other peccadilloes of a more intellectual kind.
“The word heresy derives from the Greek hairein, “to make a choice” (good or bad) hence hairesis, an “opinion”.
“A heretic was a dissenter formally condemned by an accepted ecclesiastical authority. At least that was the theory. In practice, the term heretic was often flung to discredit one`s enemies; in the Middle Ages a number of popes,bishops,monks,theologians, and laypeople were called heretics in loose and virtually meaningless vituperation.”
(J.B.Russell: Dissent and Order in the early Middle Ages. New York, 1992).
With special reference to the Middle Ages, R.I.Moore in The origins of European Dissent (1985) writes:
“Heresy was defined by the medieval church as an “opinion based on human perception, founded on the scriptures, contrary to the teaching of the church, publically avowed and obstinately defended”
and “Orthodox Christians, and orthodox historians, have always assumed and frequently asserted that heresy is unnatural, and therefore requires not only correction but explanation”.
Which is ironic out of the consideration of the doctrine that the Kingdom, the subject and axis of the reorientation of Christians of any age – is not of this world, which is to say – it is in and of itself in any manifestation (short of counterfeits and forgeries, such as the arrogation of the Roman Catholic Church that its institution of Men and Man-Made structures _is_ the Fullness of Time described in the New Testament.) per definition unnatural. The other irony relates to the “contrary to the teaching of the Church”, unless our blinders have grown so wide we have no sight, we must acknowledge that it has changed to the extent that yesterdays orthodox becomes todays heretic.
The modern Gnostic Church tradition cultivates a culture of heterodoxy – which is to say, it recognizes the need for each individual to develop and seek towards truth, understanding and Gnosis – according to own inherent and acquired experiences, perspectives and references; and the tolerance of such contending views, seeing that it has to do with the fullness and multiplicity of minds and hearts whose contents thankfully and gloriously are different from eachother.
Where each voice is unique and there might be as many songs sung on the great pilgrimage as there are voices, for each assuredly has its time and season.
When Paul uses (as the first Christian writer using it) the term it signifies contending subgroups within the Christian community, one place he opines that “it is necessary that there should be haereses among you”, this has been read to signify that such contentions are necessary so that it might produce the right doctrine, but it can as easily be read to mean that it is necessary that there be disagreement so that there will develop integrity,confidence and sincerity among grown-up and mature adherents. An incident is instructive, Paul encounters a certain Apollos in Corinth, upon being informed about the substance and nature of Apollos teaching, especially as it pertained to observing the commandments and customs of the Jews, whose diaspora community Apollos specifically ministered to – he found it right to inform Apollos that there existed in the Christian tradition more than one baptism, to wit, there were the “watery baptism” of John the Baptizer, dubbed “forerunner to Christ”, and the baptism of the imposition of hands which the Apostles after the departure of Christ practiced. Apollos represented an earlier generation, an earlier tradition – possibly connected to the 70 witnesses Jesus sent into the different Jewish populations to preach “the Gospel” (which were about the coming times, the nature of the kingdom “not of this world” – rather than the dramatic story of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection which still was to come) – a direct convert from among the followers of John the Baptizer. As such, Apollos, for obvious reasons were not informed of these new institutions nor their intended meaning among other Christians. Paul and Apollos could battle it out with a great braveur, and excommunicate eachother and their followers to their hearts content – but they didnt. Paul tries to explain by saying that the intention of the community were not that they should follow one or another current instructor, and say “I belong to the party of x (Paul)” or “I belong to the party of y (Apollos)” – but rather that they should be one – which is neither x nor y, but z. Still Paul is largely read as a polemist, a schismatic, a founder of sects – and the strongest testimony of the authenticity of any Christian sect you can think of.
What spurred me to write this much were the gracious invitation of yours truely to the Gnostic Heresy discussion forum on yahoogroups. Although I have had many experiences with such forums to be too optimistic about such, I have still chosen to join. Hope it will be worth my while there. Although I am not so sure about the wisdom of “admitting heresy” on account of the fact that the Middle Ages have come back to stay, and in the past, such frivolty were punishable with seven kinds of death.
A little sniblet – the first person to be put on trial for heresy and executed were a Bishop. His name were Priscillian of Avila. Around 389ce he and 5 of his priests were found guilty of “heresy,sorcery and conspiracy against the Holy Roman Emperor” and first boiled alive, to be decapitated and lastly burnt – with his head put up as a warning to the rest of the population. Which is to say, the Roman Catholic Church did not battle sects or deviants, but its own faithful with the institution of the Inquisition (which also were founded around the time of Eusebius and the Nicene Council, so whereas the big beast grew terrible and expert at its task – the Inquisition existed 900 years prior to the big bonfires in the Middle Ages)…