voting on heresy

This article explains how the Episcopalian Diocese of Atlanta planned to vote on whether to exonerate Pelagius and admit his ideas as potentially instructive for the church. The vote was planned for November 4, and I have not heard how it turned out. But considering that they even considered having a referendum, the outlook does not seem good. Apparently old heresies never die, they just hang around for future vindication.

Update:  Mark Lydecker sent me this link which says that the Episcopalians defeated the potential return to Pelagius. Orthodoxy has been saved, to fight another day. This reminds me of the great quote that Richard Muller posted on his office door (I forget who it was attributed to):  “orthodoxy does not have to defeat heresy, it only has to outlast it.” This has been proved true in the last five years or so in American evangelicalism, and it will prove true yet again.

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  1. does that mean democracy is the new orthodoxy?

  2. “orthodoxy does not have to defeat heresy, it only has to outlast it.” This has been proved true in the last five years or so in American evangelicalism, and it will prove true yet again.

    I want to go back and respond to this quote you provided at the end of your post. If you look at the history of heresies that confronted the Church I think it is very naive to say that ‘orthodoxy’ merely outlasted heresy. When heresies come, you need a living voice of authority to offer the Truth. This is why heresies were always put down through the convening of councils with the bishops of the Catholic. I also would argue that this is a key mark that is lacking in both protestantism and eastern orthodoxy. Both groups have never convened ecumenical councils to confront new or recurring heresies, while the Catholic Church has continued to do so. Let’s look at the fruit of the reformation and Catholic tree. When heresy arises, Catholics call councils to “bring the Church together and affirm what the teaching is that they have received from Christ as handed down from the apostles through the bishops.” In contrast, when a heresy is perceived among protestants, they have again and again divided into smaller and smaller groups, each one claiming they have preserved the pure teaching of the Church. Now, consider this very grave issue. If a world (communities) of unbelievers are looking on all this, which group of Christians are they to believe are teaching the truth about Salvation, the Church, the sacraments, including ordination and the eucharist. Are they to believe the teaching held by the Catholic Church throughout the whole world or the “conference of baptist churches” in the southern united states?
    These are not trifling or small matters. One group is teaching that schism, defection and the dividing into factions is okay and another group says that the teaching of the Church is pure and undefiled because Jesus said the gates of hell would never overcome it.

  3. “One group is teaching that schism, defection and the dividing into factions is okay and another group says that the teaching of the Church is pure and undefiled because Jesus said the gates of hell would never overcome it.”

    Neatly said, but which group is which? No Christian creed or catechism or statement of faith teaches that “schism . . . is okay.”

    Protestants, tragically, divide more than they ought. And it’s even worse than you intimate, because many divide over less noble reasons than doctrinal purity. But Catholics divide more than your comments would indicate. A conference I attended had plenty of “schism, defection and division into factions” among Catholics (differing canons, various monastic and mendicant orders, and regular clerics, for example). Their tone made this Evangelical boy blush.

    The Word creates the church, and not the other way around. No group of Christians are worth “believing in.” Only Christ will never disappoint.

  4. Matthew,
    “Catholics divide more than your comments would indicate.” In response to this Matt, there is room in the Catholic Church for disagreement on ministry approach and emphasis of certain religious callings. But there is a clear demarcation as to whether you are in visible union with the Church and the Bishop of Rome. I was just learning about St. Dominic (who was a contemporary of St. Francis). Dominic was given charge to oversee a particular monastic order and they so strongly disagreed with him that they tried to poison him on two occasions. Dominic ended up leaving and under the approval of his Bishop, began a new order. Christ judges those that resist unity and inspire factions and those judgements are seen through history. Today, Dominic is a canonized saint and yet who remembers those of the order that tried to kill him. Dominic also brought about a great restoration to the priesthood. And most of the educational approach for priestly ministry is almost totally influenced by the practice of the Dominicans.
    On a second level, if there are orders or priests that are teaching false doctrine out of synch with the magisterium of the Church, Christians have the right to bring this to the attention of their Bishop. This is how Christ uses the Spirit to guide the Church and have it remain faithful in its doctrine and teaching.
    If you were at a conference where there was a lack of spirit of grace, be sure that there are plenty corners of the Catholic Church where people are joyously faithful to the Church. Also, I would equate squabbles between Catholics kind of like the disagreement between Paul and Barnabus. Both were apostles and priests. Both maintained communion with the rest of the apostles, but they still had a disagreement.
    I still think this in many ways different from what I was speaking of regarding faithfulness to doctrine and how protestants divide over these things and have no authority to call the Church to council. This is how any heresy in the Church was always settled and it still is settled this way only in the Catholic Church today.
    I was at a Catholic theology discussion lead by a priest by me and he was speaking about history during his talk. He mentioned that back in the 60’s when the Pope issued out the teaching of Humana Vitae, with it’s teaching on contraception there was much dissent within the Church with many priests rebelling against it. Now today, most Catholics read that document and they would say to you that this was a prophetic writing as all the warnings outlined in it have come about as they said they would as contraception is deeply tied with how people perceive the unborn and also how it impacts a person’s understanding of the sacrament of marriage.
    So, I sought union with the Catholic Church for much the same reasons as Chesterton, Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, and Thomas Howard. Doctrine was in a constant state of being unsettled and open to debate and greater division in the protestant world. For Catholics, there has been a long standing historical saying dating back to the time of Augustine. “Rome has spoken, the matter is settled.” And you would not realize how much peace it brings that doctrine is firmly settled on the Rock of Peter and passed on down through the bishops of the Church, preserved from the gates of hell by the Holy Spirit.

  5. Thank you for your reply. You so clearly delineated “divisions over heresy” from “disagreements of emphasis” within Catholicism. I simply ask you to extend that same clarity to Protestant squabbles. And thank you for your Augustine quote. We Protestants wished you listened to him more, and not less.

    This will be my last reply on this post. I assume that you are not trying to cause offense in your descriptions, but forgive me if I do not find them accurate. The Protestant and Catholic split(s) will not be solved in the comments section of a blog, and so I bid you good day.

  6. Seems like it got too hot, so you’re getting out of the kitchen. 🙂
    Well, it was not a protestant and Catholic split as if both groups came to conflict and they wen their separate ways. There was the Catholic Church and there is the Catholic Church. And protestants defected from it and then proceeded to splinter into more and more factions teaching a wide array of conflicting doctrines on salvation, the sacraments, heresy, the Scriptures, etc. So you are right that the problem won’t be solved in a blog section. The problem must first be solved in our hearts. The Catholic Church is not a schism, protestants broke away from the Church and then tried to legitimized their split by redefining what they believed to be “the true Church”. Frankly it’s like nailing jell-o to the wall. So it doesn’t surprise me that instead of going further and deeper to discover the truth, you retreat. For if you sought the truth, it would alter your entire position and role in ministry. This is just too much for some people. For me, I withdrew from an army chaplain position because I could not longer get around the truth of what the Church teaches and how we are called to be in union with the Church.

  7. Michael:

    I like you, I treasure your friendship, and I want to allow you to continue commenting on this blog. So please don’t assign bad motives to my other friends. We can have a discussion without asserting that the other side is not seeking the truth. I respect your evangelistic zeal for the Roman Catholic church, but if you’re not careful you can become a one trick pony (not every post has to be an appeal for RC against Protestants). As a friend, I will tell you that we will be more open to your appeals if you also dish on other matters.

    But I don’t want to raise false hopes, as we aren’t really considering a move to rejoin the Mother Church. And according to her, we don’t have to, for Vatican II says that everyone is “saved” as long as they sincerely seek God as they find him (see the New Catholic Catechism, paragraph 836-48). I wonder if you agree with this?

  8. If they had voted in the affirmative, I wonder who would have been next- Arius, maybe, or perhaps Marcion?

    @ Michael Francis Goodwin

    “When heresies come, you need a living voice of authority to offer the Truth.”
    Why wouldn’t the Bible be enough? Either that “living voice” is in accord with the Bible and therefore unnecessary or disagrees with it and is therefore anti-biblical.,

    “On a second level, if there are orders or priests that are teaching false doctrine out of synch with the magisterium of the Church….”
    So what do they do if it is the magisterium of the [Roman Catholic] Church that is teaching false doctrine, as Martin Luther believed (or as some claim, proved]? If they leave the RCC, then how is that any different from schism?

    “Christ judges those that resist unity….”
    Not if the “unity” that is being resisted is with heresy. a “church” that teaches heresy is no longer the true church or part of it. Any “unity” with it would be unequal yoking with unbelievers.

    “… each one claiming they have preserved the pure teaching of the Church.”
    The existence of contradictory claims does not invalidate all such claims, but rather means that only one of them, at most, can be correct. While it could be that all of them could be wrong, this is not necessarily so.

    “If a world (communities) of unbelievers are looking on all this, which group of Christians are they to believe are teaching the truth…?”
    Truth is not determined by what “a world (communities) of unbelievers” believe, but correspondence to reality. Oh, this is also a false dilemma

    “protestants broke away from the Church and then tried to legitimized their split by redefining what they believed to be ‘the true Church’.”
    Protestants would see it as returning it to its original definition.

  9. BTW, I should probably have made this clearer in my original post, but I’m not trying to start an debate here so much as demonstrate that Protestants have already long weighed such arguments and found them wanted. In summary, I think that Michael has failed to show that: 1) schism is necessarily bad; 2) how excommunication by (or voluntary leaving of) the RCC is materially (I know that’s not exactly the word I’m looking for, but can’t think of a better one at the moment) different from schism; and, 3) why “the true church” must be the RCC (would not the true church still be the true church by any other name, so long as they adhere to Jesus’ teachings?).

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