In Orthodoxy, we have much experience with heresy. However, as I research more deeply into groups I deeply empathize with (The Old Calendarists) I notice that the more extreme among them, like the GOC, ROAC and STOC are...theoretically correct. I believe they have taken the correct stand against heresy and resisted hierarchs who they consider heretical in a canonical way, according to the 15th canon of the first-second synod.
BUT. They seem to me to be skipping one crucial step, or rather, failing to make a distinction. It is a fine, but crucial distinction, the distinction I would say that separates the New Calendar Anti-Ecumenist Orthodox from the Old Calendar Anti-Ecumenist Orthodox:
At what point does the espousal of heretical OPINION make one a formal heretic?
Now, do not misunderstand, there is no such thing as an uncondemned heretic. Heretics are self-condemned by their rejection of the truth. But that is just the issue: Is it possible to embrace an erroneous or even heretical opinion without consciously rejecting the truth? To phrase it another way, is it possible to be an ACCIDENTAL heretic? I do not think so.
When I was Roman Catholic, we distinguished between material heretics and formal heretics. A material heretic is a person, who through no fault of their own (ignorance, or simplicity) embraces an heretical idea. The matter of what they believe is objectively heretical, but their culpability before God for it is nil. A Formal heretic is one who has pertinaciously and stubbornly chosen to persist in heretical opinions and ideas. This one would be self-condemned, and later that condemnation would be made manifest by a local or ecumenical synod.
Does the distinction between material and formal heretics exist in Orthodoxy?
It seems to me, that the fatal flaw in many old calendarists approach to the heresy of ecumenism and religious syncretism is assuming that every heretical sounding phrase that comes from a hierarchs mouth is coming from a place of stubborn contumacity. I firmly believe there are some patriarchs who could definitely be shown to behave in such a way, but ALL bishops in communion with them? No. I don't think ALL the bishops in communion with formally heretical patriarchs even have a clue as to what their patriarchs are doing, and I believe this lack of knowledge, egregious though it may be, perhaps keeps many communities from themselves falling into schism and heresy.
So, here is my question:
At what point does possessing a heretical opinion yet remaining in the church morph into being a full blown heretic and outside the church? I think the answer lies in needing to demonstrate that the person who holds an heretical opinion is doing so in bad faith and stubbornly. That is, they have been approached and attempted to be corrected. What do you say?
P.S. Obviously not all Old Calendarists are like this. The Holy Synod in Resistance and the Synods led by Metropolitan Agafangel and the Old Calendar Churches of Romania and Bulgaria do not take as hardline of an approach, and do not deny that in World Orthodoxy grace is operative, or at least, they cannot say it is not.
Edited by Daniel Smith, 11 January 2014 - 07:37 AM.