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What makes a heretic?


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#1 Daniel Smith

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 07:35 AM

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.


#2 Lakis Papas

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 08:48 AM

Heretics and heretical theology are labeled as such only by an Orthodox council that is making a proper anathema on the false doctrines.

 

For example, If a bishop supports a definite heretic position on some issue, then he is not labeled as heretic. Only after having been given the opportunity to defend his position in front of a synodical committee, and found wrong, and if then he insists unrepentantly and receive a synodical verdict condemning his theology/practise, only then he is considered heretic. 

 

Humans make errors. All errors are not heresy. Errors that take ecclesiological dimensions such as to undermine the salvific nature of the Church need to be addressed as heretical and the unrepentant supporters as heretics, in order both to protect the congregation and to drive the heretics into repentance so that they may be united again with the body of the Church.


Edited by Lakis Papas, 11 January 2014 - 08:51 AM.


#3 Kosta

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 12:59 PM

Grace is not like turning off a light switch. The temple was not destroyed till 70 AD when Christ reigned judgement upon Jerusalem. Before then the apostles still attended temple worship.  The chalcedonian and anti chalcedonian Alexandrian church still shared the same patriarch for 80 years after the council of Chalcedon. In time either reconciliation occurs or the schismatic segment withers away.

 

Secondly I do believe there can be accidental heretics as you call them. Through out the history of the Church many false opinions were held. Chiliasm was widely held, semi arians baptized Constantine, the emperor's Justinian wife is a saint who was a monophysite etc.



#4 Daniel Smith

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 04:11 PM

Actually, it is possible and realistic for an individual to be a manifest and self-condemned heretic long before any synodal condemnation. That is not exactly the point. The point is when does my Heretical opinion make me a heretic? Ecumenical and local synods do not MAKE people heretics, they simply investigate and manifest whether someone has been a heretic.

 

A patristic example: St Hypathius, a Bithynian monk of the fifth century, insisted on suppressing the name of Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople, from the sacred diptychs from the moment when Nestorius began to preach his heresy, which denied the unity of person in Our Lord. Hypathius's ordinary, the bishop Eulalius (who was a suffragan of Nestorius), refused Nestorius's heresy, but rebuked the monk for having withdrawn from communion with their patriarch before he had been condemned by a council. Hypathius replied: "I cannot insert his name in the Canon of the liturgy, because a heresiarch is not worthy of the title of pastor in the Church; do what you like with me; I am ready to suffer all, and nothing will induce me to change my behaviour."

 

St Hypathius's judgment relative to Eulalius seems to be confirmed not only by the approval of the hagiographers, but also by the decree of Pope St Celestine deciding that all of Nestorius's acts were to be considered null from the moment when he began to preach heresy..." for he who had abandoned the Faith by such preaching can neither deprive nor depose anyone."

 

So, we can recognize individuals as heretics long before a synodal condemnation. That is what the whole point of the 15th canon of the first-second synod is about:

 

"The rules laid down with reference to Presbyters and Bishops and Metropolitans are still more applicable to Patriarchs. So that in case any Presbyter or Bishop or Metropolitan dares to secede or apostatize from the communion of his own Patriarch, and fails to mention the latter's name in accordance with custom duly fixed and ordained, in the divine Mystagogy, but, before a conciliar verdict has been pronounced and has passed judgement against him, creates a schism, the holy Synod has decreed that this person shall be held an alien to every priestly function if only he be convicted of having committed this transgression of the law. Accordingly, these rules have been sealed and ordained as respecting persons who under the pretext of charges against their own presidents stand aloof, and create a schism, and disrupt the union of the Church. But as for those persons, on the other hand, who, on account of some heresy condemned by holy Synods, or Fathers, withdrawing themselves from communion with their president, who, that is to say, is preaching the heresy publicly, and teaching it bareheaded in church, such persons not only are not subject to any canonical penalty on account of their having walled themselves off from any and all communion with the one called a Bishop before any conciliar or synodical verdict has been rendered, but, on the contrary, they shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honor which befits them among Orthodox Christians. For they have defied, not Bishops, but pseudo-bishops and pseudo-teachers; and they have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions."

 

SO, clearly, heretics can be recognized as such by bishops before a synodal condemnation, because blatant heretics are self-condemned, and a self-condemned bishop has withdrawn from the grace of God, their mysteries are dead, and their flocks in communion with them are withered.

 

BUT, in order to take such steps carefully and clearly, we ought to know at what point a person holding a heretical opinion becomes a formal heretic? Is it only when they refuse correction? I suppose I should have said, there are no accidental formal heretics. To be a full blown heretic culpable before God, you have to be stubborn and persistent in heresy. Right? Or is it right to sever communion with those who merely preach a heretical opinion from simplicity?



#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 04:44 PM

I ought not really to venture an opinion here but I find myself wondering if dealing with a person who espouses an heretical opinion should not start in that person's parish and be first the concern of parishioners who become aware of the heresy and their priest. After all, it must be obvious that a person knowingly holding an heretical view is not in good order with the Church and so may not approach the chalice. It would then be for the priest to refer the case to his bishop.



#6 Daniel Smith

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 07:02 PM

What if it is your bishop or patriarch, and you can verify he has been corrected on multiple occasions by fellow patriarch and hierarchy and his monks, promises not to say it again, and next week is back at prompting a heretical ecclesiology? has he shown that he has departed from the Orthodox faith? If he was duly warned and especially his monks have a history of ceasing to commemorate his name at the liturgy because of scandal and he knows it? If he is not culpable, then who is?



#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 07:16 PM

One thinks of the Romanian bishop who took communion in a Roman Catholic church in May 2008. Moscow demanded an explanation, and the Romanian Synod disciplined the bishop.



#8 Daniel Smith

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 08:35 AM

Andreas,

 

But this also could be an act of abysmal ignorance, prevalent in our times, and increasingly prevalent in the hierarchy. So, the question stands: By what actions do Bishops and Patriarchs show they have gone from an erroneous opinion to withering away into heresy? Is it when they stubbornly resist correction and refuse to dialogue with their own monastics? Do they not by that very fact show forth their own self-condemnation when they positively affirm a heretical Christology or ecclesiology and refuse to allow themselves to be called on the carpet by it and discuss it? Do they not reveal where the conditions of their heart by what they choose to defend with violence? When Serbian Bishops evacuate nuns from their monasteries and have them beaten by priests, their food taken from them and consigning them to wandering in the wilderness? All for canonically severing communion with him after repeatedly warning him of his heresies?

 

"But as for those persons, on the other hand, who, on account of some heresy condemned by holy Synods, or Fathers, withdrawing themselves from communion with their president, who, that is to say, is preaching the heresy publicly, and teaching it bareheaded in church, such persons not only are not subject to any canonical penalty on account of their having walled themselves off from any and all communion with the one called a Bishop before any conciliar or synodical verdict has been rendered, but, on the contrary, they shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honor which befits them among Orthodox Christians. For they have defied, not Bishops, but pseudo-bishops and pseudo-teachers; and they have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions."

 

I think in the future we may have more old calendarists as saints than we care to currently admit.

 

What say you?


Edited by Daniel Smith, 12 January 2014 - 08:37 AM.


#9 Lakis Papas

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 09:34 AM

I fail to see how you connect old calendarists with this issue and how you come to the conclusion that "in the future we may have more old calendarists as saints than we care to currently admit."



#10 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 01:41 PM

As far as I understand it, a bishop can be removed, for heresy and for other reasons, by the ruling Holy Synod (as in the case of Jerome of Manhattan last year). A patriarch can similarly be removed (as in the case of Irenaeos of Jerusalem some ten years ago). As we know from history, a patriarchate who espouses heresy will be challenged by Orthodox patriarchs. But I do wonder why anyone would divert time and energy into pondering on this question.



#11 Daniel Smith

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 07:36 PM

Yes, but I am not talking about a bishops removal from his synod. When does his status change from a hierarch espousing a heretical opinion held out of simplicity to a full blown heretic? Is it when he refuses to accept correction?

#12 Jason Hunt

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 01:21 PM

Yes, but I am not talking about a bishops removal from his synod. When does his status change from a hierarch espousing a heretical opinion held out of simplicity to a full blown heretic? Is it when he refuses to accept correction?

 

According to the 15th canon of the First-Second Council, a bishop is to break communion with his chief hierarch if that chief hierarch is openly preaching a heresy that has been condemned by a past Council or Father.  The definition of heresy as a teaching which has been condemned by a past Council or Father is the relevant definition pertaining to the question of breaking communion with one’s chief hierarch.  The Old Calendarists that you refer to did not follow the 15th canon of the First-Second Council but departed from the Ark of Salvation by breaking communion with the entire body of Christ and falling into an unlawful schism.  This canon pertains only to bishops and how they are to respond to the preaching of a condemned heresy by their chief hierarch.  The Old Calendarist schism began in 1925 when many clergy and laity broke communion with all of the bishops of the Church in Greece over the adoption of the New Calendar.  The New Calendar is not a heresy and was never condemned.  The belief that the New Calendar had been condemned is based on the forged document referred to as the “Sigillion of 1583” and the anathema against the “newly-invented Paschalion and the New Menologion of the atheist astronomers of the Pope” that was inserted a few centuries after this council by the monk Jacob of New Skete.  What the 1583 and later pan-Orthodox councils condemned was the adoption of the Gregorian Paschalian since this innovation was contrary to the decisions of the First Ecumenical Council regarding the calculation of Pascha.  For more on the false document entitled the “1583 Sigillion”, see the following notes by the Old Calendarist “Synod in Resistance” and the comment by Elder Theoklitos:

 

http://www.synodinre...4aSigillion.pdf

 

http://www.johnsanid...-codex-772.html

 

The Old Calendarists, when they broke communion with the Church of Greece, also broke communion with the entire body of Christ, since the rest of the Church did not see their schism as lawful or justified.  Today, these same Old Calendarists claim that they are not in communion with the local Orthodox churches because of the “heresy of Ecumenism” and refer to ROCOR’s 1985 Anathema Against Ecumenism to justify their position.  Yet, the “heresy of Ecumenism” according to the 1985 Anathema is the false belief that the Church is divided into various branches and that non-Orthodox sacraments are salvific.  As Fr. Seraphim (Rose) said about ecumenism:

 

This brings us to a fundamental question of definition: what is
ecumenism? Some would-be zealots of Orthodoxy use the term in entirely
too imprecise a fashion, as though the very use of the term or contact
with an "ecumenical" organization is in itself a "heresy." Such views
are clearly exaggerations.  "Ecumenism" is a heresy only if it
actually involves the denial that Orthodoxy is the true Church of
Christ. A few of the Orthodox leaders of the ecumenical movement have
gone this far; but most Orthodox participants in the ecumenical
movement have not said this much; and a few (such as the late Fr.
Georges Florovsky) have only irritated the Protestants in the
ecumenical movement by frequently stating at ecumenical gatherings
that Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ. One must certainly criticize
the participation of even these latter persons in the ecumenical
movement, which at its best is misleading and vague about the nature
of Christ's Church; but one cannot call such people "heretics," nor
can one affirm that any but a few Orthodox representatives have
actually taught ecumenism as a heresy. The battle for true Orthodoxy
in our times is not aided by such exaggerations.

 

No local Orthodox Church espouses the “heresy of Ecumenism” by denying that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church or that the Church is divided into “branches”.  The Moscow Patriarchate and Patriarch Bartholomew, among others, have specifically rejected the “Branch Theory” both verbally and in writing. 

 

https://mospat.ru/en...on-orthodox/ii/

 

http://www.oodegr.co...t_ecumenist.htm

 

Participation in ecumenical dialogue does not imply that the participants in this dialogue espouse the “heresy of Ecumenism”. The claims that the local Orthodox churches have all fallen into the “heresy of Ecumenism” is simply an argument made by schismatics to justify a schism that far pre-dated the development of the contemporary Ecumenical movement.  It is an attempt to justify what is unjustifiable.



#13 Jason Hunt

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 05:16 PM

I think in the future we may have more old calendarists as saints than we care to currently admit.

 

What say you?

 

This is incorrect.  The Old Calendarists do not produce saints.  The Church continues to produce saints, but those who have departed from the Church have lost the grace of the Holy Spirit in their mysteries and are unable to impart the Holy Spirit to others, according to the explanation of St. Basil in his first canon regarding schismatics.  The Church continues to produce great saints and elders such as the newly glorified St. Porphyrios as well as Elders Joseph the Hesychast, Ephraim of Katounakia, Paisios the Athonite, Cleopa of Romania and countless others.  All of these contemporary saints were very critical of the Old Calendarists and spoke against them.  Elders Joseph the Hesychast, Ephraim of Katounakia, Haralambos of Dionysiou, and even Ephraim of Arizona were all Old Calendarists themselves for quite some time, until God revealed to them that they were in error and outside of the Church.  When these elders returned to communion with their Patriarch, all of them spoke of the great grace they felt in returning to the Church from schism.

 

The book "My Elder Joseph" by Elder Ephraim of Arizona was recently published in English.  This book has an entire chapter on the calendar controversy and explains how Elder Joseph and his synodeia belonged to the Old Calendarists and how they came to reunite with their Patriarch:

 

http://www.stanthony...YELDERJOSEPHENG



#14 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 05:47 PM

It may be noted that among the company of saints and 'saints-in-waiting' mentioned by Jason is Elder Sophrony of Essex whose monastery is 'New Calendar' as a stravropegic monastery under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a fact which does not diminish the esteem in which he is held in Russia. Further, there is constant 'traffic' of monastics between this monastery and the Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra, priests of each celebrating in the other with no difficulty. Nor did the differing calendars inhibit the spiritual brotherhood and meetings between Elder Sophrony and St Porphyrios.


Edited by Andreas Moran, 14 January 2014 - 05:48 PM.


#15 Daniel Smith

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 12:56 AM

Well, that in itself is problematic. Elder Sophrony I mean. He is a name worshipper. That is a heresy. He explicitly teaches the name of Jesus is a divine energy of the Godhead.



#16 Kosta

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 03:02 AM

Name worshipping will have to be dealt with by the russians, its one of those murky 'russianesque' subjects that arises from them from time to time leaving the rest of Orthodoxy wondering what the heck they're talking about.

But in and of itself it doesnt neccesarily disqualify someone from sainthood, just like Chiliasm didn't disqualify St Irenaeous, Origen's universal restoration didn't disqualify St Gregory of Nyssa, Arianism didn't disqualify St Lucian of Antioch, monophysitism didn't disquakify St Theodora, nestorianism didn't disquakify St Isaac and name worshipping hadn't stopped the glorification of St. John of Kronstadt.

A heresy may not be declared so, for a long time coming. In some instances it maybe tolerated until it becomes a nuisance. Origen was condemned centuries later because Origenist monks expanded outside of Alexandria and became a nuisance in the empire. The monothelete heresy was in vogue for quite some time; a formula promoted as a way to reconcile with non chalcedonians. Decades later a number of heirarchs were anathemized post humously for championing it.

Edited by Kosta, 18 February 2014 - 03:05 AM.


#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 12:04 PM

I remember some time ago discussing with a theologian of the Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra the matter of Name worship. He explained that what Elder Sophrony writes does not indicate Name worship. I failed to make notes of this conversation, but it would be wrong on the strength of a person's own understanding of Elder Sophrony's writings to conclude that he was a Name worshipper in the sense that that is understood to be heretical.



#18 Christophoros

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 02:33 PM

An excellent excerpt from the book Empirical Dogmatics by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos:

 

http://www.oodegr.co...es_councils.htm

 

"Heresies and Councils"



#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 04:51 PM

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos is, of course, a fervent disciple of Elder Sophrony.



#20 Jason Hunt

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 05:04 PM

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos is, of course, a fervent disciple of Elder Sophrony.

 

How so?






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