Friday, 22 February 2013

Every heresy under the sun

There's a warning here addressed to modern evangelicals about the worrying prevalence of Marcionism among their ranks. Before anyone starts feeling smug, however, here is a link to a list of early heresies (not exhaustive but enough to be going on with.) They are easy enough to spot in today's Church, and I challenge anyone to find an example that isn't doing the rounds, and not only in the places we have come to expect. 
Before anyone comments that these things don't really matter, that surely we've moved on from these rather infantile boundaries and uncharitable forms of condemnation,  take a good look at contemporary theological education (and theological colleges - no names... although it's very tempting...) and its effects on the Church and see for yourself why we are the poorer for not insisting everyone has a good grounding in patristics.
“If heretics no longer horrify us today, as they once did our forefathers, is it certain that it is because there is more charity in our hearts? Or would it not too often be, perhaps, without our daring to say so, because the bone of contention, that is to say, the very substance of our faith, no longer interests us? Men of too familiar and too passive a faith, perhaps for us dogmas are no longer the Mystery on which we live, the Mystery which is to be accomplished in us. Consequently then, heresy no longer shocks us; at least, it no longer convulses us like something trying to tear the soul of our souls away from us.... And that is why we have no trouble in being kind to heretics, and no repugnance in rubbing shoulders with them... It is not always charity, alas, which has grown greater, or which has become more enlightened: it is often faith, the taste for the things of eternity, which has grown less...”
Henri de Lubac: Further Paradoxes (Newman Press 1958) and reprinted in Paradoxes of Faith (Ignatius Press 1987)


  1. I do agree wholeheartedly. We have been for some years in what I would describe as a new Patristic Age, when the truths of the faith need to be effectively re-expressed in a conceptual framework that is intelligible to people of the current age (after all, this is the task the Fathers of the Church took on in their time). Sadly, the widespread level of theological formation and understanding is so poor that most of the best-intentioned efforts to express faith end up watering it down or misrepresenting it.

    A solid formation in the thought-patterns, concepts and ideas of the Fathers can give access to the profound truths they express, and a foundation for both teaching and practice of the faith today.

    Instead, we have on the one hand the New Atheists who are trying to diminish the scope of truth so that it excludes matters of faith (it’s just a matter of opinion, don’t you know?) and on the other the comforting and misbegotten approach that says ‘Don’t worry too much about making sense of the Creeds; they don’t matter in this day and age’.

    It is beyond me why places of theological formation don’t seem to see this, and why ordinands have such a woeful grasp of the basic truths they are supposed to be representing in and to the world.

  2. I was attending an evangelical Anglican church the Sunday before last for a baptism and what I erroneously thought to be a communion service but turned out to be an all-age worship service. Leaving aside my confusion in relation to the latter (I only realised that what had passed before was not the Liturgy of the Word when the celebrant closed the service after a passing of the Peace), what struck me was the utter absence of psalmody. Unless one of the worship songs was a psalm in modern idiom, which seems unlikely, there was none at all. This was pointed-up by the fact that the address mentioned King David, who created beatiful songs which are still sung today, which I would have thought was an obvious hook to hang one on. I'd always assumed that evangelical churches made extensive use of psalmody and psalm-inspired hymns but it seems from the article that my experience was not quite as unusual as I had first thought.


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