Chronology of Heresies

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A heretic is someone who denies part of Tradition and keeps part of Tradition.

In arguing with heretics, it is important to recognize and honor that part of the Tradition which they preserve while describing the part they reject with "clarity and charity" (motto of The Station of the Cross Catholic Radio).

In today's jargon, heresies are "memes" that circulate in our culture. Like genes, memes mutate and combine with other memes to produce new variants of the old heresies.

I have used "15 Major Heresies and Those Who Fought Them" as a springboard for the development of the table below.

name date proponent opponent comments
Pelagianism 400-418 Pelagius St. Augustine Pelagius "denied original sin as well as Christian grace. ... [He] regarded the moral strength of man's will (liberum arbitrium), when steeled by asceticism, as sufficient in itself to desire and to attain the loftiest ideal of virtue. The value of Christ's redemption was, in his opinion, limited mainly to instruction (doctrina) and example (exemplum), which the Saviour threw into the balance as a counterweight against Adam's wicked example, so that nature retains the ability to conquer sin and to gain eternal life even without the aid of grace."[1]
Semipelagianism 428-529 French monks. Council of Orange, 529 The essence of Semipelagianism is:
  1. In distinguishing between the beginning of faith (initium fidei) and the increase of faith (augmentum fidei), one may refer the former to the power of the free will, while the faith itself and its increase is absolutely dependent upon God;
  2. the gratuity of grace is to be maintained against Pelagius in so far as every strictly natural merit is excluded; this, however, does not prevent nature and its works from having a certain claim to grace;
  3. as regards final perseverance in particular, it must not be regarded as a special gift of grace, since the justified man may of his own strength persevere to the end.
Gnosticism 80-450 Legion. St. Irenaeus, d. 202) Irenaeus wrote Adversus Haereses around 180 vs. Valentinus. The Gnostics claimed to have secret revelations. The word "gnosis" means "knowledge." Knowledge of the secret mysteries required initiation into the sect.
Arianism 320-336 Arius St. Athanasius The Son of God is the "firstborn of all creation," and therefore is a god to us mere mortals, but is not God compared to God the Father. The Nicene Creed was composed in 325 AD to counter Arianism.
Nestorianism Nestorius St. Cyril of Alexandria
Monotheletism St. Maximus the Confessor
Latin Averroism St. Thomas Aquinas
Calivinism Calvin St. Francis de Sales
  • T = Total Depravity
  • U = Unconditional Election
  • L = Limited Atonement
  • I = Irresistable Grace
  • P = Perseverance of the Saints (Once Saved)
Monophysitism 451 Alexandria Pope St. Leo the Great Condemned at Council of Chalcedon.
Iconoclasm Emperor Leo II St. John of Damascus
Jansenism Cornelius Jansen St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Free Spirit movement (Quietism) Meister Eckhart? Bl. John of Ruysbroeck
Modernism Tyrrell, Loisy, von Hugel Pope St. Pius X
Origenism St. Methodius of Olympus
Indifferentism Pope Pius XI
Catharism 12th to 14th [from Greek: καθαροί, katharoi, "the pure" Pope Innocent III], St. Dominic. The name is from the Greek, καθαροί, katharoi, "the pure," so we could call this "Catholic Puritanism," although the theology of Catharism is quite different from that of the Puritans. The Cathars were Gnostics and Dualists, much like the Manichaeans. The Albigensians were a group of Cathars in the south of France.
"The Inquisition."
The Catharists believed in two gods: the "good" God of the New Testament, who sent Jesus to save our souls from being trapped in matter; and the "evil" God of the Old Testament, who created the material world in the first place. The Catharists’ beliefs entailed serious—truly civilization-destroying—social consequences.
Marriage was scorned because it legitimized sexual relations, which Catharists identified as the Original Sin. But fornication was permitted because it was temporary, secret, and was not generally approved of; while marriage was permanent, open, and publicly sanctioned.
The ramifications of such theories are not hard to imagine. In addition, ritualistic suicide was encouraged (those who would not take their own lives were frequently "helped" along), and Catharists refused to take oaths, which, in a feudal society, meant they opposed all governmental authority. Thus, Catharism was both a moral and a political danger.