by G. D. Andreano
The Problem of Heresy
“[Paul’s] letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” – 2 Pet 3:16b
It is an unfortunate observation of mine that the good things about Protestantism are not unique to Protestantism. The things Protestants have correct are simply the ways in which they are correctly aligned to the ancient Church. However, the bad things about Protestantism are unique to the individualistic spirit of Protestantism found even in the earliest heretics.
Heresy does not seem to thrive in any other environment. Because of the problem of individualism as expressed in private interpretations of scripture, heresy is a problem that will never go away. The Protestant framework is designed in such a way that not only becomes a heretic factory, but it also gives them a pulpit. “If the Bible is the only authority,” as some argue, “then we do not have any need for creeds and councils.”
If you’re a Oneness Pentecostal, all you need is a Bible that says,
“The Lord is one” (Deut 6:4, Mark 12:29)
and you will have all the evidence you need to deny the Holy Trinity. The authority of the Church exists to prevent this type of dissent from happening. We have no need for private interpretations, because we have truth contained within the hermeneutic of the Liturgy, Hymns, Icons, Church Fathers, and Ecumenical Councils.
One could surely argue that rejecting councils and fathers is a misunderstanding of sola scriptura. They’ll say,
“that’s not sola scriptura, that’s solo scriptura.”
But let’s be honest, how many people need to get it wrong before we realize the definition has changed? We are not living in a world of 16th century definitions, we are living in a world where every Protestant denomination defines their own orthodoxy, and none of them having more authority than another. We need to move beyond telling solo scriptura fundamentalists that their definition does not line up with the 16th century, because they do not care. They will simply say the 16th century was wrong, and there is nothing a Lutheran or Presbyterian can do about it.
Every Protestant thinks they are orthodox. In other words, nobody self-identifies as a heretic. However, it would be nonsense to suggest that heresy does not exist, so one must grant that at least some Protestant denominations are heretical. The question is, who, and by what standard? One cannot simply say “the Bible,” because such an answer does not give credibility to any singular interpretation of the Bible. That answer is a rhetorical tactic that presupposes a particular interpretation to be self-evidently true without actually having to prove the claim.
Therefore, it logically follows that an interpretive standard for the Bible must come from outside the Bible.
Tomorrow: Part 8: The Problem of the Public Square
Nobody special says
I know that my question has nothing to do with the issue in the post, and I excuse me for that, but it came to my mind and I would like to know that. Do eastern orthodox believe in the immaculate conception of Mary i.e that she was born without sin? Or is that just a catholic invention?
Fr. John says
That is a Roman innovation. We do teach the Ever-Virginity of Mary, and that she physically died, but because our definition of original sin, which we often call ‘ancestral sin’ is slightly different than the newer Roman definition, we have no need of creating solutions to problems that do not exist. Our Lady was not the Great Exception, she was the Great Example!
Nobody special says
Thank you father John, I have also in the meanwhile searched through some podcasts on ancient faith radio which explain also the relation between the orthodox understanding of the ancestral sin and the issue regarding the Virgin Mary. And as you said, the doctrine of the immaculate conception (which Thomas Aquinas rejected) was a conception (developed as a dogma in the 19 century) of the catholics to solve a problem which arise due to bad theology. Again, tnx!