Friday, July 27, 2012

Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy, Heresy

Daniel 2:43 "And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery."

What happens when you mix iron and clay
When Daniel was interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the Colussus or Large statue, he got to a part in the dream where the statue's feet was made of a mixture of iron and clay.  In the next verse, Daniel explains that the final kingdom to rise up before the return of Jesus Christ will have two properties: partially strong and partially brittle. 

Defining Orthodoxy
When examining any belief system to determine its adherence or non-adherence to the gospel, three terms can be used: Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy and Heresy.  In thinking on the properties of iron and clay, orthodoxy can be likened unto iron: something that is strong, reliable, consistent.  Orthodoxy comes from two Greek words: "ortho" meaning "straight" and "dokeo" meaning "thinking, thought".  So a Christian who holds to an orthodox understanding of the Bible, Christ and Salvation (note: our use of "orthodox" here is not to be confused with how the term is employed by the Eastern Orthodox Church), is holding straight and parallel with the teaching of scripture. 

Defining Heresy
Heresy represents another end of the spectrum.  It can be likened unto clay, since it is subject to constant change and moves in response to the preferences of men.  Heresy comes from a Greek word meaning "opinion".  Thus, a heresy is a belief system that claims to be Christian, however it is utterly "un-orthodox" in its views of the Bible, Christ and Salvation.  Heresies contain no redemptive value and over time end up producing there own literature that completely replaces the Bible. (i.e Mormonism for example) 

Defining Heterodoxy
There is a third class of belief system that functions much like the part of Nebuchadnezzar's vision, in that it mixes together elements of sound orthodoxy (i.e iron) and unsound heresy (i.e clay).  Heterodoxy comes from two Greek words: "hetero" meaning "of a different kind" and "dokeo" meaning "thinking, thought".  A heterodox belief system occupies a wide range of territory between orthodoxy and heresy.  Heterodoxy will usually be sound in at least one of the three major areas of the Bible, Jesus Christ or salvation, while retaining heretical elements in at least one of those same areas.

Understanding how Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy and Heresy are related
If we were to picture all three on a scale, we could picture them accordingly:

Heterodoxy is dangerous because while claiming to be orthodox, it finds comfort in retaining beliefs that are not taught in the Bible.  As seen in the above diagram, heterodoxy can cover the chasm between orthodoxy and heresy.  Depending on the amount of "iron" to that of "clay", some forms of heterodoxy will seem closer at times to true biblical Christianity than others.  However, as can be noted also in the diagram above, the manner in which heterodoxy drifts will lead to an abandonment of the Gospel if not corrected.

Where do we place Roman Catholicism on this scale?
As we have examined Roman Catholic belief and practice for the past two weeks, we have noted that at some points, Roman Catholic belief does hold to "iron" truths revealed in scripture, such as:
1. The Trinity
2. Christ's Deity and Humanity
3. The Inspiration of the Bible

However there is a lot more "clay" or heretical elements not taught anywhere in the Bible, including:
1. The Co-redeemer role and elevation of Mary
2. The cult of the saints
3. The equality of tradition and the Majesterium to Biblical authority
4. Salvation by faith plus baptism, which maintained to adherence to the Roman Catholic sacramental system
5. The departure from the Gospel, thus compromising the legitimacy of its claim to be the mission of Christ to the world
6. The sacramental system's function as a substitute Jesus in the application of salvation
7. Addition of other books to the 66 inspired books of the Bible

Other teachings could be mentioned, but as it can be plainly seen, Roman Catholicism is a heterodox system.  Its departure from the Gospel makes it even more dangerous to remain a part of, since its "clay" content cannot be supported by scripture.  Its system is ultimately brittle.  Only Christianity that adheres to salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone of the Bible alone for the glory of God alone can be deemed orthodox, biblical Christianity.

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