belief in or agreement with doctrines, opinions, or practices currently held to be right or correct, esp. in religious matters (OED)

conforming to established doctrine especially in religion (Merriam Webster)


taking, choosing, choice, course taken, course of action or thought, ‘school’ of thought, philosophic principle or set of lens, philosophical or religious sect;

Theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the ‘catholic’ or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox.

Traditional view:

1. Right doctrine existed from the beginning

2. Heresy is a falsification or corruption

3. Heresy is a minority view

4. Heresy is associated with immorality

1 and 2. Did right doctrine exist from the beginning?

A. Gospels

a. Requires Jesus to have founded the Christian Church

b. Careful study of the gospels reveal a diverse idea about Jesus and his mission

c. In the earliest strands,Jesus spoke more about the coming Kingdom of God than about himself (compare Mark to John)

d. Leads away from the idea that orthodoxy was the religion of the historical Jesus

B. Acts of the Apostles

a. Other Christian writings depict a conflict between Jewish and Hellenized Christianities (Peter and Paul)

b. Acts is the historical compromise retrojected back to the apostolic age

C. Eusebius' Church History

a. Early Church did not consist of a single view from which heresies later emerged

b. Orthodoxy cannot be said to exist until the fourth century

c. There were always competing interpretations; gradually, one became dominant

d. That group was centered in Rome

e. Conflicts were over power, not theology

f. Roman church promoted a hierarchical structure under a bishop

3. Was heresy a minority view?

a. The volume of literature directed against them suggests otherwise

b. Hierarchy and consensus take time to develop

4. Was heresy associated with immorality?

Origen (ca. 200)

"How certain people by failing to read or understand Scripture correctly have given themselves up to a great many errors":

1. Because it says the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and that hasn't happened literally, the prophesy and thus Christianity can't be true.

2. Or because Scripture says words like "I am a jealous God" or "an evil Spirit from God choked Saul" some believe that the Jews' god is just but not good. "They think the Savior came to proclaim a more perfect God, whom they deny to be the creator of this world."