Alright, let's talk about language a little bit more. I've done a little bit of blog skimming over the break, and run into something almost as disturbing as communing the unbaptized. But still not as much as "liturgical dance."
So I don't have many friends among the far right. I don't know if that's because I hang out with the wrong people, or perhaps I can be a little off-putting (cough, cough), but that's just the way it is. As a result, I'm not "hip" to what the other "angry young conservatives" are doing these days.
I'm young, not as angry as I used to be, and it should be noted that I rarely recieve the compliment of being labeled as liberal or conservative. I should note that the other side doesn't talk to me much, either. Nope, nobody here but us moderates.
Anyway, the kids love to throw around the big emotional religious words. Heretic. Heterodox. What the hell is all of that? Can we just start with a very basic premise, girls and boys? Baptists do not get to call other people heretics! That's like me telling Alan to cool down the sarcasm, or Josh to be less contrarian, or Noakes to be less dramatic. The pot does not get to call the kettle black (cliches? What?)!
When you want to talk about heresy, or heterodoxy, or orthodoxy, first realize that in a post-reformation, modern, post-modern, pre-United Federation of Planets, post-Darwin or post-whatever-you-want-to-call-it (so you sound like you know something when you don't) there is no universally agreed-upon body of Christian teaching that we get to label "Orthodoxy." Sorry.
If I managed to gather in a room, Al Mohler, Brian McLaren, Benedict XVI, John Zizioulas, Rowan Williams, Donald Miller, John Piper, Kendall Harmon and just for fun added Ambrose of Milan, Clement of Rome, Lord Jesus the Christ, Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther and John Calvin and asked them each to make a list of the absolute boundaries of Christian orthodoxy, it would be a pretty diverse and often (I daresay) mutually exclusive collection of bullet points.
I'm starting to suspect that "orthodox" just might be a word that people apply to themselves so they can pretend to be something they're not, and "heretic" or "hetrodox" are words applied to adversaries so they can pretend that those folks are something they are not.
Now here's what we might be able to do: perhaps we can agree to deal with the Scriptures in some way (sometimes referred to as "believing in the Bible"), the ancient ecumenical creeds (you know, the Nicene-Cosmopolitan one, the Chalcedonian Definition, things like that) and quit pretending that petty little party lines that spring from our own private little philosophies have anything to do with Christian orthodoxy. And then maybe we can call that orthodoxy.
Can people accidentally be heretics? Probably not. For my money, people only get to be heretics if they blatantly disclaim something that the Bible or the Creeds are pretty clear on as the accepted belief of the Church. Like, the ancient and universal one. And sorry, if we do that, we're kept from being too specific and detailed about what's "orthodox." 'Cause you know what? If you're the only one who thinks your particular interpretation is the clear teaching of scripture, you're wrong.
And hetrodox? It means different. Unconventional. As in, "gee, we hadn't thought of it like that before, maybe we should think about it a bit and see what we think about it." Without a little heterodoxy, we can't form our orthodoxies. We'd be stuck parroting the same faith formulations for generations without learning what they mean or claiming them for ourselves.
And people who throw around those words at their opponents? I would ask, "Are you really so grounded in the ancient and broad traditions of scriptural interpretation, so formed in the faith of the New Testament, so deeply immersed in the Jesus stories and schooled in mystical encounters with the risen Lord, so empowered by the Holy Spirit and so well schooled in every stream of Christian theology, that you can tell the rest of us what's properly heretical or not?"
I mean, really. Such arrogance.
This is a question I try to ask myself from time to time.
I'm a library paraprofessional and occasional theology instructor at a liberal arts college. I teach folks how to do academic research efficiently and throughly, and I teach Christian theology at the college level and in churches. I hold the Master of Applied Theology from the University of Oxford.