Question: Why do some people call you a heretic?


Why do some people call you a heretic?


To answer that question carefully, because it’s important, I need to embed it in a few other questions.

    • First, what is a “heretic”?
    • Second who calls me a heretic?
    • Why do some call me a heretic?
    • Am I a heretic? What do I believe?

What is a heretic? These days, “heretic” has become a pejorative term, thrown around liberally and used as a synonym for “false teacher” or “false prophet.” Those who call their opponents heretics are often referring to anyone who doesn’t agree with their own opinions–they make themselves their own standard of orthodoxy. Worse, they often assume their targets are not Christians at all. To them, “heretic” means “heading to hell and taking others there with them.” And so I’ve been told.

But as Fr. Michael Gillis explained to me, in the ancient world, “heresy” was not such an angry expletive. History shows it usually referred to in-house errors among certain bishops and priests. In other words, the heretics were regarded as brothers and sisters in Christ—even leaders in Church—who had made a serious mistake. These mistakes were usually specific to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” and occurred as various Christian teachers worked out their theology of the nature of Christ and of the Trinity. These mistakes needed to be corrected and orthodoxy defined, but the early church still generally considered “the mistaken” to be Christians and sought to reconcile with them rather than excluding them.

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Brad Jersak

Bradley Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More