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Are Protestants Heretics?
First Things ^ | Wednesday, January 31, 2007, 10:42 AM | By Edward T. Oakes, S.J.

Posted on 02/01/2007 5:52:17 PM PST by AlbionGirl

My lucubrations for today’s webposting would like to argue just this one single point: Doctrinal clarity is lost when Catholics call Protestant heretics. To be sure, that habit of unthinkingly hurling accusations of heresy at Protestants pretty much died out after the Second Vatican Council, when talk of “separated brethren” became all the rage. But a random spot-check of some Catholic blogsites of a conservative bent–where heresy is often used as the term of choice when these bloggers are in their Colonel Blimp harumphing mood–tells me it’s time for some clarity here. Which prompts the following reflections.

First of all, I wish to stress that I am not trying to ban the word heresy by Catholics when speaking of Protestants out of some wishy-washy ecumenical latitudinarianism, as if dogmas are merely matters of opinion without objective truth value of their own. Nor I am denying that there are genuine doctrinal disputes that have become church-dividing. I have no doubt that the prospect of eventual ecclesial unity can only be achieved when, among other milestones, consensus is reached about the dogmas that separate Christians.

So, in a way, heresy can be the appropriate word to use to describe dogmatic disputation but only provided one first gives priority to its etymological meaning, which comes from the Greek word for “choice.” But of whom does that not apply? As Peter Berger observed in his fine book The Heretical Imperative, not many people in this multicultural setting of ours can keep to the religion they were born into without a lot of conscious choices being made along the way. Even orthodoxy is, in that sense, a choice, a “heresy.”

(Excerpt) Read more at firstthings.com ...


TOPICS: Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics; Religion & Science; Theology
KEYWORDS: god; heretics; of; people; protestants; the

1 posted on 02/01/2007 5:52:18 PM PST by AlbionGirl
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From the piece:

I do hereby conclude: When the Western Church fissiparated in the sixteen century, the Reformers took a portion of the essential patrimony of the Church with them, and they thereby left both the Roman Church and themselves the poorer for it.

2 posted on 02/01/2007 5:53:40 PM PST by AlbionGirl
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To: AlbionGirl

Hand them over to the Inquisition. Heresies and heretics are the area of its professional specialization..


3 posted on 02/01/2007 5:57:15 PM PST by GSlob
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To: AlbionGirl
Are Protestants Heretics?

Good question. I'll ask Ted Kennedy.

4 posted on 02/01/2007 5:57:34 PM PST by Texas Eagle (If it wasn't for double-standards, Liberals would have no standards at all.)
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Some more from the piece:

The ferocious debate in seventeenth-century France between the Jesuits and the Jansenists itself points out how much the issues that (supposedly univocally) divided the Reformation from the Church of Rome also raged inside the ancient precincts of the Church. The Jesuits ultimately won out over the Jansenists (often by tarring them as crypto-Calvinists, a charge they found difficult to counter), although the Jesuits’ victory proved Pyrrhic in their case. For Blaise Pascal took the side of the Jansenists and hurled a polemic against the Jesuits in his Provincial Letters so ferocious that it inflicted on the Society of Jesus a wound that, because it was left unaddressed, eventually led to the suppression of the Order by Pope Clement XIV in 1774. The Order was restored in 1815, at which point my story shifts. The odd twist in the plot is that the Catholic Church in the nineteenth century–especially in France–represented a kind of subterranean Jansenism fused to a bourgeois “ledger morality” of Do’s and Don’ts. It was in this hothouse atmosphere that Ste. Thérèse of Lisieux was raised. Although brought up in a thoroughly Catholic household, and pious to an almost preternatural degree, she was assaulted toward the end of her short life (she died at the age of 24 of tuberculosis) by fierce temptations to atheism, which she could only resolve when she came to these “Lutheran” insights, four months before her death:
I am very happy that I am going to heaven. But when I think of this word of the Lord, “I shall come soon and bring with me my recompense to give to each according to his works,” I tell myself that this will be very embarrassing for me, because I have no works. … Very well! He will render to me according to His works for His own sake.
And in her Offrande à l’Amour miséricordieux, she prays to Jesus thus:
In the evening of this life I shall appear before Thee with empty hands because I do not ask Thee, Lord, to count my works. All our just acts have blemishes in Thine eyes. Therefore I want to wrap myself up again in Thy justice, and to receive from Thy love the eternal possession of Thee Thyself. (All emphases added.)

Sometimes, when I’m in an impish mood with the seminarians in my class, I like to quote something out of character from someone famous and have the students guess who said it. When I read these quotes from Thérèse, they’ll take a stab and say it’s from Martin Luther in one of his more pious moods, or John Calvin, or maybe Karl Barth. Imagine the shock when I tell them it came from that “Lutheran Carmelite,” the Little Flower!


5 posted on 02/01/2007 6:00:06 PM PST by AlbionGirl
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To: AlbionGirl

I don't know. Do they speak Greek?


6 posted on 02/01/2007 6:00:50 PM PST by Tax-chick ("Hyperbolic rodomontade of the most puerile type." ~ Aaron Elkins)
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To: GSlob
Hand them over to the Inquisition. Heresies and heretics are the area of its professional specialization..

Yes, they were a satisfied bunch, weren't they? Don't know how old you are or if you remember Laugh In, but there used to be an Oriental character that Arte Johnson played, he would say 'aska qeshone, 'specta ansah.'

7 posted on 02/01/2007 6:03:12 PM PST by AlbionGirl
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To: AlbionGirl

Should make for an interesting thread!


8 posted on 02/01/2007 6:11:12 PM PST by Alex Murphy
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To: AlbionGirl
We got enough problems dealing with the heretics within the Catholic Church.
9 posted on 02/01/2007 6:13:21 PM PST by mware (By all that you hold dear.. on this good earth... I bid you stand! Men of the West!)
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To: Alex Murphy

It is, actually.


10 posted on 02/01/2007 6:20:44 PM PST by AlbionGirl
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To: Texas Eagle

What would Teddy Kennedy know about Protestants?


11 posted on 02/01/2007 6:40:46 PM PST by SuzyQue (Remember to think.)
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To: Tax-chick

"I don't know. Do they speak Greek?"

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) How is the budding Patristics scholar these days?

Notice the author of the piece is a Jesuit, which is about all most of us even need to understand.


12 posted on 02/01/2007 6:53:40 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

*snicker*

Pat's doing fine, although he and the cat are in competition over who's going to control James. In a few weeks, I'll have to decide whether to register Pat for religious ed. for the fall. I need to talk with the director over who's likely to teach kindergarten classes.


13 posted on 02/02/2007 4:38:58 AM PST by Tax-chick ("Hyperbolic rodomontade of the most puerile type." ~ Aaron Elkins)
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To: AlbionGirl

One of the problems with Protestantism is the tendency to division, but not because of heresy (in the sense of the "revelation" of some other truth). Rather, it is because each person takes a splinter of the whole truth and sets sail upon the sea of life astride his own little splinter. At first, other people will get on the splinter, and then suddenly, one of them finds a splinter of the splinter that appeals to him even more, and he sees that as the entire truth and sets forth on his own little splinter-borne journey. And so forth.

The Protestants didn't really take anything away from the Church, although their overemphasis of their particular splinters of the truth led to a defensive reaction that resulted in closing the mind of the Church to many things that were actually in the process of being worked out.

What Protestants always overlook is that the development of doctrine is a long and complicated process, and the person who is unfortunate enough to have to preach the truth can expect to suffer for it. Many of the people the Church reveres as saints today were, in their time, condemned and even excommunicated. Even Athanasius found himself fighting for the truth alone. But they remained part of the Church, patiently speaking the truth as the Holy Spirit revealed it to them in accordance with tradition, obediently accepting correction and even silence, because they did not have the arrogance to think that their splinter of the truth was the only one.

They were also confident in the truth, confident in God's power to reveal the truth, and confident that if they were right and what they taught came from God, the Church would accept it. They were absolutely right in this, and instead of their truth becoming a separate truth or shard of the truth, it became part of the Church's deposit of truth shared among all believers.

To me, a heresy would be something like Islam, which takes a few scraps of Christian imagery, a few scraps of Jewish ritual law, and a few bits of paganism and creates an entirely new and awful belief system.

Protestants do not do that; I would say that what Protestantism does is take a truth, and emphasize that truth to the extent that it becomes much bigger in the scale of Christian belief than it should be. And then as a reaction to this overemphasis, another Protestant might take an opposite approach (I'm thinking of Protestant struggles over grace and free will, for example), which then will lead to another division and another attempt to constitute a partial truth as the foundation.


14 posted on 02/02/2007 5:03:49 AM PST by livius
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To: Kolokotronis; Tax-chick
All I can say is this: We live in strange times when I find greater doctrinal fellowship among many Protestants than I do among far too many Catholic theologians!

Edward T. Oakes, S.J., teaches theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake.


To be fair, I have met some rather orthodox Jesuits who were more comfortable talking to me than many of their fellows. But he was (I suspect) a rather small minority.

I have heard and seen more who would be very comfortable in the ECUSA.
15 posted on 02/02/2007 5:09:54 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: livius
I don't know if you read the whole piece or not, but it's really well written and I think fair. But, the following small excerpt is a good summarization, and true.
I do hereby conclude: When the Western Church fissiparated in the sixteen century, the Reformers took a portion of the essential patrimony of the Church with them, and they thereby left both the Roman Church and themselves the poorer for it.

16 posted on 02/02/2007 5:31:51 AM PST by AlbionGirl
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To: redgolum

"To be fair, I have met some rather orthodox Jesuits who were more comfortable talking to me than many of their fellows. But he was (I suspect) a rather small minority."

I don't doubt they (orthodox Jesuits) exist...somewhere. They're certainly not hiding out in my family, though! :)


17 posted on 02/02/2007 6:02:22 AM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis; redgolum

Father John Hardon is dead, but Father Mitch Pacwa is a Jesuit.


18 posted on 02/02/2007 6:06:50 AM PST by Tax-chick ("Hyperbolic rodomontade of the most puerile type." ~ Aaron Elkins)
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To: Kolokotronis; Tax-chick

Not familiar with them. But I remember this gentleman (whose name escapes me) was pretty old school in a lot of things.


19 posted on 02/02/2007 6:21:51 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: livius; AlbionGirl

I have been coming to the conclusion that the Latin Church views heresy somewhat differently than Orthodoxy does. By your definition, Arianism, Nestorianism, Sabellianism, Montanism, Donatism, etc. etc. would not have qualified as heresies yet the Fathers and the councils condemned and anathemized them as heretics. When you look at their theology (except maybe the Arians and the Montanists in my list)and even more so their praxis (except perhaps the Montanists)what you see is in most senses the orthopraxis of The Church.

When we in Orthodoxy look at "Protestantism" we see, even in its wide diversity, very little which looks like the Faith of The Church except in some basic Trinitarian and Christologic theology. We see virtually nothing of the Mysteria or liturgical praxis; we see virtually nothing of Holy Tradition. Its sotierology is almost completely different from ours. To us that spells heresy and heretics.

On the other hand, it is interesting and I think informative to remember that Arians, for example, were received into The Church by a simple profession of Faith, sometimes with and sometimes without chrismation which speaks volumes about what The Church thought of Arian baptism, for example.

Sitting in the East and observing the confusion of Western Christianity, we have to conclude that when the Protestants did leave the Latin Church, they did indeed take a great deal with them including a sort of proto resistence to the pyramidal ecclesiology and the marginalization of the laity and lower clergy from the workings of The Church in the West. To tell you the truth, I think that in many senses the Protestants have a better intuitive understanding of the fullness of The Church, or better put, where that fullness is found, than the Latin Church does, even if what they have created don't actually qualify as churches because of the truly astonishing amount of the Truth of The Church they rejected and left behind.


20 posted on 02/02/2007 6:50:32 AM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

These were all genuine heresies because they did not focus on a truth, somewhat out of proportion, but invented or denied fundamental doctrines and then asserted their inventions to be the true doctrine of the Church. They did not plan on going off on their own; they wanted to impose their doctrine throughout the Church, and in a couple of cases, they very nearly did so.

Classical Protestants, on the other hand, are a little more pragmatic, if one may say that, often rejecting something that was perhaps an overemphasis in the first place and rejecting practices or structural things. And, of course, they separate themselves and set off on their own, which, paradoxically, is why it is easier to reconcile them with the fullness of the Faith when they decide to come back.

The danger, of course, is that once Protestants are "launched" on their own little splinters, even the splinters splinter, and in some cases, they are left with a fragment that is no longer even recognizable as the truth. Non-Trinitarian Protestants and those groups that that have devolved into vague deist sects would be an example of this. And then there is also the risk of the development of personal "revelations" based on their fragment of the truth, such as Joseph Smith's "revelations" that led to the founding of the Mormons, a group that I think is trying to work its way back to orthodox Christianity but certainly was initially very far from it.

I don't see how the "every man his own church" system has anything in common with the Orthodox understanding of the Church, btw!


21 posted on 02/02/2007 7:04:20 AM PST by livius
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To: Kolokotronis
When we in Orthodoxy look at "Protestantism" we see, even in its wide diversity, very little which looks like the Faith of The Church except in some basic Trinitarian and Christologic theology. We see virtually nothing of the Mysteria or liturgical praxis; we see virtually nothing of Holy Tradition. Its sotierology is almost completely different from ours. To us that spells heresy and heretics.

As it well should...There are folks on both sides who look at it as one big disgruntled family...And in the case of many Protestant groups, that may be correct...

But as in the case of Southern Baptists for example, the gulf is too wide...Your side and their side teach and believe in different roads to salvation...And they are NOT both correct or acceptable...One side is going to be sorely disappointed at the Judgement...

I've been called a heretic by Catholics...And after researching both sides, I'll wear that 'heretic' moniker proudly...

22 posted on 02/02/2007 8:54:58 AM PST by Iscool (There will be NO peace on earth, NOR good will toward men UNTIL there is Glory to God in the Highest)
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To: AlbionGirl
Are Protestants Heretics?

I hope so.

23 posted on 02/02/2007 8:58:04 AM PST by DungeonMaster (Acts 17:11 also known as sola scriptura.)
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To: AlbionGirl

It's actually best for all concerned if we are considered heretics.


24 posted on 02/02/2007 8:59:36 AM PST by DungeonMaster (Acts 17:11 also known as sola scriptura.)
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To: DungeonMaster

LOLOL! And, you're probably right.


25 posted on 02/02/2007 9:01:52 AM PST by AlbionGirl
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To: Kolokotronis

I agree from the other side of the fence. And we don't have too many nice words talking about your side either: ;-) From our side, those of the more more-spoken people classify you as "Aberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox" which is the same classifications the Roman Catholics get.

http://www.apologeticsindex.org/o06.html

http://www.namb.net/evangelism/iev/PDF/BB_E_Orthodox_Manual.pdf

Some of the more extreme words from our camp would be along these lines:

http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/eastern.htm

"...From these quotes it is obvious that the Orthodox Church is entirely apostate. It holds the same basic set of false beliefs as the Roman Catholic Church from which it broke away in the ninth century."

Just a different perspective from "our side". ;-)


26 posted on 02/02/2007 2:06:53 PM PST by NZerFromHK (The US Founding is what makes Britain and USA separated by much more than a common language.)
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To: NZerFromHK

""...From these quotes it is obvious that the Orthodox Church is entirely apostate. It holds the same basic set of false beliefs as the Roman Catholic Church from which it broke away in the ninth century."

Just a different perspective from "our side". ;-)"

Well, its good to see that these folks have the courage of their convictions, I suppose. I do note that they don't speak of "heresy", however. I suppose that makes sense since the author has no established and widely agreed upon body of doctrine from which one could measure whether what The Church teaches is "heresy" or not. :)


27 posted on 02/02/2007 2:47:34 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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