Skip to comments.On Punching Heretics
Posted on 05/04/2014 4:13:19 PM PDT by NYer
There was an odious man named Frank in our fundamentalist church when I was a boy who had a brood of badly behaved children. When one of them would act up, Frank would haul the miscreant out of the sanctuary and wallop him. When he would re-appear with the unfortunate sprog, Frank would mutter sanctimoniously, “Sometimes we need to administer love to our children.”
The memory brings to mind another fracas at church in an earlier time. At the Council of Nicea, Bishop Nicholas of Myra punched the heretic Arius in the face. Arius had been asked to defend his doctrine that Jesus Christ was only a created being and not God incarnate. The future Santa Claus, fed up with this nonsense, got up and administered some love. St. Nicholas is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. Some work. Some wonder.
Nicholas was not the only one of the Fathers inclined to physical expressions of orthodoxy. St. John Chrysostom was so troubled by Christians who advocated teetotalism that he preached a homily encouraging the faithful to revolt:
Paul is not ashamed. . .in writing to Timothy, to bid him take refuge in the healing virtue of wine drinking. Not to drink wine? God forbid! For such precepts belong to heretics. . . .Should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify your hand with the blow, and if any should accuse you, and drag you to the place of justice, follow them, and when the judge. . .calls you to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels!
Most of us would hesitate to follow John Chrysostom’s robust advice. Explaining to the sheriff that we had struck the progressive Christian because he had “blasphemed the King of Angels” is not our style. Our new beatitude is “blessed are the milquetoast for they shall inherit a peaceful life.” We prefer to do battle with words, not swords, for we are sure that fingers tapping keyboards are more effective than fists striking faces.
Nevertheless, virulent, vituperative, and even violent attitudes towards heretics are part of Scripture itself. St. Paul inveighed against the legalists who insisted that the Gentile converts should be circumcised, saying that he wished they would go the whole way and castrate themselves. (Gal.5:12)
Meanwhile St Peter wrote these choice words about heretics:
There will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies. . .Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications. . .these people, like irrational animals. . .revile things that they do not understand. . .thinking daytime revelry a delight, they are stains and defilements as they revel in their deceits while carousing with you. Their eyes are full of adultery and insatiable for sin. They seduce unstable people, and their hearts are trained in greed. Accursed children!. . .These people are waterless springs. . .for them the gloom of darkness has been reserved. . . .What is expressed in the true proverb has happened to them, “The dog returns to its own vomit,” and “A bathed sow returns to wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter)
Indeed, while the New Testament sings sweetly of the joys of following Christ, it also echoes with the most severe imprecations against both legalistic and licentious false teachers. The apostles may not condone physical violence against heretics, but they certainly have no time for compromise, weasel words, ignoring immorality. and sentimental half-truths that paper over lies and pretend divisions do not exist.
Without becoming Westboro Baptists, our lily-livered age could use the odd theological pugilist. Few of us will take the risk of punching a heretic, but what are the options? First is clarity. There is such a thing as false teaching because there is such a thing as true teaching. The Catholic faith is true. Therefore it is dogmatic. It has boundaries. Not everything goes. It is possible to be outside the Church, and we come to know the boundaries through solid and substantial catechesis.
If we are clear that there are boundaries, then we are also clear that false teachers blur the boundaries, water down the faith, and obscure the truth. They do so in both doctrine and morals. If we are clear that heresy exists, then we must also hate it. We hate false teaching because the fate of souls is at stake. False teaching leads to bad beliefs and bad behaviors, and bad beliefs and behaviors propel souls on that broad way that leads to destruction.
Clarity is first. Charity is second. In the second chapter of the Book of Revelation St. John recounts Christ’s words to the believers in Ephesus. He says, “You have this in your favor. You hate the works of the Nicolaitans which I also hate.” (The Nicolaitans were a sect notorious for their sexual profligacy and false teaching.) Notice however, that gentle St. John says he hates the works of the Nicolaitans. So then, hate the heresy, love the heretic.
Clarity, then charity, and I would add a spice of hilarity. Chesterton was an effective warrior for the faith because he was a happy warrior. Heretics are rarely happy. Good humor, therefore, is often the best antidote to the sour-faced and self-righteous seriousness of heresy.
Unfortunately, the heretics are often as odious as the heresy. It is not easy to disentangle sin from the sinner, and it is not easy to sift the heresy from the heretic. The temptation to slap remains and therefore our prayer also remains, “Lead us not into temptation,” and teach us to administer love in better ways.
Perhaps there was a translation error and he gave him some punch to drink that was spiked with a hit of whiskey and not a hit with his fist.
I think he and St. Jerome are tied for Most Irascible Saint.
Let's chuck the milquetoast music too, while we're at it.
Clear and faithful confession of the Faith originates from Above and has, by all appearances, less-than-desirable results; even perhaps crucifixions. We pray that the LORD bless and strengthen His Church with faithful teachers and preachers, for without His blessing and Word, we are all damned heretics.
Thanks for another edifying post. I assist at a Lutheran parish in South Bend, IN that is evangelical and catholic in theology and practice; orthodox, confessional, and liturgical, by the grace of God in Christ.
I am not Catholic and could be considered a protestant of Protestantism (LDS). However, I believe that coercion/violence in the act of establishing the doctrines of God is wholly unchristian. I can find nothing in the life(example) of Christ which would suggest that this would be acceptable to him or those who profess his faith.
Furthermore, I believe that the stated example of the father disciplining his son as a metaphor for a church disciplining non-conformance is totally out of place.
If coercion/persecution is OK to Catholics as a church, then the persecution of Christ and Christianity by the Jewish Elite, could be similarly described as a necessity to punish non-conformity, and could serve equally in justification of the various murders committed by the inquisition. Indeed, if the inquisition was sanctioned by God, why is it not practiced today?
Last of all, history has proven the justness of Catholic non-conformists in the past, such as the example of Martin Luther. In the 1500s, Martin Luther was excommunicated as a heretic, although, the modern Catholic church has modified the church position to conform to most of the self-same criticisms that Martin Luther was excommunicated for.s.
Thanks for the ping. The fact that heretics were burned at the stake is not mentioned.
Good belly laugh out of that one.
Will you return to burning heretics at the stake?
.....Yet Christ got angry and threw the merchants out of the Jewish temple, so there are times when just anger needs to come into play.
I am glad when I see an very old icon which is still in good condition.
Matthew 21:12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.
Mark 11:15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,
Luke 19:45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling.
John 2:15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
Heresy is not just an abstract thing, but has real effects on real people’s lives and in fact on the world in which we all live, whether or not we share or acknowledge the heresy.
Pity there was nobody around to bop Mohammed when he started to hallucinate. Islam is often viewed as a sort of offshoot or resurgence of Arianism, so we can see that the effect of what one might dismiss as a “mere” doctrinal point has had very real and awful consequences.
People know think they have “moved beyond” doctrine, but they don’t realize that this is (a) impossible and (b) that it’s a doctrine in itself. I saw that the Unitarians have recently started advertising themselves as “Faith beyond beliefs.” LOL! Poor souls, they mean well, but there’s no such thing as faith in the abstract (faith in what???) and doctrine or “beliefs” must always be part of it and they must be clear and orthodox, that is, in line with Jewish and Christian tradition.
Nestorius on Mary as the Mother of God (Ecumenical)
The Day Nestorius Rocked the Church and an Empire
How Quickly Catholic Heresy Took Over the Church (Immediately)
Hilaire Bellocs The Great Heresies now available in EPUB format
Chapter 6: The Modern Phase [The Great Heresies]
Chapter 5: What Was The Reformation? [The Great Heresies]
Chapter 4: The Albigensian Attack [The Great Heresies]
Chapter 3: The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed [The Great Heresies]
Chapter 2: The Arian Heresy [The Great Heresies
Chapter 1: Scheme Of This Book [The Great Heresies]
Introduction: Heresy [The Great Heresies]
The Great Heresies
John Calvins Worst Heresy: That Christ Suffered in Hell
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Succumbs to Heresy
The Bishop Discovers Heresy?
From Orthodox to Heresy: The Secularizing of Catholic Universities
Progressivism/Liberalism is Heresy [Excellent read & reference]
Is heresy better than schism? [Ecumenical]
Modernism: The Modernist Heresy
THE GREAT HERESIES-THE MODERN PHASE
The Protestant Heresy
The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene
Americanism, Then and Now: Our Pet Heresy (encyclical of Pope Leo XIII)
Heresies then and now: ancient Christian heresies practiced in modern times
The Plain Truth About The Baptist Bride Heresy
Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy: An Exchange (is it compatable with the Catholic faith?)
Know Your Heresies
The Rev. John Piper: an interesting look at "heresy vs. schism"
Pietism as an Ecclesiological Heresy
Arian Heresy Still Tempts, Says Cardinal Bertone (Mentions Pelagianism As Well)
Catholic Discussion] Church group stays faithful (to heresy!)
An overview of modern anti-Trinitarian heresies
Where heresy and dissent abound [Minnesota]
Gnostic Gospels - the heresy entitled "Gnosticism."
Christian mavericks find affirmation in ancient heresies
The So-Called Gospel of Judas: Unmasking an Ancient Heresy
Benedict XVI Heresies and Errors
Donatism (Know your heresies)
The Heresy of Mohammed (Chapter 4, The Great Heresies)
Father & Son Catholic Writers Tag-Team Old & New Heresies
“I think he and St. Jerome are tied for Most Irascible Saint.”
Well, there’s always [St.] Lucifer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucifer_of_Cagliari
Depends on what the definition of “heretic,” is.