"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, September 10, 2012

History and Heresy

Those who subscribe to the fanciful notion that Christians are or are supposed to be "nice" have a hard time reconciling themselves to doctrinal conflicts in the Church, which have continued from apostolic times down to the present. Making things more complicated is the not uncommon hermeneutical problem of disentangling historical and contingent developments from eternal truths, and not mistaking the latter for the former and so having a basis to condemn someone. A new book helps to look at both history and heresy: Joseph F. Kelly, History and Heresy:How Historical Circumstances Can Create Doctrinal Conflict (Liturgical Press, 2012), 240. 

About this book the publisher tells us: 
Heresies, like doctrinal formulations, are products of history. They must be understood historically as well as theologically. When doctrinal issues become intertwined with historical ones, advocates of a new understanding have often run afoul of religious authorities. In History and Heresy, Joseph F. Kelly first describes how the concept of orthodoxy developed. Then he examines five heresies - Montanism, Monophysitism, Catharism, Catholic Modernism, and Protestant Modernism and Fundamentalism - in their historical contexts and the significant role that historical forces played in their designation as heretical. Finally, he suggests ways that religious authorities today can evaluate historical factors when making judgments about whether a particular idea is truly a heresy. Real heresy, Kelly contends, represents a clear and present danger to Christian teaching and demands a response from the church. But determining heresy is an exercise that must be undertaken with great wisdom and study.

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