BOUNDARIES OF CHRISTIANITY: HETERODOXY AND ORTHODOXY FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE MODERN WORLD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Burton L. Gordon and Paul Tutwiler

Santa Cruz and Oakland, California, 2012

 


 

BOUNDARIES OF CHRISTIANITY: HETERODOXY AND ORTHODOXY

 FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE MODERN WORLD.

 

By Burton L. Gordon and Paul Tutwiler

Santa Cruz and Oakland, California, 2012

 

For the complete text go to Whole text.

 

CONTENTS

 

PREFACE                                                                                                                Gordon

 

INTRODUCTION                                                                                                   Tutwiler

 

CHAPTER ONE. CONCEPTUAL AND RELIGIOUS BACKGROUND

 

To view Chapter 1 go to Background.

 

            I.          MONOTHEISM

            II.        DUALISM

            III.       GNOSTICISM

            IV.      ZOROASTRIANISM

            V.        ORTHODOX JUDAISM

            VI.      GREEK MYSTERY CULTS

            VII.     PLATO’S THOUGHT  AND INFLUENCE

            VIII.    HETERODOX JUDAISM

            IX.       MANDAEANS

 

CHAPTER TWO. DEVELOPMENT OF THE HETERODOX AND ORTHODOX TRADITIONS IN THE CLASSICAL AND LATE CLASSICAL PERIOD.

 

To view Chapter 2 go to Classical.

 

            I.          JESUS

            II.        EARLIEST HETERODOXIES

                                                Gnostic Simon

                                                Docetism and Marcionism

                                                Valentinianism

            III.       THE PRINCIPAL LATE CLASSICAL HETERODOXIES

                        A.        Arianism

                        B         Nestorianism

                        C.        Monophysitism

                        D.        Manichaeism

                                                Augustine of Hippo; Manichees, Donatists, Pelagians

                        E.        Minor Groups

                                                Priscillians

                                                Euchites or Messalians

 

CHAPTER THREE. MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN VARIETIES OF CHRISTIANITY

 

To view Chapter 3 go to Medieval.

 

            I.          INTRODUCTION

            II.        THE FIRST POST-CLASSICAL HETERODOXY: PAULICIANISM

            III.       BOGOMILS

            IV.      CATHARS-ALBIGENSIANS

            V.        WALDENSES

            VI.      SPIRITUAL WANDERERS

            VII.     JOHN WYCLIFFE AND THE LOLLARDS

            VII      JOHN HUS AND THE TABORITES

            IX.       FIFTEENTH CENTURY HETERODOXY

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR.  HETERODOXY IN TODAY’S CHRISTIANITY

 

To view Chapter 4 go to Modern.

 

            I.          DISSOLUTION IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY

            II.        GNOSTIC DUALIST TRADITION WITHIN CHRISTIANITY

                        SINCE THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY

            III.       GNOSTIC DUALIST TRADITION ALONG THE BOUNDARY OF

                        CHRISTIANITY SINCE THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY

                                    A.        On the boundary

                                                            Christian science

                                                            Latter-day saints

                                                            Unitarians

                                    B.        Outside but close to the boundary

                                                            Modern gnosticism

                                                            Dualism: contemporary satanism

 

APPENDIX A. CATHAR PRESENCE IN MONTAILLOU

APPENDIX B. A STUDY OF THE SOUTHERN ITALIAN  WALDENSES

APPENDIX C. RUSSIAN OLD BELIEVERS

 

To view the appendices go to Cases.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: SOURCES AND ADDITIONAL READINGS

 

To view the bibliography go to References

 


PREFACE                                                                                                                  Gordon

 

For almost two thousand years, within Christianity two traditions have survived.  Often intertwined, these traditions came to Europe from southwest Asia.  At any given moment and place during the two millennia, the dominant strain -- the one succeeding in crushing the other -- can be labeled “orthodox,” which means simply that it is the rule or the norm. The other tradition is called “heterodox,” a word indicating that it is different from the rule or norm, but not indicating how it differs. “Heretical,” “heretic,” and “heresy” refer to a heterodoxy which a group officially proscribes or declares to be erroneous. In the course of this study we shall see how heterodox sometimes becomes heretical.

 

The weaker or heterodox tradition appears in various guises and places, under various names, generally tending to be gnostic and dualistic.  In general, ‘gnostics’ believe they can achieve salvation through knowing a secret truth, while ‘dualists’ regard the power of evil to be as great as the power of good.

 

Looking at the chronological development of Christianity  we find that

As opposed to the traditional picture of a development of orthodoxy from the beginning of Christianity, with heresies springing up at the fringes Bauer suggested that the situation as late as the 2nd century was fluid and that in most cases heterodoxy preceded orthodoxy, which was only imposed later by the church at Rome. (Yamauchi 1973, 88, referring to Bauer 1971)

While overall the gnostic/dualist tradition (GDT) was suppressed by the orthodox one, many of its characteristics have remained throughout the centuries.  In tracing these common GDT characteristics, we can show that they still have a presence in modern Christian ‘orthodox’ religion and culture. Such are an ultimate distant, incomprehensible divinity, a savior figure, and  a compassionate mother figure acting as an intermediary between humanity and God.

It is fairly certain that much of the GDT “rose (or at least made its documentary appearance) in the borderland between the two great civilizations of the late classical period, the Hellenistic and the Persian...this borderland stretching roughly from Egypt to Armenia." (Obolensky 1948, 9) Some documents testifying to the religious beliefs and practices of these places and times have been familiar to Western scholars continuously through the millennia, and modern scholarship has brought to us an abundance of new finds. Best known of these latter are the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library. The Bible, having been in continuous use from those times, is, of course, necessarily a pivot upon which many historical reconstructions turn. Scholarly analysis of biblical texts and archeological finds in biblical lands have  clarified the testimony of the Bible.

From the beginning of the Christian church there was a fear of divisions within it. Writing to the community at Corinth, the Apostle Paul exclaimed, “Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.” (1 Corintians 11:19, Revised Standard Version) For “factions” the King James Version has “heresies,” an anachronistic use of the term “heresy,” which only acquired its current meaning more than a century later with the writings of Irenaeus of Lyons. Aside from semantics, the sensitivity of church authorities toward division served to give deviant ideas a lasting presence among them; when a continuous tradition linking the heterodox sects occasionally weakened, the orthodox churches themselves supplied a linkage by continuing to denounce the dead or dormant heresy. Thus the public at large were made aware of those very concepts and symbols which orthodoxy found offensive--symbols and concepts readily taken up not only by surviving heretics, but by the socially dissatisfied.

 

After the early Christian centuries there were documented periods of heterodox activity and other periods for which we have little evidence of any but strictly orthodox Christian life. There are, however, some archeological and folkloristic traces of the alternate tradition, a fact which can be plausibly explained by the far greater power of the institutional church to represent itself in word and structure and to suppress its enemies and obliterate physical traces of them. The prime example of such a period is the long span from roughly 500 A.D. to about 1100 A.D., from the subsidence of the Dualist Manichees in Europe to the appearance of Dualist Patarenes in Northern Italy. Even during those centuries, however, and unknown to the generality of European Christians, Dualism was working its way westward through the Balkans.

 

Despite obstacles, there is the extreme durability of religious traits. Religions seem to die a slow death; each leaves a cultural residue, as shown by the francophone Italians of Calabria. A continuity is often maintained in folklore, custom, and socio-political attitudes, as in southern France, where the Huguenots of the sixteenth


INTRODUCTION

                                                                                                                                    Tutwiler

 

The ebook Santa Cruz Spirituality is about the groups, Christian and other, which have embodied any form of spirituality over the years in Santa Cruz County, California.  Completed in 2005 as Santa Cruz California – History – Spirituality – Associations, and updated with current information through 2010, this work lists 502 associations, 335 of which were dedicated primarily to worship. In addition to the list, Santa Cruz Spirituality came to include essays about some types of spirituality, specifically, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian/Taoist, Romani, Ohlone, and Spiritualist, as well as Christian Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Pentecostal,.

 

In assembling the information it seemed to me that I did not need to explain the differences between Methodists and Presbyterians, between Catholics and Orthodox, and the like. Neither did I say anything about the fundamental meaning of Christianity in general, as I had done for the other religions. Are Mormons and Theosophists Christians?  Where do the Holy Grail Foundation and the Gnostic Home Temple fit in? What about Unitarian Universalists? Boundaries of Christianity attempts to explain the the basic requirements for being called Christian.

 

To illustrate the diffculty one has in discerning the essence of Christianity I offer my own experience in learning about Christian doctrine and history. From 1951 to 1955 I studied theology in a graduate program which prepared me for ordination as a Catholic priest.  My undergraduate studies, from three Catholic institutions, had embodied the typical liberal arts curriculum expected of a candidate for the priesthood, with a major in the scholastic philosophy approved by the Catholic Church.  I also had quite a few more credits in mathematics and science than was normal for candidates for the priesthood.

 

The goal of the graduate curriculum was to enable me to be a spiritual leader of people in the Catholic Church. How I could contribute to making them good Catholics or better Catholics and, in some cases, even become Catholics, that is, join the Catholic Church, required me to spend four years in graduate school learning what the Catholic Church deemed useful for the purpose. The core of the curriculum, if I remember correctly, comsisted of eight semesters of dogmatic (doctrinal) theology, eight semesters of holy scripture, six semesters of moral theology, and six semesters of church history

 

Topics merely touched upon were Protestant confessions of faith and the vicissitudes of the Orthodox churches. Among the topics which were not covered at all were Protestant mysticism and the churches which were one step farther removed from the Catholicism than mainstream Protestants, such as Mormon, Christian Scientist, and all non-Christian religions.  At that time, too, there was still an Index of Prohibited Books which contained almost all the interesting and ground-breaking books of the world’s patrimony of philosophy and theology.  We were learning catholicism under the assumption that the Catholic Church is the one, true Christian Church and the one place to learn what Christianity signifies  and entails, the one place to learn how to be a Christian.

 

Were we therefore taught that Catholic = Christian?  No, not even the narrow-minded curriculum of 60 years ago pretended that only Catholics are Christians.  It did not even teach that only Catholics could go to heaven, although it was hard-pressed to explain how others could get there. Christian, it taught, was broader than Catholic, but I do not remember hearing that being a  non-Catholic Christian gave one a head start at getting to heaven over total non-Christians, except, perhaps, that “Protestant” sounded better than “heathen” or “Jew.”

 

Years later I read the results of a poll which reported that many born-again Christians did not think that Catholics were Christians, to say nothing of being members of the one, true Christian Church.  The fact that one significant non-Evangelical American Protestant denomination calls itself the “Christian Church,” whereas the “Christian Reformed Church in North America” is an Evangelical denominationperhaps confuses this issue.  There is also a popular wisdom which asserts that to be a Christian is not so much a matter of what you believe, but, rather, of how you act: there are moral norms to put into practice if you are to merit being called a Christian.  Properly speaking, however, living up to these expectations would mean that you are a good Christian.

 

Closer to a possibly generally acceptable notion of what constitutes a Christian is that the person has Christian belief, which is “(1) an act of faith (2) in the historical Jesus (3) as the manifestation of God.” (Crossan 1994, 200)  A more detailed statement of the elements included in the Christian faith is that of the Five Fundamentals, “the inspiration of the Bible, the depravity of man, redemption through Christ’s blood, the true church as a body composed of all believers, and the coming of Jesus to establish his reign.” (Melton 1987, 73)  A complete collection of variants used to describe “Christian” would have to include many creeds, confessions, and other, more detailed, expositions.

 

Before I got around to thinking more about this, however, I began to exchange ideas with Roy Gordon, whose manuscript Heterodox Religions from Antiquity to the Modern World had been forty years in the making. Around 1970 Burton Leroy “Roy” Gordon, young scientist, researcher in ecology before it was a familiar term, was traveling in Europe, broadening his perspectives on natural history and human influences on it. In southern Italy he found a village where the dialect of Piedmont was spoken. It had been brought there by Waldenses, followers of  Waldo, a “Poor Man of Lyon,” who separated from the dominant Christian Church in the fourteenth century, somewhat in anticipation of the Protestant Reformation, which was not to take place for two hundred years.

 

Why Waldo’s group went its way and how it has persisted through the centuries until the present were matters which stimulated Gordon to consider religious heterodoxy: any form of faith that deviates from the generally accepted norms enough to be repugnant to the mass of believers, but not enough to be anathema to them. For nearly 50 years, in which Gordon was known for his research and teaching in environmental science, he applied himself on the side to a study of heterodoxy. At length, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, he published his scientific study Chemical Arts and Technologies of Indigenous Americans  and also entrusted his material on heterodoxy to me, his friend.

 

When Gordon turned over to me his carefully researched notes, I saw in them many facts useful for expanding the essay I had in mind to become more than an introduction to the Christian churches of today. Gordon was, in effect, describing the historical process which had gradually defined Christian doctrine. In the resulting work we devote the first chapter to preliminaries, that is the conceptual elements, such as Gnosticism and Dualism, and the historical religious attitudes of Europe and Western Asia, which entered into the formation of Christianity. Following that is a three chapter survey of how these antecedents continued to be present in Christianity or along its fringes down to the present. These four chapters, the meat of this study, represent the work of both of us. Three appendices, case studies, two by Gordon and one by Tutwiler, complete the presentation.

 

The bibliography ranges through numerous ancient authors to contemporary histories and compendia relating to the topics included in our theme. These matters have been studied exhaustively in recent years, and an enormous abundance of information, trustworthy and not trustworthy, is readily available to everyone on the internet. The contribution we are attempting to make is a readable guide, a fresh, clear pathway toward the understanding of a huge and complex subject.