Thus, if I might be permitted to oversimplify, one heretic overemphasizes the divine nature of Christ while another overemphasizes Christ's humanity, yet both lose sight of the fact that Christ is both divine and human. One heretic overemphasizes the the distinction between the three persons of the Holy Trinity while another overemphasizes their unity, yet both lose sight of the fact that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are both Three Persons and at the same time One God. The Four Great Heresies all arise from the attempts of learned folk to define the who Jesus was and how Jesus related to the Father. Nestorius, Eutyches, Apollinaris and Arius managed to bracket the truth without ever apprehending it.
The flip side of this is the reality that all theology is written in response to the heresy of the age. After all, the whole muddle over homoousion and homoiousion only began when Arius got it wrong.
So the Church, in responding to one heresy, must always have a care that she not fall into its polar opposite.
I am moved to reflect on this because The Usual Suspects Trying to Destroy the Anglican Communion (TUSTDAC?) have launched into another vicious personal attack on the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, accusing her of heresy.
Not that I think they have a theological leg to stand on. The Presiding Bishop does attack what she describes as "the great Western heresy" (by which she clearly means the great Western heresy of the present age), but she does so without falling into the polar opposite heresy.
Dr. Jefferts Schori's words which have started this current rhetorical rhubarb? They come from her opening address to the General Convention of the Episcoapl Church currently meeting in Anaheim, California.
The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention.I think she's spot on in her identification of the Great Heresy of the present age - at least in the West. This is the root heresy that underlies far too much of political religion in both the United States and Canada. Personally, I'd name it Thatcherism, for it's great advocate, Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who once proclaimed "there is no such thing as society." (Woman's Own magazine, October 31, 1987)
Historically, Catholic Christianity has always seen the collective expression of the Body of Christ - that is to say the Church - as important. While never denying the importance of individual faith, individual devotion and individual piety, a Christian is properly a Christian because they are part of Christ's Body, the Church. To treat Christian faith as being an entirely individual undertaking - as seems altogether too common in some circles - is manifestly heretical. The Ethiopian eunuch came to believe as an individual, but it was baptism by Philip which grafted him into the Church. The lot fell on Matthias as an individual, but his Apostolic authority came from being "added to the eleven Apostles."
Now, I agree that there is, as always, a polar opposite heresy - the heresy that would emphasize the collective to the exclusion, diminution and discarding of the individual. That heresy might take many forms, but it would certainly be a heresy.
However, I fail to see that Dr. Jefferts Schori has come anywhere near offering up an alternate extremism to the rampant individualism of the present age.
The irony, of course, is that the TUSTDACs with all their assorted acronyms (ACNA, ACN, ANiC, GAFCON, FOCA, FCAUK and cetera) are damning Dr. Jefferts Schori and defending the very heresy of individualism. What's ironic about that? The emphasis of the individual over the collective, philosophically, is called liberalism, while the TUSDACs wrongly think of themselves as conservatives.
Now, for those of you who want to contemplate a bit of heresy hunting:
Or for those of you of a more Anglican bent: