Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy
Orthodoxy And Heterodoxy.
The use of these two words implies the possession of a standard of truth, so that what agrees with it is right, and what disagrees with it is wrong. In the general domain of truth, where there are no positive stipulations, and in philosophy, this distinction cannot be made. Yet as Christianity started with the consciousness of possessing the truth, it Was from the first led to establish principles — though less clearly defined than they were afterwards. Indeed we find heresy mentioned already in the N.T., as a departure from the absolute truth in religious doctrines and religious life. Christ came into the world to disclose the truth, as ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωῆ (Joh 14:6); every one who is of the truth hears his voice (Joh 18:37). Hence any one who follows his teachings is ὀρθοτομῶν τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθεαίς (2Ti 2:15), and the true doctrine is ἀποστολικὴ ὀρθοτομία (Euseb. Church History, 4:3), little different from what was later designated as ὀρθοδοξία (G. Major, De voc. ὀρθ. sign.if: Vit. 1545). Thus there arose in the apostolical times a κανὼν τῆς ἀληθείας, a regula veritatis; every departure from it was soon stamped as heresy, and afterwards more correctly called ἑτεροδοξία, by which we are to understand only οὐκ ὀρθοποδεῖν πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (Ga 2:14; comp. 2Co 11:2 sq.), διδαχὴ ἣν ὑμεῖς ἐμάθετε (Ro 16:17)? He who teaches differently, ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖ καὶ μὴ προσέρχεται ὑγιαίνουσι λόγοις τοῖς τοῦ κυρίου ἡμ. ῏Ι Χρ. καὶ τῇ κατ᾿ ἐυσέβειαν διδασκαλίᾷ (1Ti 6:3). Plato considered heterodoxy as error, not as a simple departure from orthodoxy. Yet the ancient Church did not particularly attach itself to these denominations of orthodoxy and heterodoxy as designating the contrast between the Christian truth and its opposite, for its doctrines were not yet firmly enough established. But as they gradually came to be more strictly defined, that which agreed with the decisions of the Church was called orthodox, and whatever differed from them heterodox. The notion of orthodoxy commenced only to acquire real power when the Church attained a secure footing in the state. We find the expression often used by Eusebius, Athanasius (whom Epiphanius: calls the father of orthodoxy, Haer. lxix, c. 2), etc., and also among the Latins, e.g. in the writings of Jerome. Isidore of Hispalis says in the Origines.(7:14). "Orthodoxus est recte credens et ut credit recte vivens." The Church as the embodiment of religion in the community needs a firmly established doctrine as its basis; it. no longer leaves the individual free to believe as he chooses. Unity of doctrine with the Church, or at least the acceptance of its fundamental principles, constitutes orthodoxys, departure from them is heterodoxy. A tendency to the use of these words was already apparent in the ancient Church, for we find Ignatius in the beginning of the 2d century designates. those who depart from the general faith, as taught and supported by the bishops, as ἑτεροδοξοῦτες (A d Smyrn. c. 6), and warns his readers against being led into error ταῖς ἑτεροδοξίαις (Ad Magn. c. 8). But he uses them more in the etymological than in the ecclesiastical sense. The ecclesiastical use of them did not become general before the 4th century, when the regula veritatis gradually acquired a more objective form in the canon of Scripture, in the confessions of the Church, the decrees of the synods, and the assertion of the Church possessing the standard of truth. In cases of uncertainty, the Church or the synods decided as to what was conformed to, the doctrine of the Church (orthodox), and what contrary to, it (heterodox). Thus it gradually proclaimed more and more loudly, especially in the East, that the doctrine it taught constituted orthodoxy, and that every doctrine differing from it was heterodoxy.
This question of orthodoxy twice attained paramount importance in the Church. First in the difficulties concerning the dogma and ecclesiastical usages which more from an outward impulse than from inner reasons led to a separation between the Eastern and the Western churches. In these discussions, and particularly on that concerning images, the Greek Church always based itself on its antiquity and its orthodoxy, till in the course of the dispute the ἑορτὴ τῆς ὀρθοδοξίας was established in 842, which led to the Greek Church assuming specifically the name of orthodox, which it still maintains. The first formal exposition of its dogmas by Joiin of Damascus (732) had already borne the title of ἔκθεσις τῆς ὀρθοδξου πίστεως, which was also the case with other distinguished dogmatic works afterwards, such as Euthymius Zigadenus's πανοπλία δογματικὴ τῆς ὀρθοδόξου πίστεως, and Nicetas Acominatus's θησαυρὸς ὀρθοδοξίας. The Greek Church consequently claims to possess the absolute truth, which she preserves without attempting to develop it, like a miser his treasure, while she considers all other Christian churches as heterodox, schismatic, and heretical. This is evinced in all official acts and documents of the Greek Church, as also from the generally received confession of the archbishop of Kief, Peter Mogilas, which bears the inscription Ο᾿ρθόδοξος ὁμολογία τῆς καθολικῆς καὶ ἀποστολικῆς ἐκκλησαίς ἀνατολικῆς. See Schrockh, Kirchengesch. 17:466 sq.; Marheineke, Ueb. d. Ursprung u.d. Entwickelung d. Orthodoxie u. Heterodoxie, etc. in Daub u. Creutzer, Studienui. 1807.
The second occasion when the question of orthodoxy acquired such importance was at the time of Luther's Reformation. The whole body of doctrine was revised and determined down to the most minute dogmatic definitions. The adherents of the Reformation in the 16th century were from, the first obliged to defend themselves against the accusation of heresy and neologism. They were thus obliged to prove their conformity with the ancient Church, and therefore their orthodoxy. But as on this point there was no ecclesiastical authority to refer to, every member of the Protestant Church was obliged all the more diligently to prove his unity of doctrine with the true Church of Christ by the only valid standard, Scripture, and to reject from his association those who did not conform to that standard. The disputes which preceded the drawing up of the Formula of Concord greatly strengthened this feeling, and soon those alone were considered orthodox who accepted every article of that formula. The zeal of the contest magnified the importance of the mooted points until it led almost to a separation. The orthodox party considered that the possession of the absolute truth was sufficient, without absolute purity of life; it was a time of dead orthodoxy. There were certainly men of active and living piety in the party, but the paramount consideration was that of conformity to the doctrine of the Church, so that thoroughly worldly men who accepted fully every article of the formula were in high honor in the Church; while such men as John Arnd, Spener, Gottfried Arnold, could not atone by their piety for their want of conformity on some points, and were violently attacked by distinguished orthodox teachers. All heterodoxy was then considered as heresy, i.e. regarded as attacking the very foundation of religious truth. This tendency was strenuously opposed by the gentle and learned. G. Calixtus, and the pious and active Spener. Pietism, which arose about that time, aided in the work — although opposed also by the followers of Spener, and the orthodox party became but a shadow of its former self. Soon, however, under the influence of Kant, philosophy also entered into the strife. As it prevailed, orthodoxy became but a name to be mocked at (Nicolai Elias Hartknoch), and all the views which were formerly denounced as heterodox. nay even heretical, were now looked upon as orthodox. The Rationalists — when they retained Christ and the Bible — based their Christianity on reason; and every one was considered orthodox who still adhered to positive Christianity. As for definite Church doctrines, they seemed to be forever consigned to oblivion. The reaction, however, came from the same side from whence the attack had proceeded. In Kant himself there were already signs of this. Fichte, Schelling, Schleiermacher, Baader, Hegel, etc., threw discredit on the so-called revelations of the philosophic school, and led the way to a more thorough conception of the Biblical, and in consequence of the ecclesiastical doctrines. Theology now receiver a fresh impulse from such men as Schleiermacher, Neander, etc. The issue of the controversies thus raised will be found treated under SEE PROTESTANTISM; SEE RATIONALISM; SEE RITUALISM, and similar heads. SEE ORTHODOX.