Hearty Heresy

A Heretic’s Guide to Brand Xianity
May 15, 2007, 11:09 am
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, God, Hell, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology

I’m thinking that what I need to do is start Hearty Heretic’s College of Heretical Knowledge. But before I could do that, I’d need a textbook, something along the line of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States: telling the story of Brand Xianity “from the bottom up,” and “throwing out the official version…taught in [Sunday] schools.” Granted, a lot of heresy is slipping back into Christianity these days (just google the words “emergent” and “heretical”), but there’s no one place to go and get a heretic’s-eye-view of what Brand Xianity looks like in toto.

So for now well have to do what folks on the bottom have always had to do when it comes to trying to discern the truth about the status quo: read between the lines. For example, did you know that (according to an article in The Evening Bulletin)

Last week, the International Theological Commission, a pontifical commission of 30 international Catholic theologians that advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concluded its study on the question of whether salvation is attainable for babies who perished prior to baptism…. “Our conclusion is that the many factors we have considered … give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision,” wrote the commission in its report titled, “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized.”

This is big news for unbaptized babies (and, apparently, for aborted fetuses). The church has decided that they will no longer have to remain in “limbo for eternity, absent communion with God.” This whole limbo thing grew out of the church’s teaching on original sin, specifically St. Augustine’s view of it (which was based, by the way, on a mistranslation of Rom. 5:12). He was pretty hardnosed about it, writing “that there was no ‘middle ground’ between heaven and hell and ‘there is no middle place left, where you can put babies.'” So limbo was the church’s attempt to temper it’s own teachings. And now their tempering them even more by providing an opportunity for salvation that doesn’t require baptism.

At any rate, the secret history here is that there was an alternative to the concept of original sin that the church might have accepted, but didn’t. Those of us who’ve studied the history of Brand Xianity know all about the monk Pelagius, who denied the doctrine of original sin, and his heresy, Pelagianism, which says that infants “were completely innocent and promised eternal life.” Pelagius based his thoughts on a slew of orthodox writers, and, according to W.H.C. Frend in The Rise of Christianity,

In circumstances other than those of the first decade of the fifth century his teachings might have provided a basis for a Christian ethic which would have set the seal of conversion on the empire. Medieval Europe might possibly have been built on different and more optimistic foundations.

Well, we’re not in the fifth century any more–something the Catholic Church even seems to realize. Unwavering adherence to doctrines like original sin bring with them all sorts of unpleasant implications that need to be explained away (or not, read “24 Reasons Not to Reject Limbo” in the Bulletin). Or, we can admit that there have always been alternatives to Brand Xianity, and just because once upon a time some version of “official” Christianity ruled against them doesn’t mean we can’t seriously consider them. But be careful. Thinking for yourself is one of the hallmarks of heresy.


2 Comments so far
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This is a cool post. It is a shame that you feel you have to brand yourself as a heretic just because you have realised that “orthodoxy” is really just a convenient simplified head-in-the sand reduced “no thinking required” list of beliefs suitable for the masses. I think we are seeing a strong reaction against this sort of narrow thinking in the post-modern age, and Christians at all levels will be forced to confront the fact that many of their black and white clear and simple truths actually ain’t that clear after all. I think this is a good thing, and I look forward to the day when you will be seen for what you really are: a normal Christian.

Comment by jonfeatherstone

Thanks. I think Christianity needs to really broaden its conception of who is and isn’t a Christian, which I believe a lot of the emergent-type churches are doing. Things are changing pretty fast, and it looks like it’s going to be going even faster in the near future. Exciting times for everyone, I hope! (The web and the opportunity to connect like this is certainly part of it, too.)

Comment by heartyheretic

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