Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Properly speaking, Albigensianism was not a Christian heresy but an extra-Christian religion."

It is interesting to note that already in 1910, the venerable Catholic Encyclopedia was even then groping toward the modern redefinition of heresy, which transformed heretics from Satan's minions into sincere (if errant) Christians.

This is from the Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Heresy:
"Heresy differs from apostasy. The apostate a fide abandons wholly the faith of Christ either by embracing Judaism, Islamism, Paganism, or simply by falling into naturalism and complete neglect of religion; the heretic always retains faith in Christ." 
(It is worth noting, at least parenthetically, that making "faith in Christ" a defining feature of "heresy", as opposed to apostasy, is a case of logic that is not so much circular as it is fractal. For if two people have wildly different views of Christ, then in what sense do they both have faith in the same Christ?)

One fascinating side-effect of this definitional shift, is that the Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on Albigensianism is forced to state the following (in order to be consistent with the article on Heresy):
"Properly speaking, Albigensianism was not a Christian heresy but an extra-Christian religion."
The implications are truly remarkable. Catharism-cum-Albigensianism is generally (if not universally) considered by historians and religion scholars as the single most important (if not defining) example of medieval heresy!


6 comments:

Katy Anders said...

I had to research the Arian Controversy of the 4th century over the past year.

The Arian Controversy was pretty much the prototype for later heresies. I think Athanasius called it something like "the culmination of all that is evil in the world."

But one thing I noticed, like you have, is that with most of these heresies, it practically takes a theologian to understand what the problem IS!

It's like the controversy surrounding the dogmatic definition fights at the first Constantinople Council: It's the different in "One person FROM two natures" and "One person IN two natures." Or that whole homoousios thing...

Apuleius Platonicus said...

You had to? Does this have anything to do with She Who Must Not Be Named?

Katy Anders said...

No... I actually have enough credits for a Masters in Theology. I'm postponing graduation because... what happens then?

Taking this great class on monasticism this semester.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Not to take anything away from the Arians, but I think that the Cathars and the Gnostics are just as important and "prototypical" when it comes to the Heretics Hall of Fame.

A class on monasticism sounds interesting. I've known quite a few Buddhist nuns and monks, and they have all been extremely interesting people. Most of them have returned to lay life. It's hard out there for a monastic.

Katy Anders said...

I'm at a Catholic university - a seminary that serves double duty, in fact - so the input and output is a little different from what I might come up with on my own.

As far as I can tell, Gnosticism is virtually written out of the official history. Arianism isn't - it's a big point of dogmatic definition and seen as a critical juncture for the Church.

If nothing else, this degree has taught me that I can twist my brain into ANY shape I want to twist it. However, I've been able to learn about a lot of really interesting figures who just happen to be a lot more orthodox than me and believe in a few foundational things I can't believe in at all.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

"If nothing else, this degree has taught me that I can twist my brain into ANY shape I want to twist it."

You can take THAT to the freaking bank.