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"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in on attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself."

 (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.2)

The word "heresy" comes from the Greek hairesis which means "choosing," or "faction." At first, the term heresy did not carry the negative meaning it does now. But, as the early church grew in its scope and influence throughout the Mediterranean area, various teachers proposed controversial ideas about Christ, God, salvation, and other biblical themes. It became necessary for the church to determine what laws and was not true according to the Bible. For example, Arius of Alexandar (320 AD) taught that Jesus was a creation. Was this true? Was this important? Other errors arose. The Docetists taught that Jesus wasn't human. The Modalists denied the Trinity. The Gnostics denied the incarnation of Christ. Out of necessity, the church was forced to deal with these heresies by proclaiming orthodoxy. And in so doing, condemnation upon these heresies and the heretics became a reality. (courtesy of

ADOPTIONISM - The Controversy of the Eighth Century, a heresy maintaining that Christ is the Son of God by adoption.

ALBIGENSES - The Albigenses were group of Christians based in the South of France (named after the town of Albi) who preached against the corruption that they perceived to be endemic in the greater church. This error taught that there were two gods: the good god of light usually referred to as Jesus in the New Testament and the god of darkness and evil usually associated with Satan and the "God of the Old Testament."

APOLLINARIANISM - Apollinarism or Apollinarianism was a view proposed by Apollinaris of Laodicea that Christ had a human body but a divine mind. (2 Epistle of St Gregory Nazianzus, the Theologian, Against Apollinarius will help to understand the subject.)

ARIANISM - Arius taught that only God the Father was eternal and too pure and infinite to appear on the earth.  Therefore, God produced Christ the Son out of nothing as the first and greatest creation. (22 articles on the subject will enhance your understanding on Arianism)

BOGOMILES - Bogomiles denied the divine birth of Christ and the Trinity, and denounced the use of sacraments and vestments. Marriage was not a sacrament. The miracles of Jesus were not real but spiritual events. Christ was the Son of God only through grace like other prophets, and the bread and wine of the eucharist were not transformed into flesh and blood. The last judgment would be executed by God and not by Jesus. The images and the cross were idols and the worship of saints and relics idolatry.

CATHARISM - Like the earliest Christians, the Cathars recognized no priesthood. Duality. The fight between two equals Good and Evil as set down in St.John':s Gospel good being the kingdom of the good lord evil being the material and time passing reality of the visible physical world.

CIRCUMCISERS - They believed one must be circumcised and keep the Mosaic law to come to Christ. In other words, one had to become a Jew to become a Christian.

DOCETISM - According to Docetism, the eternal Son of God did not really become human or suffer on the cross; he only appeared to do so. The heresy arose in a Hellenistic milieu and was based on a Dualism which held that the material world is either unreal or positively evil.

DONATISM - Donatism was the error taught by Donatus, bishop of Casae Nigrae that the effectiveness of the sacraments depends on the moral character of the minister.  In other words, if a minister who was involved in a serious enough sin were to baptize a person, that baptism would be considered invalid.

DUALISM - Dualism is any theory or system of thought that recognizes two and only two independent and mutually irreducible principles or substances, which are sometimes complementary and sometimes in conflict.

DYNAMIC MONARCHIANISM - The Dynamic Monarchians, like the Modalistic Monarchians, based their teachings on the strict oneness of God taught in the Bible (monarchia, coming from the Greek roots for "single" and "beginning," "source," or, "rule," as in the English word, "monarchy").

EBIONITE - The Ebionites (from Hebrew; Ebionim, "the poor ones") were a sect of Judean followers of John the Baptizer and later Jesus (Yeshua in Aramaic) which existed in Judea and Palestine during the early centuries of the Common Era.

ENCRATITE - Heretics who abstained from flesh, wine, and the marriage bed, believing them essentially impure. Persons who so abstained called themselves continent (egkrateiV, Iren. i. 28, p. 107); and the slightly modified form, Encratites, soon became a technical name to denote those whose asceticism was regarded as of a heretical character.

EUTYCHIANISM - Was a heresy in the 4th and 5th centuries begun by a monk named Eutychus (378-452, AD). He lived in  Constantinople. Eutychus taught that Christ's humanity was absorbed in his divinity. He was condemned and deposed from the Monestary in A.D. 448 and then finally exiled at the council of Chalcedon in 451.

GNOSTICISM - Gnosticism was a religious philosophical dualism that professed salvation through secret knowledge, or gnosis. The movement reached a high point of development during the 2d century AD in the Roman and Alexandrian schools founded by Valentius.

ICONOCLASM - Literally, Iconoclasm is religious and political destruction of the sacred images or monuments, usually (though not always) of another religious group. People who destroy such images are called iconoclasts, while people who revere or venerate such images are called iconodules.

IDOLATRY - Idolatry etymologically denotes Divine worship given to an image, but its signification has been extended to all Divine worship given to anyone or anything but the true God. St. Thomas (Summa Theol., II-II, q. xciv) treats of it as a species of the genus superstition, which is a vice opposed to the virtue of religion and consists in giving Divine honour (cultus) to things that are not God, or to God Himself in a wrong way.

KENOSIS - HTML clipboard  The kenosis theory states that Jesus gave up some of His divine attributes while He was a man here on earth. These attributes were omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Christ did this voluntarily so that He could function as a man in order to fulfill the work of redemption. This view was first introduced in the late 1800s in Germany with Gottfried Thomasius (1802-75), a Lutheran theologian.  

MACEDONIANISM  - HTML clipboard Also called  Pneumatomachian heresy  a 4th-century Christian heresy that denied the full personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit. According to this heresy, the Holy Spirit was created by the Son and was thus subordinate to the Father and the Son. (In Orthodox Christian theology, God is one in essence but three in Person—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are distinct and equal.) Those who accepted the heresy…

MANICHAIESM - HTML clipboard HTML clipboard Manichaeism is a Gnostic religion that originated in Persian-Babylonia in the 3d century AD. Its founder was a Persian of noble descent called Mani (or Manes), c.216-c.276. Manichaeism was long treated as a Christian heresy, but it is more clearly understood as an independent religion, drawing on the diverse resources of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism.

MARCIONISM - Marcionism is a sect founded in A.D. 144 at Rome by Marcion of Sinope. It continued in the West for 300 years and in the East some centuries longer, especially outside the Byzantine Empire.They rejected many of the writings of the Old Testament; specifically, the Law of the Covenant as expressed in the Talmud. It is chiefly for this reason that the Marcionites are believed by some Christians to be anti-Semitic. Indeed, the word Marcionism is sometimes used in modern times to refer to anti-Jewish tendencies in Christian churches, especially when such tendencies are thought to be surviving residues of ancient Marcionism. For example, on its web site, the Tawahedo Church of Ethiopia claims to be the only Christian church that is fully free of Marcionism.

MODALISM - Modalism is probably the most common theological error concerning the nature of God.  It is a denial of the Trinity which states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes, or forms.  Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times.  At the incarnation, the mode was the Son.  After Jesus' ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit.  These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous.  In other words, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another.  Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity even though it retains the divinity of Christ.

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MODALISTIC MONARCHIANISM - Throughout this period Christian writers were so occupied with thinking about the Son that they did not give much thought to the exact role of the Spirit, or to the interrelationships between the Father, Son, and Spirit. To be sure, references to the three were common (cf. Matt. 28:10; Did. 7; 1 Clem.Eph. 9.1; Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 13,65). Theophilus first used the word "trinity" (or possibly "triad") when he wrote "of the trinity [triados], of God, and His Word, and His wisdom" (Autol. 2.15). However, the first Apologist to wrestle with the idea of a Trinity (not just a triad) was the uninfluential Athenagoras (Supplic. 10). 46.6; 58.2; Ignatius,

MONARCHIANISM  - Monarchianism (mono - "one"; arche - "rule") was an error concerning the nature of God that developed in the second century A.D.  It arose as an attempt to maintain Monotheism and refute tritheism.  Unfortunately, it also contradicts the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.  Monarchianism teaches that there is one God as one person:  the Father.  The Trinity is that there is one God in three persons:  Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The Trinity is monotheistic, not polytheistic as some of its critics like to assert.  Monarchians were divided into two main groups, the dynamic monarchians and the modal monarchians.   

MONTANISM - Montanism was a Christian apocalyptic movement that arose in the 2d century. It took its name from Montanus, a Phrygian, who, shortly after his baptism as a Christian (156 or 172 AD), claimed to have received a revelation from the Holy Spirit to the effect that he, as representative prophet of the Spirit, would lead the Christian church into its final stage.

MONOTHELITISM - HTML clipboard Monothelitism was a heresy especially prevalent in the Eastern church in the seventh century which said that as Christ had but one nature (monophysitism) so he had but one will (Greek monos, "alone"; thelein, "to will"). Emperor Heraclius attempted to reconcile the monophysite bishops, who held that the human and divine natures in Christ were fused together to form a third, by offering in his ecthesis (statement of faith) in 638 the view that Christ worked through a divine - human energy. This compromise was at first accepted by Constantinople and Rome, but Sophronius soon to be Bishop of Jerusalem, organized the orthodox opposition to monothelitism. A fine defense of the person of Christ as one in two natures with two wills was given by John of Damascus. The Council of Chalcedon had declared that "Christ has two natures." This was now amended by the Council of Constantinople, which declared that Christ had two wills, his human will being subject to his divine will.

MONOPHYSITISM -       Monophysitism is an error concerning the nature of Christ that asserts Jesus had only one nature, not two as is taught in the correct doctrine of the hypostatic union:  Jesus is both God and man in one person.  In monophysitism, the single nature was divine, not human.  It is sometimes referred to as Eutychianism, after Eutyches 378-452, but there are slight differences.  Monophysitism arose out of a reaction against Nestorianism which taught Jesus was two distinct persons instead of one.  Its roots can even be traced back to Apollinarianism which taught that the divine nature of Christ overtook and replaced the human one.

NESTORIANISM - Nestorianism is the error that Jesus is two distinct persons.  The heresy is named after Nestorius, who was born in Syria and died in 451 AD, who advocated this doctrine.  Nestorius was a monk who became the Patriarch of Constantinople and he repudiated the Marian title "Mother of God."  He held that Mary was the mother of Christ only in respect to His humanity.  The council of Ephesus was convened in 431 to address the issue and pronounced that Jesus was one person in two distinct and inseparable natures:  divine and human. 

PATRIPASSIANISM HTML clipboard In Christian theology, Patripassianism is a Trinitarian heresy; that is, it is a way of understanding how the persons of God relate to one another that has been rejected by the church. In particular, Patripassianism is a form of modalism, the teaching that there is only one God, who appears in three different modes (as opposed to the orthodox teaching that there is one God, who exists in three persons).

PELAGIANISM HTML clipboard Pelagianism derives its name from Pelagius who lived in the 5th century A.D. and was a teacher in Rome, though he was British by birth.  It is a heresy dealing with the nature of man.  Pelagius, whose family name was Morgan, taught that people had the ability to fulfill the commands of God by exercising the freedom of human will apart from the grace of God.  In other words, a person's free will is totally capable of choosing God and/or to do good or bad without the aid of Divine intervention.  Pelagianism teaches that man's nature is basically good.  Thus it denies original sin, the doctrine that we have inherited a sinful nature from Adam.  He said that Adam only hurt himself when he fell and all of his descendents were not affected by Adam's sin.  Pelagius taught that a person is born with the same purity and moral abilities as Adam was when he was first made by God.  He taught that people can choose God by the exercise of their free will and rational thought.  God's grace, then, is merely an aid to help individuals come to Him.

QUIETISM Is a Christian philosophy that swept through France, Italy and Spain during the 17th century, but it had much earlier origins. The mystics known as Quietists insist with more or less emphasis on intellectual stillness and interior passivity as essential conditions of perfection; all have been officially proscribed as heresy in very explicit terms by the Roman Catholic Church.

SABELLIANISM - In Christianity, Sabellianism (also known as modalism, modalistic monarchianism, or modal monarchism) is the nontrinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God (for us only), rather than three distinct persons (in Himself). God was said to have three "faces" or "masks" (Grk. prosopa). The question is: "is God's threeness a matter of our falsely seeing it to be so (Sabellianism/modalism), or a matter of God's own essence revealed as three-in-one (orthodox trinitarianism)?"

SOCINIANISM - Socinianism is a form of Antitrinitarianism, named for Laelius Socinus (died 1562 in Zürich) and of his nephew Faustus Socinus (died 1604 in Poland). The former was one of the founders of a religious society that had to operate secretly in order to avoid persecution. The Socinian sect became far more widespread after Faustus Socinus, Laelius Socinus's nephew, became a valued member. In 1574 the Socinians, who referred to themselves as Unitarians, issued a "Catechism of the Unitarians," in which they laid out their views of the nature and perfection of the Godhead, as well as other principles of their group.

TRITHEISM - HTML clipboard Those who are usually meant by the name were a section of the Monophysites, who had great influence in the second half of the sixth century, but have left no traces save a few scanty notices in John of Ephesus, Photus, Leontius, etc. Their founder is said to be a certain John Ascunages, head of a Sophist school at Antioch. But the principal writer was John Philoponus, the great Aristotelean commentator. The leaders were two bishops, Conon of Tarsus and Eugenius of Seleucia in Isauria, who were deposed by their comprovinicals and took refuge at Constantinople.


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“Brethren, we must preach the doctrines; we must emphasize the doctrines; we must go back to the doctrines. I fear that the new generation does not know the doctrines as our fathers knew them.”

John A. Broudus

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