A Convenient Guide
to Eternal Damnation
Christianity from its
inception had difficulty maintaining its tenets in a population
as diverse as Europe's. There were always strange mutations
of Christianity popping up that had to be reintegrated into
the mainstream church. The "official" standard of belief is
the other hand, heresy
(or heterodoxy) refers to "unofficial"
beliefs conflicting with the doctrine of the church fathers.
Heresy becomes an actual crime under the Theodosian Code (438
A.D.), and being a heretic means damnation in orthodox belief.
Most heresies fall into four tendencies:
heresies argued that two
equally powerful spirits--a benevolent deity and a malevolent
counterpart--were in constant warfare to control the universe.
In orthodox medieval Christianity, the church fathers interpreted
Satan as a being vastly inferior to God. The devil--though
rebellious--is merely a fallen angel who carries out God's
will (he only torments or tempts humanity when God allows
Dualistic heresies tended
to see the two forces as equals, and they argued that the
material world was entirely evil, in contrast with the orthodox
position that the creation of God was "good, but fallen."
covers any heresy that suggests an
individual's religious experience outweighs the authority
of church hierarchy, its scripture, or canon law. The argument
that the scriptures are self-contradictory is also considered
antinominism (i.e., pointing to the fact that the genealogies
for Christ given in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 appear inconsistent
with each other).
occurs in any heresy that suggests
that Christ was a being of pure spirit rather than having
a corporeal body. Thus he never really "died" on the cross.
is the heretical doctrine that one
or more of the spiritual entities in the trinity was subordinate
to the others. For instance, privileging the Son over the
Holy Ghost, or vice versa.
These four general beliefs
manifested in dozens of heresies during the time between the
third century A.D. and 1517, when Martin Luther wrote his
theses and launched the Protestant Reformation.
Eight of the major
heresies up to the end of the fifteenth century are as follows:
(70-200 A.D.) existed in dozens of complex
varieties, many of them based upon Neo-Platonic or Zoroastrian
ideas. Gnostics believed in a dualistic universe and a docetic
Christ. The heresy died out by the end of the 3rd century
(150-451) were heretics that wanted
reformation of the church. Their sect was emotional, sensational,
and almost "charismatic." They attacked the authority of bishops
and churchly institutions, required complete celibacy of all
Christians (no marriage allowed), and they wanted a different
date established for Easter. Many Montanists, such as Tertullian,
wanted to become martyrs like the original Christians in Rome,
and they tried to set up circumstances that would ensure such
a death. Two of their major prophetesses, Priscella and Maximilla,
constantly prophesied disasters that never happened, much
to the Montanists' chagrin.
is a heresy centered around the nature
of Christ. Early Arianists attacked the official doctrine
that Christ existed before his birth, they argued that Christ
was theoretically capable of sin, and they advocated the Caesarean
creed as opposed to the Nicaean (Apostle's) Creed. Early Arianists
also argued that Christ was composed of pure spirit
and had no physical body. His crucifixion was thus an elaborate
charade to confuse Satan and Christ's would-be executioners.
Later Arianists argued that, since God is not capable of sin
and Christ theoretically was, Christ could not be God.
is an eclectic heresy similar to Gnosticism.
The Manichees viewed the world in dualistic terms, equating
"light" with the benevolent, spiritual God of the New Testament,
and "dark" with the evil material god Jehovah of the Old Testament.
The light and dark of the universe is currently mixed together.
Although man is material (i.e., of the dark), many humans
do contain seeds of spiritual light within them, which can
be freed after death by a practice of strict vegetarianism
and celibacy. Many Manichaen beliefs included reincarnation
until each individual achieved salvation and broke the cycle
of rebirth. One of the worst sins was procreation, since conceiving
a child "trapped" a spirit in a material body. Manichees believed
the world would be destroyed eventually, and the kingdoms
of light and darkness would return to a state of pure separation.
Manichaeism may have survived in later heresies such as Bogomilism
and Paulicianism. For a short time in his youth, St. Augustine
of Hippo practiced this heresy before his famous conversion
to orthodox Christianity.
argued that the sacraments are only
valid when a priest in a state of grace performs them. If
a corrupt priest performed communion, baptism, or marriage
rites, these rites were invalid and conveyed no spiritual
benefits upon the congregation. Some scholars read Chaucer's
Pardoner's Tale (in which the Pardoner is a corrupt
Church official selling pardons) as Chaucer's rebuttal to
(alias Albigensians, 1150-1244) were
similar to the Manichees. They were centered in southern France
and eventually wiped out in the Albigensian Crusade, a war
the Fourth Lateran Council authorized in 1215. Not only did
Cathars view the world in dualistic terms, they viewed Christ
as docetic and rejected the sacraments. Physical objects were
considered too "material" for spiritual enlightenment, so
Cathars condemned the use of water during baptism and the
use of wine during communion. They also despised the idea
of worshipping God within a cathedral, and they considered
the cross to be a symbol of torture.(These tendencies did
not endear them to the papacy.) The Cathars practiced pacifism;
they abstained from consuming eggs, meat, and milk, and they
held all property in common. Because they believed that birth
was the act of trapping free souls in the evil physical world,
Cathars considered pregnancy to be anathema and performed
crude abortions. They considered all sexual intercourse (even
between married couples) to be the worst of sins. Many Cathars,
after reaching the highest rank possible within their religious
hierarchy (the rank of "Perfecti" or "Bonhommes"), would undergo
the endura, a sanctified form of suicide through
starvation. The mainstream church's intolerance of heresy
increased through the fear of Cathar practices, which had
spread rapidly at the time of the Fourth Lateran Council.
There was a much bitter blood between mainstream Christians
and Cathars. A notorious legate named Arnoud, the Abbot of
Citeaux, led crusaders against the last Cathar stronghold.
When the papal troops asked what they should do with the captured
city (since many Christians resided there along with Cathars),
his instructions were, "Kill them all; God will sort out his
own." The brutality of the Albigensian crusade haunted Europe
for the next four hundred years; the Fourth Lateran Council
established the Inquisition--that most notorious of medieval
institutes--as a response to their heresies.