Restoration from Heresy

When heretics are excommunicated from the fold of the holy catholic and apostolic Church, when are things right again? The answer of ‘when they hold the correct beliefs again’ is probably very common (if people believe in excommunication at all), but this is distinctly unchurchly: the Church isn’t optional, and the only way normally for healing to take place is through reconciliation and restoration to the Church. This idea also inevitably leaves people hanging with an unclear reattachment, whereas the break was manifest.

But this is probably why we think it’s enough to be right without being legitimately connected to the Body of the Church except by the futility of our own thoughts. Whose solipsistic idea was it that one’s thought, unconnected to the world, could connect people? Is this all that matters to salvation? For if it is, no wonder there’s the crypto-Pelagian idea floating around that intentions alone matter. But if so, then why would we excommunicate people for heresy in the first place?

Perhaps one may suggest that visible Church actions do make things happen and that we don’t have to be all hush-hush, mysterious and Gnostic about it.


3 responses to “Restoration from Heresy

  1. The tricky part comes when you have to identify who that catholic Church is. Who counts as catholic? Who decides who counts as catholic?

    Several months ago, against my will, I was forced to leave a church over doctrinal reasons, a church that I would deem truly Christian. Am I a heretic?

    A piece of work that has recently been a helpful guide on these matters is Herman Bavinck’s stuff in volume 4 of Reformed Dogmatics. Also, the WCF has some comments on this matter.


    • Quite so. At this millennium-long moment, catholicity is quite a tricky creature. Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.

      I think defining heresy now’s tricky too, except when something’s a repeat of an old heresy. Thankfully, most doctrinal issues we worry about already fall under categories of older heresies that were rejected by the Church catholic. But was Arminianism rejected as heretical by the Synod of Dort?

      Bavinck. Must. acquire. books. Can’t get them here, either, because I’m in France.


  2. Pingback: Right and Justified « Cogito, Credo, Petam

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