The Church's Responce to Heresy

A2 Religious Studies

The Church's Responce to Heresy Notes

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The Church's response to heresy (How they protected themselves)
The church endured several threats to her existence e.g. persecution, schism, paganism and
The church had certain general means of protecting herself. These were;
1. Bishops 2. Creeds 3. Canon 4. Councils
Cyrene referred to the bishops as the "glutenum" that held the church together. Bishops
were the focus of the churches unity and the protectors of the faith. They fulfilled the need
for decisive and focused leadership in the face of these issues. Also to ensure that the truth
was protected and passed down to successive generations developed the idea of episcopal
succession. This was a very effective weapon, particularly against Gnostic heretics and one
which Irenaeus particularly used.
The early church used fixed statements of belief to express what they believed about key
areas such as God, Christ, Holy Spirit, work of Christ, eternity etc. these originated in the
baptismal practices of the Church ­ new members expressed their beliefs by using the
rudiments of creeds. A creed would give a good indication if a new teaching was heretical.
This is the term for the books which form the New Testament and are therefore regarded as
"inspired" = God-breathed. The NT books proclaim the Apostolic Tradition and safe guard the
`deposit of the faith.' In order for a book to be included in the canon, it had to be:
Written or sponsored by an Apostle
Orthodox in content
Used by a prominent church
Sometimes the church needed to call its leaders together in order to deliberate over and
debate certain issues. Some were practical but others were theological. At the council of
Nicaea in AD 325 Arianism was a main issue. From a council could come a councilar creed
based on the councils findings e.g. the creed of Nicaea, the Creed of Chalcedon.


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