What is Orthodox Christianity? What is Heresy?

Ross Douthat, in his recent book Bad Religion, lists his version of the basic dogmas of Christian orthodoxy:

  • Christ’s incarnation and atonement
  • the Trinity and the Virgin Birth
  • the forgiveness of sins and the possibility of everlasting life
  • a belief in the divine and authority of a particular set of sacred scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, with no additional revelations added on and nothing papered over or rejected
  • an adherence to the moral vision encoded in the Ten Commandments and expanded and deepened in the New Testament:  a rejection of violence and cruelty; a deep suspicion of worldly wealth and power; and a heavy stress on chastity
  • a commitment of the creeds to the ancient world–Nicene, Apostolic, Anthanasian
  • an insistence that Jesus Christ was divine and human all at once
  • that the Absolute is somehow Three as well as One
  • that God is omnipotent and omniscient and yet somehow leaves us free to choose between good and evil
  • the world is corrupted by original sin and yet somehow also essentially good.
  • faith alone will save us, yet faith without works is dead

Douthat is Catholic and is willing to accept “mainstream” Protestantism and his own Catholicism as orthodox.  Some of his heretics include:  “the heirs of Jefferson and Joseph Smith, Emerson and Eddy, the Victorian prosperity preachers and the religious intellectuals of the Progressive Era.”

Instead of trying to categorize Christians, I would argue that we should just define a Christain as one who beliefs in the divinity and/or message of Christ.

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