Two Heresies Today
Now, before I begin rambling on as to why this came a few days late, let us begin discussing two of the most prevalent heresies today – modernism in the West, and philetism in the East.
In the words of Pope Pius X, modernism is not so much a heresy, but a synthesis of all heresies. Modernism is much more than a combination of ideas from earlier heresies, however – it does not stop at rejecting points of doctrine but denied the notion of unchanging truth and all forms of authoritative teaching, thus, undermining Christian doctrine in a more fundamental way than any earlier heresy had.
Unique in the history of heresies, modernism teaches that dogma is able to, and can evolve over time (as compared to being constant and unchanging for all time). This concept of evolving doctrines allows proponents of this heresy to believe that the teachings of the Church along with their contradictory beliefs were both correct (for each had their own time and place). Thus, it was possible for modernists to introduce any type of new belief – for which Pope Pius X regarded it as the “synthesis of all heresies”.
The idea that dogmas evolve allows a constant “updating” (I’d have much preferred the word 'loosening') of the standards of morality. As moral standards changed greatly during the 20th century, someone would have to deny his faith in order to engage in certain actions. Now, with ever-changing dogmas, it has become possible to update Christian morality, allowing modernists to consider and believe themselves good Christians while having a significantly different interpretation to what that meant.
The Western Church today still suffers from this heresy – which I blame on the rise of the many Protestant churches. Orthodoxy in the Church is faithfulness to Holy Tradition. The disgusting doctrine of salvation by faith alone (sola fide) has led to many sins – adopting the modernist heresy is but one of them. Does sola fide not lead to a loosening of morals as well? Indeed – believe in Christ, and you shall be saved (Acts 16:31), but see how a person is justified by faith and not by works alone (James 2:24).
We in the East have been afflicted by another, more subtle, heresy – the heresy of philetism (or ethnicism). With it in place, we have been protected from modernism, along with converts.
Remember how, in 2002 movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding; Ian mentioned that he’s “Greek now” after his baptism into the Orthodox Church? How many times has a young inquirer to the Orthodox faith been asked that he/she must become Greek (or any other nationality for that matter) before he/she can become Orthodox? And how many times have we seen converts adopt an entirely new culture (even to the extent of speaking with really bad Russian accents)?
Notice how converts to the Orthodox faith usually end up particularly attached to a specific culture? Yes, I am among their number – being a Russophile and all. That however, is not a sin – but begin associating Orthodoxy with a certain culture and it becomes philetism.
Philetism serves to secularise the Church and turn its attention to this world. Yes, believe it or not, it is a secularising force in the Church. It exalts the worth of the societies of man, seducing us, in our love for them, and asks that we give up our own culture to become Orthodox.
Orthodoxy does not reside in any particular culture. Do not assume that any particular people are the only ones destined for heaven, for this is absolutely not the case. By that very statement one is saying that anyone not of certain culture is not accepted by the Church. That is not true – the Church is open to all.
We say we believe in the “Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” each time we recite the Creed at every liturgy, but the ethnic mentality which has been so deeply impressed on Orthodox mindsets for centuries has only served to deny – in practice – the catholicity of the Church.
It makes no difference as to whether one is Greek or Russian Orthodox – for “we are all one in Christ”.
One Lord, one faith, one baptism