As previously seen, Orthodoxy is extremely effective at preventing heresy when properly followed. In fact, it combats three of the four types of heresy and even aids in the fourth. Orthodoxy outright combats the rejection of God as God, the rejection of Christ as Christ, and the rejection of the Law. It aids in combating the rejection of Biblical morality by giving us a proper basis for understanding the virtues, but it only goes so far.
To truly fight against the heresy of vice, we must engage in orthopraxy, that is, living rightly. It is not enough to believe the right things about God. We must also live rightly.
I think of the numerous “conservative” leaders who have been caught in scandals, generally involving some sort of sexual encounter. While such scandals are horrible, sadly enough such scandals should have been seen before they ever happened. What I mean is that such churches were so busy putting an emphasis on thinking rightly that they forgot to live rightly. When a pastor becomes arrogant in the truth it is only a matter of time before he begins to engage in the heresy of immorality (in fact, by being arrogant he has already engaged in such a heresy).
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The rejection of moral codes is nothing new for Christianity, but instead has occurred since its foundation. Since the beginning there were people who would manipulate or simply ignore passages of Scripture in order to live in the way they desired.
St. John refers to a group known as the Autoproscoptae (‘offenders against themselves’). These people cut themselves off from communion with the Church and did away with priestly accountability. Though they kept doctrines, they did not live appropriately, leading John to summarize them as such:
“Thus, they openly cohabit with women and maintain them privately in their homes. They are addicted to business and profit-making and other worldly affairs. They live unreasonably and neglect in deed those things which in word they profess to maintain, so that by the judgment of the Apostle they are transgressors. For, although they are monks and organized under a clergy, they honor God in word but in deed dishonor Him.”
Under moral heresies, we see that the first type of moral heresy is the type that claims one thing, but then does another. We can think of the multitude of fallen pastors who would rail against homosexuality while the entire time engaging in homosexuality. We can think of Christians who talk about how Christ came into the world to save the world, but then use their money and time to better themselves rather than helping others.
We think of Christians who go and worship Christ on Sunday, but their bank accounts and time spent helping others don’t reflect that they’re disciples. We think of Christians who rail against other Christians, but then do the very same things they rail against. This is a heresy that is not limited to a conservative or liberal Christian, but rather infects all Christians and is the most common heresy in existence.
What hope is there in this world? More specifically, what hope is there in this world outside of Christ?
Somewhere in the world tonight, a child cowers in fear as he hides from his drunken father. In his drunken rage he is looking to beat someone down and since the mother has already escaped his grasp, he searches for his son. In this sickening world, he will find his son, and he will throw his son around, slap him, punch him, and leave him bloodied and bruised. What do we say to this little boy?
Sometime tonight a father is going to wake up to police at his door, telling him that his son has died in a car crash. This child he has been blessed with, struggled with, and fought to bring up in this world and keep safe will no longer be with him. He will not see his son’s wedding, he will not see his son graduate from college; his son will be nothing more than a memory to him at that point. What do we say to this grieving father?
Across town, a young mother to be discovers she’s pregnant. When she goes to the father, he refuses to take any responsibility. Her church ostracizes her when they find out and her parents tell her she can’t stay in the house if she has that baby. With not other options she walks toward the abortion clinic. As she stands in front of it, hopeless and alone, what do we say to her?