This week, I began a new Sunday school series entitled, "Avoiding Heresies." The title itself points to the primary inspiration for the class--Heresies and How to Avoid Them, a collection of sermons edited by Ben Quash and Michael Ward. I was present in Cambridge for many of the original sermons, and the topic has stuck with me over the years.
I hope that this series will give people a chance to examine orthodoxy and discover why our faith is more substantial (real, meaningful, and powerful) when we leave heresy behind. Each week, we will examine an historic heresy, discuss its contemporary consequences, and make the case for orthodoxy. I will follow roughly the outline of the aforementioned book, though this class will focus less on preaching and more on teaching. In a new experiment, I am going to post on a blog a video (.wmv) file of the PowerPoint presentations from each class. Perhaps members of the class and others will find them useful.
In this first week, we ask the question, "What is heresy?" In a church (specifically Episcopal though others might be included) and in a world that is increasingly focused on tolerance and pluralism, is there a place for "defending orthodoxy?" Others have made that case better than I have, and I cite some of them in the video presentation. In particular, I draw your attention to the distinction between a church that emphasizes magisterium (e.g. the Roman Catholic Church) and a church that emphasizes individualism (e.g. the Episcopal Church). In those two radically different settings, what role does "authoritative teaching" have in the modern church? Who decides what is heresy and what isn't? Why is it important to make a distinction?
**I know the video runs a little fast--sorry. I'll slow it down some in future posts. If you want to linger on a particular slide, you may need to pause the video.