This section of the book starts with an introduction What is Heresy? In short the answer appears to be ‘views which challenge the established ‘authority’s’ view in some way’. This reflects an apparent need to protect the accepted orthodoxy of the church body that feels its core beliefs are under attack. For the thinker, judgement needs to be applied as to one’s perception of the criticality of the orthodoxy being challenged or whether the alternative interpretation opens a door to some greater truth or understanding.
Conservatives would usually wish to defend (whatever the contrary view being put forward); liberals might say ‘that’s interesting, what are the implications if I accept that view?” Hersey originally also had a less contentious meaning as in an ‘alternative opinion’. Encouraging people to work through issues for themselves is a good way for new ideas to be introduced and further refined, and allows the organisation they belong to grow and evolve. Defending ‘truths’ however apparently critical, is not a way to increased understanding or commitment.
We recognised that there is no obvious path to change established beliefs and doctrines. Most church organisations shy away from discussion on such matters. At least in this way they avoid any potentially damaging internal conflicts and ‘splits’!
We then went on to briefly consider 5 of the 10 ‘heretics’ each identified by the author with a short sketch of their life and heresy. These were Marcion (founded the first Canon which excluded the Jewish testament); Arius, (denied the equality of God and Jesus, leading the church to eventually develop the doctrine of The Trinity); Meister Eckhart (saw God not as an anthropomorphic father figure but in all things); Servetus (denied the Trinity and was killed for his beliefs) and Galileo Galilei (proposed a heliocentric universe – finally recognised by the Catholic Church in 1992).
Contrary views, logically and sensitivity expressed, are the lifeblood of any dynamic and forward thinking organisation. This is what the Church needs to become and modern day heretics have key a role to play.