The Guardian Against Heresy

Since its very beginning, Christianity has been faced with those who, with and without good intention, have subverted and perverted the Faith as once delivered to the Apostles by our Lord.

There are assaults on the Faith, oftentimes defined as heresies, against which our defense has been Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy is an oft misunderstood term, often misapplied, resisted and resented; but, nevertheless, necessary for the continued existence of an undiluted Christian Faith in a constantly changing world.

From the earliest times of the Church, efforts were made to redefine the Faith to conform with the thinking of an Hellenistic world. The first heresies fell under the term Gnosticism and we see both St. John in his Gospel and St. Paul in his Epistles responding to the dangers posed by these perversions of the Faith.

Simply stated, Gnosticism undermined the redemption of mankind by attacking the very Nature of our Lord, contending that either Jesus was divine or He was human, but not both.

The positive result of the heretical movements was a defining of the Faith through the efforts of the early Church Fathers and the Church Councils.

Still today, the Faith is under assault, frequently from a fervor to reduce it or simplify it, sometimes in an effort to purify it, as we saw in the Protestant Reformation.

With so many denominations and schools of thought developing, in particular over the last five centuries, what is "Right Belief"?

The opposite question could logically be posed, what is "Wrong Belief"? But that would be much more difficult to define with such a diversity of approaches to Christianity in the world today.

The Faith has been defined through the three Creeds of the Church: the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

These Creeds undertake to tell us what is "Right Belief"; what that Faith is that was delivered to the Apostles by Jesus Christ Himself.

These are the very basics, the practice of which is further defined by the Church.

Aside from understanding "Right Belief," perhaps the next greatest misunderstanding is the practice of that Belief or Faith.

While Orthodoxy represents the defining of the Faith, in a broader sense it can also represents the practice of that Faith.

The Protestant Reformation attacked not only the definition but also the practice of the Faith. The purifying zeal of the reformers stripped away not only the human errors but also many of the core elements of the worship of God that had their beginnings with Abraham and formed the standards of worship passed on to the Christian Church through the New Covenant.

Thus, if we look at Orthodoxy from two perspectives, as representing "Right Belief" on the one hand and "Right Worship" on the other, we find it a formidable guardian against heresy.

From our Anglican perspective, Orthodoxy is defining the Faith. It transcends all Christian denominations and should always be the measure of their relevancy. Regardless of what the world thinks, there must be a standard of Belief.

Also, from the Anglican perspective, our form of worship contained in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer remains true to the ancient worship of the Church, retaining all the elements and permitting the fullest form of worship that Tradition has carried over and practiced since the early days of Christianity.

In a very real sense, we Anglicans are "Guardians of the Faith":

We keep and practice the Orthodox Faith once delivered by our Lord to the Apostles, affirmed by the Creeds, and practiced in the Apostolic Tradition.