Orthodox, Heterodox and Heretic

I grew up in the “crazy” streets of a sub-urban cul-de-sac neighborhood. It was there, in those secure and safe streets that one rule reigned supreme among the neighborhood kids. Majority rule. When we all got together to play, the majority decided what will be played. It did not matter if you wanted to play soccer, the majority had roller blades and so it was decided that street hockey was to be played. Majority rule. It was the indisputable logic and rule of the “sacs” (the name we gave to the collection of dead end streets in our neighborhood).

By in large, majority rule is still the reigning rule of groups not just in group decisions or politics but even in theology. Of course, the Church does not call it “majority rule”, the Church word is “Orthodox”. What is considered orthodox is what has been agreed upon by the majority of people in a given time and place. Sometimes those majorities rule for a long time but others change with high frequency, however the underlying assumption is it is the will of the majority that rules.

Of course as long as you are in the majority you are probably happy, but once you come to disagree with the majority then what do you do? In the “sacs” the minority positions would be banished from the conversation and you either got on board or you went home. Thus, making decisions becomes a zero-sum game. There are those who “win” and those who “loose”.

In the life of the Church, this zero-sum approach shows up as there are those who are “orthodox” and those who are “heretic.” It becomes the task of the heretic to get on board with the orthodox and it is also the task of the orthodox to convince the heretic to join the majority.

The Heterodox Beauty

The Heterodox Beauty

Many people in the Church do not hold the majority (orthodox) position but they are not heretical. For example the UMC upholds that women can be in any level of leadership. However there are many in the denomination who do not agree and refuse to accept a female pastor. Those who do not accept a female preacher hold a minority position in the UMC. Of course this position is the majority in another denomination.

Minority positions in the church are called “Heterodox”. The heterodox position is one that is of dissent to the orthodox position. It is the voice that challenges and critiques. It is not heretical, it is heterodoxal.

So what are we to do with those who hold minority positions in the denomination?

As a side note: I wonder why the majority/orthodox positions become frustrated with the minority/hertordox positions? Why would the majority be annoyed by the minority if not but out of fear of loosing the prestige of being in the majority? If the majority is really threaten could it be because on some level those in the majority know there is truth in the minority position?