Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

By Dr. James Papandrea

View author bio

Showing most recent 16 items by this author.

4.16 The Heresies—Eutyches & Monophysitism: A Drop in the Ocean

The pendulum swings one more time as Eutyches overreacts against Nestorius, and emphasizes the union of the two natures in Christ, to the point of blurring the distinction between them. This solution corrected Nestorius’ separation of the two natures, but it went too far and compromised the integrity of his human nature and, even more than Apollinarius before him, described a Jesus who was not really fully human.

4.15 The Heresies—Nestorianism: Two People in One

The pendulum swings again as Nestorius overreacts against Apollinarius, and emphasizes the distinction between the two natures in Christ, to the point of describing a radical separation of natures. It was as if Nestorius was saying that Christ is not one Person, but two - a divine Person and a human Person, united only as long as the human will submits to the divine will.

4.14 The Heresies—Apollinarius & Monothelitism: A Human Suit

Apollinarius tried to say that Jesus could not have sinned because his human nature had no will of its own. In doing this, he stumbled onto a heresy called Monothelitism (“one-will” christology), which would become a huge controversy later. But a Christ without a human will would be a Christ who is not fully human. He would only be wearing a human body like a costume, but he would not be truly human.

4.13 The Heresies—Pelagianism and the Seeds of Calvinism

Pelagius was so optimistic about human nature and the freedom of the will that he went so far as to deny the reality of original sin and the need for infant baptism. Saint Augustine corrected Pelagius and his followers, but in the heat of the debate he went a bit too far in in the opposite direction, and proposed a doctrine of election that the Church ultimately did not embrace.

4.12 The Heresies—“Spirit-fighters” & the Aftermath of Nicaea

After the Council of Nicaea, all the same questions that had been asked of the Son of God, were now asked of the Holy Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit divine, and worthy of worship? Does worship of the Holy Spirit compromise monotheism? Some who reluctantly accepted the divinity of the Son still refused to accept the divinity of the Spirit, and so they continued to reject the doctrine of the Trinity - these were called “Spirit-fighters.”

4.11 The Heresies — Arianism: A Man Who Became a God

Arianism was the fourth century evolution of adoptionism, in which Arius made a concession to the mainstream by accepting a quasi-divinity in Jesus Christ. But this was an acquired divinity, an earned divinity, and a divinity that was less than that of the Father. The controversy led to the first worldwide (ecumenical) council of bishops, the Council of Nicaea, in the year 325 AD, and it ultimately led to the crafting of the Nicene Creed, as the Church’s definitive statement of orthodox faith.

4.10 The Heresies — Rebaptism and the Donatists

In the aftermath of the persecutions, controversies arose over the sacraments, which required clarification of the Church’s sacramental theology. The significance of these schisms cannot be overstated, since it is still true to this day that the practice of rebaptism is one of the most prevalent acts of schism against the universal Church, and one of the greatest barriers to unity.

4.9 Novatian: Part 2 (The Bad and the Ugly)

In this second part of a two-part series on Novatian of Rome, Dr. Papandrea discusses the flawed sacramental theology and ecclesiology of Novatian, which led to a schism that not only lasted for centuries, but created a new situation in which a faction could be orthodox with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity, yet not within the mainstream of the Church and her Tradition (i.e., Christian, but not Catholic).

4.8 Novatian: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly, Pt 1 (The Good)

Novatian of Rome is an extremely important, but conflicted, character in the early Church. On the one hand, he clarified and helped define the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, preparing the Church for the ecumenical councils. On the other hand, he was the central figure of a schism in a controversy over the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. In this first part of a two-part series on Novatian, Dr. Papandrea discusses the positive contributions of Novatian.

4.7 The Heresies – Modalism: God as a Monad with Three Names

Modalism denies the distinctions between the three Persons of the Trinity, so that God is presented as, not a Trinity at all, but rather a monad with three names. Modalism can be expressed chronologically (the Father became incarnate as the Son) or functionally (the names describe activities like Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer), but either way, in modalism the Son IS the Father in disguise, which ultimately denies the real humanity of Jesus Christ and the reality of his passion.

4.6 The Heresies – The Enigma of Origen and Origenism

Whether Origen is considered a father of the Church, or a heretic, depends on whom you ask. But everyone agrees he may have been just a bit too smart for his own good. At best, he tried in vain to out-gnostic the gnostics, at worst, he was too influenced by gnosticism. The Fifth Ecumenical Council declared him a heretic. In this this episode, Dr. Papandrea gives evidence why Origen should not be considered a father of the Church, but should be considered a heretic, but in the end, you decide!

4.5 The Heresies – Gnosticism: Christ as Cosmic Mind

The heresy of docetism evolved into a complicated web of schools of mythology, which we lump together under the name of gnosticism. These all still denied the real humanity of Christ, though in two distinct ways. Docetic gnosticism continued the trend of seeing Christ as a phantom, with no real tangible body. “Hybrid” gnosticism made concessions to the accounts of a tangible body of Jesus, but called it an ethereal, or luminous, body - in other words, not a true material flesh and blood body.

4.4 The Heresies – Adoptionism: Christ as Anointed Prophet

In the third century, the heresy of the Ebionites evolved into a more general form of adoptionism, still denying the divinity of Christ, and now emphasizing his status as an anointed, but adopted, son of God, much like the kings and prophets of the Old Testament. Adoptionism is also known as “dynamic monarchianism,” in part for its claim that it was preserving the oneness (monarchy) of God by denying the divinity of Christ.

4.3 The Heresies – Docetics & Marcionites: Denying Christ’s Humanity

For the second heresy, Dr. Papandrea examines the opposite extreme from the first: these are the Docetics, including the most famous docetic teacher, Marcion and his followers. They concluded that Christ was a god, not necessarily any different from the many other gods or demigods in the Greco-Roman pantheon, but that he was not really a human.

4.2 The Heresies—Judaizers and Ebionites: Denying Christ’s Divinity

Is Jesus Christ God? Is he a man? Is he both? Spoiler alert: the mainstream Church answered with the both/and, but the factions on the fringes tended to choose one or the other. For our first heresy, we take a look at the Ebionites, and their New Testament-era predecessors, the so-called Judaizers. These concluded that Jesus Christ was a mere human. A human who became a prophet perhaps, but just a human.

4.1 The Heresies—Introduction to the Series

I am honored to be taking up The Way of the Fathers podcast where my good friend, Mike Aquilina, left off. In season 4 of The Way of the Fathers, we’ll be looking at the heresies of the early Church, and how the Church fathers confronted and refuted them.

Want more commentary? Visit the Archives.