Editorial, May 25, 2015: All Christians know that Christ Jesus is their Lord and Master. By “master”, we mean “teacher”, “instructor”, the One who shows us the way to Heaven and the way to get to Heaven.
Consequently, the teachings of Jesus Christ are the very essence of Christianity, and Christianity is in its essence a religion defined by Christ’s teachings.
Now, just as the christian church which is true to Christ in all His teachings, both doctrinal and moral, is the true Church of Christ — and this is the Catholic Church — so is Christian faith, hope and charity defined by the affirmation of Christ’s teachings, and not just some of them (for even a pagan can admire some of them), but all of them. And not just professing with one’s lips that they are true, but living and obeying them in one’s own person and life. This is, infact, what it means to be a true Christian, a true Catholic.
It follows then, that saying what is NOT the teaching of Christ and what transgresses His teaching is absolutely necessary. For just as it is necessary to every property owner, who wishes to retain his property, that he know the boundaries of that property and defend them and his title to them, so in matters of being a Christian, the fidelity which leads one to accept and put into practice the teachings of Our Lord and Master, requires that we know precisely where those boundaries are, so that we might not be fooled into thinking that something is nor is not part of Christ’s teaching.
The ancient word, which Christians use for this, comes from the Greek word, αἵρεσις (haeresis), which means “choice”. The first Christians used this word to signify a teaching which differed from Christ’s teaching, because they understood simply and truly that the litmus test for being a disciple of Christ was that the disciple accepted everything Christ taught and chose to believe nothing which was disharmonious with it.
So, the choice to believe other masters was called a αἵρεσις, and thus that false doctrine was called also a heresy.
For this reason, we can say that without the word, “heresy”, a Christian could not distinguish a true disciple from a false one. For many are the antichrists which have gone out from us, says the Apostle St. John in 1 Jn 2:18 ff..:
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that Antichrist cometh, even now there are become many Antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us; but that they may be manifest, that they are not all of us. 20 But you have the unction from the Holy One, and know all things. 21 I have not written to you as to them that know not the truth, but as to them that know it: and that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is a liar, but he who denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is Antichrist, who denieth the Father, and the Son. 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. He that confesseth the Son, hath the Father also. 24 As for you, let that which you have heard from the beginning, abide in you. If that abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning, you also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father.
Hence, the Christian who refuses to use the word, “heresy”, in regard to false teaching, is in truth the Christian who no longer wishes to follow Jesus Christ. He has chosen instead to live and get along and not rock the boat. And thus he no longer has either right faith, nor true hope in the salvation Christ’s promised; and most of all, he has not the charity which binds the disciple to His Master and holds his fellow Christian as dear as himself, wishing to guard him from the danger of damnation by warning him, with the word, “Beware, what that man is saying is heresy!”