The Heterosphere

Blogger Joseph of Arimathea, a frequent commenter here, has noticed a site that catalogs various phenomena in the penumbra of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that are, to put it in the kindest possible way, heterodox. Do you think the burlap banners and acoustic guitars are bad over at St. Thomas Aquinas? Do you wince at the priestess down at St. Albans? Do you grind your teeth at the secular liberal pieties suffusing the sermon at St. Georges? Are you reeling in amazement at what the congregation wears to services at Gethsemane Methodist? Appalled at the clumsiness of the trite ad libitum prayers you hear at First Baptist? I hate to say it, folks, but a quick tour through the Museum of Idolatry demonstrates that these insults to orthodoxy, taste and good sense are nothing – nothing at all.

Want to know what happens when you throw out all denominational discipline, all liturgical standards, and all theological orthodoxy? Wait, are you sure you really want to know? I warn you: a visit to the Museum of Idolatry is like a tour of a railway accident.

27 thoughts on “The Heterosphere

  1. The Curator of the Museum of Idolatry, Chris Rosebrough, also has an entertaining and edifying podcast called “Fighting for the Faith.” He demonstrates Christian truth by contrasting it with the many bizarre errors that plague the (mostly Protestant) church.

    • Continental Op,

      Would you elaborate on your cryptic comment? I don’t want to set myself up as the Guardian of Orthodoxy, but I found myself getting very angry while reading the original Orthosphere piece on Mormonism and then the equivocating and mushy comments that followed.

      Is this the sort of thing you are referring to?

      • That’s a good example. We thrash around here with opinions that I never knew were within the scope of orthodoxy. I am pulling back on reading comments and on commenting. It’s not good for me and I am part of the problem as well.

      • The Continental Op wrote:

        “We thrash around here with opinions that I never knew were within the scope of orthodoxy.”

        Well said. I thank you for your kind response to my nosy question.

  2. Perhaps it’s my fault, but I can’t make head or tails of the first paragraph of this post. Kristor is under the impression that the Catholic Church ordains priestesses? Then the dress code at Methodist churches somehow comes into play. Can someone explain what is being talked about?

    • St. Alban’s is a common name for an Episcopal church. Alban was the first British martyr. St. Thomas Aquinas, then, was a natural to indicate a Roman parish. There are I suppose churches from both communions named after each of these saints, but I hope now that you can see what I was after. I tried to figure out what the most likely saint’s name for an Orthodox parish might be, and came up with St. George.

      The idea is that, enormous and disturbing as are the errors traditionalists encounter in the churches that those of their ilk are at all likely to attend – e.g., the low cut skin tight tops of the women and the jeans and T-shirts of the men at, say, a Methodist or Presbyterian service – they are nothing at all compared to the sort of thing we might find if we ventured out beyond the pale of denominational order and custom, such as it still is.

      • I see my mistake. I was thrown off by your use of “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church” and the subsequent examples, but went back in your posts and now see you were using it in the Anglican branch theorist sense. I understand where your post is coming from now.

  3. Proph is right there is much to be discouraged about because of the gross juggernaut of liberalism but this is the End of Times no? has any time yet been so close to such outright fulfillment of the scriptures even now it seems Isaiah 17 concerning the ruin of Damascus will be fulfilled with a Syrian-Israeli war and lets not forget the Gog-Magog war seems to be just around the corner its hard not to seem like we are fighting fate.

  4. The question is, what is the Orthosphere more concerned about, orthopraxy or orthodoxy. The Museum of Idolatry seems to show violations of orthopraxy, not orthodoxy. I personally think orthopraxy is important but I see no point to orthodoxy at all. Orthopraxy doesn’t require orthodoxy as Orthodox Judaism shows.

    • Heteropraxy is caused by heterodoxy. The foolishness on display in the Museum of Idolatry is a direct result of rejecting Christian doctrine in favor of a consumer-driven pseudo-Christianity that cares more for outward success than fidelity to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

      The moral of the story: There is such a thing as Christianity, that is, there is a definite body of doctrine taught by Christ and the Apostles. This doctrine includes rules for how the church is to be operated. Seek this truth, especially by testing candidates to see if they are imposters, and hold fast to the truth when you find it.

  5. I was amused by Joseph Arimatheus’s introduction: “Do not share the site with any heathen friends; it might serve as an inoculant against the gospel.” As an anecdote in support of this warning, I have a close friend who some ten years ago resolved never to set foot in a church again after witnessing a live donkey brought out on stage during a spectacularly vulgar Christmas service.

      • I don’t get it at all. What’s wrong with the donkey idea? A church I attended several times brings in a donkey (they leave it outside, not on the stage) for Easter. I think it’s kinda neat.

  6. Yeah, there were a number of ways I could have gone. I thought of “sinistrosphere,” but the “churches” noticed at the Museum of Idolatry are not all either Leftist – one sense of “sinister” – or straightforwardly evil – the other sense of that word. On the contrary, they are all doing their earnest best to be good and faithful Christians, by their own lights, this being an important factor of the pain one suffers at observing their efforts. They are trying very hard to be Christians without availing themselves of the resources provided by orthodoxy. So, they are heterodox Christians.

    Nor are they necessarily heretical; most of them presumably concur completely with the Nicene Creed. So “heraesosphere” wouldn’t work either.

    No doubt some of the heterodox Christians on display at the Museum of Idolatry are far more saintly in practice than I shall ever be, but the same could be said of the adherents of Islam or Buddhism. Such spiritual prodigies are winning through despite the doctrines and practices under which they labor, rather than being supported and enabled thereby.

    You raise an interesting question, though. What is the opposite of “orthodox”? I suggest that it is “secular.” To the extent that we of the orthosphere are orthodox, we are indeed homologously “in the world but not of it.”

  7. The Reformers were critical of the elements of worship most moderns would find strange and off-putting, such as the role of relics in worship and conducting services in a language not understood by the worshippers. Were the reformers correct in their criticisms? Were they heterodox, secular, or something else?

    • In some instances and in some respects, yes, perhaps; not secular, certainly, but perhaps heterodox. In others, apparently not: as history has unrolled, many of their reforms have been adopted by the Catholic Church. Over the next few thousand years we’ll find out which of those reforms will last; will tell.

      I’m no scholar of church history, but from what little I’ve read I have the impression that Luther and Cranmer were far more traditionally Catholic, both theologically and liturgically, than many post-VII Catholic priests are today. Not so for their ecclesiology, obviously.

      Who knows? In 500 years, Latin may again be the Vulgate, and the schisms of today a distant memory, as Nestorianism now is, or Donatism, or Arianism, our diverse arguments with each other having been synthesized and reconciled. Indeed, let us hope so, no?

      Stranger things have happened. Who in 1900 would have predicted that Hebrew would be a living language again within fifty years? Modern English itself is only about 700 years old; and only 250 years ago, Latin was still an international language of science, medicine and scholarship, as well as of religion. Protestantism is quite a young thing, as these things go. I expect that over the long run it will merge back into the main channel of Christianity, as Nestorianism did, and as the Copts seem ready to do.

      It makes sense to me to think of religious history as a river flowing across a flat plain. Such rivers often split into several channels, which sooner or later flow again together into a single channel. Navigating such rivers, as I know from experience, it can be hard to tell which side of an island constitutes the main flow. One wants to choose the primary bed, because it is the only one that offers any likelihood of a constant depth sufficient to float the boat. Often a side channel will rejoin the main current without difficulty. But many times I have chosen what looked like the main channel, only to find myself stranded in shallows and thickets, forced to drag my canoe over gravel beds and even small islands to reach navigable water again.

      My impression is that most of what we see at the Museum of Idolatry constitute dead ends: side channels that will end in shallows, mud, a tangle of branches and clouds of biting insects. By contrast, I expect that what survives of the “mainline” Protestant denominations – and indeed the Copts, the Malabar Christians, the Churches of the East, and the Orthodox Patriarchates – will eventually wend their divergent ways back to a singular flow. Rome too will do some wending of her own, as she has ever done.

      There is also this: at no particular time in the Church’s history, I would suppose, has it ever been the case that all the most important Christians of the day (howsoever one might construe importance) considered themselves to be in full agreement with each other on all important matters. At no time has there been complete agreement among the followers of Jesus. Indeed, Paul spends a lot of time reproving his controversialist flocks. Something quite close to schism is evident even in Acts; some significant portion of the original Jewish Church seem to have separated themselves from what has turned out to be the main channel of the faith at the grotesque innovation of excusing Greek converts from the requirements of Torah.

      There is also this: there have always been, and will always be, religious charlatans and entrepreneurs, on the one hand, and on the other religious geniuses and innovators. This was so in the vaunted days of unity back before Chalcedon, it was true in the Middle Ages, and it will be true when one day all our present schisms have been resolved and healed, synthesized and forgotten by anyone but scholars (who shall, I wager, never quite let them fully die, such a result being deadly to academic success). I suppose that a Venn diagram of those two populations – geniuses and hucksters – would show a fair degree of intersection. Yet it would be nuts if, to prevent such injuries to the Body of Christ as his mockers will ever inflict, we were to reject ab initio all the dangerous geniuses – men like Anthony, Francis, John of the Cross, Eckhart, Palamas, Origen, and indeed Paul – for despite their wildness and danger, they breathe new life into the Faith, and by pushing the development of doctrine shore up the whole edifice of the Church, even as they embellish and enlarge it.

      The whole thing is tricky, and wants great discernment. Perhaps there is another Origen out there in the emergent Church. But to me, it smells more like teen spirit.

  8. I didn’t open the link, as I would like to avoid any unnecessary negativity. I’m pretty sure there are lot’s of grotesque and missguided things out there, but I also think we can’t get caught stuck in negativity. To try to bring so positiveness, consider the “Congregação Cristã no Brasil”, a protestant church in Brazil that my grandparents are part of. Woman sit on the right, separated from man and they wear veils. Most man use only suits all times and woman only long dresses and veils. Only the word of the bible is accepted, no additions. Can’t get any more traditional then that (ok, I know catholics will not agree, but anyway). Here is a photo:–iI/AAAAAAAAAlc/JB96UkiJHDY/s1600/orquestraCCB.jpg

    I just wanted to say that there is a very significant population of conservative people out there. It just seams that the media shows only liberals doing the most extreme depravities all the time … and this makes us build a wrong image of the world, forgetting the millions of good people out there.

  9. Also: Rarely do one see a faithful nun in TV working to help the poor for example. But it happens at this very moment in thousands of different places… Just thought I’d bring in some positivity =)


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