Church and Heresy
A quote I found interesting from Tolstoi’s book Resurrection. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all that he says it is still worth thinking about.
“In the Gospels the word “Church” is used twice. Once in the sense of an assembly of men to settle a dispute, and again in connection with the obscure utterance about the rock, Peter and the gates of hell. From these two mentions of the word “Church ‘ (means merely an assembly) what is now meant by the word “Church”, has been deduced.
But Christ could certainly not have established the Church, that is, the institution we know call by that name, for nothing resembling our present conception of the Church – with its sacraments, its hierarchy, and especially its claim to infallibility – is to be found either in Christ’s words or in the conception of the men at his time.
The fact that people call an institution established later by a name Christ used to designate something quite different, in no way gives them the right to assert the Jesus founded “the one true Church”. Besides, had Christ really founded such an institution as the Church for the basis of our entire faith and doctrine, he would probably have announced this institution clearly and definitely . . . and would have given this one true Church unmistakeable tokens of genuineness . . . . The conception of one holy Church only arose from the quarrels and strife of two parties, each of which, denouncing the other as heresy, claimed to be the one infallible Church. . . .
Heresy is the obverse side of the Church. Wherever the Church exists, there must be the conception of heresy. A Church is a body of men who assert that they are the professors of the infallible truth. Heresy is the opinion of people who do not admit the indubitability of the Church’s truth. . . .
Whatever stage of comprehension and perfection a follower of Christ may reach, he always feels the inadequacy of his conception and of his fulfillment of Christ’s teaching, and always strives towards an increase of both. Therefore a claim by any individual or society to be in possession of a perfect understanding and a complete fulfillment of Christ’s teaching is to renounce the spirit of Christ’s teaching.”