Although Christianity has always had a significant diversity of belief, mainstream Christianity considers certain core doctrines essential. Those accepting them often consider followers of Jesus who disagree with these doctrines to be Heterodox /1, heretical, or “outside” Christianity altogether. That does not have to be the case. It’s just a position taken by many Christians that might have an unreasoned position.
On the other hand, the term heterodox is occasionally used by some Christians to refer to themselves when they are in disagreement with orthodox understandings, but voice this disagreement while still maintaining the overall value of the tradition. The heterodox Christian therefore remains in the tradition, and attempts to stimulate constructive dialog around issues with which they disagree.
Or, from my standpoint, one can value the tradition, yet not hold to some of the core beliefs – the Christ element – for example, while believing there is one God.
This is not, however, unique to Christianity:
“Most of the Kurds were Sunni Muslims, but perhaps a quarter or a third adhered to heterodox varieties of Islam that preserved traces of earlier religions. They fight with members of other faiths, who seem to challenge their claim to a monopoly of absolute truth; they also persecute their co-religionists for interpreting a tradition differently or for holding heterodox beliefs.”/2
[...] Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History
I address similar thoughts, albeit from a different perspective, in my (future) post: Image
Peace to my Brothers and Sisters.
brian patrick cork
1/ Heterodox comes from Greek heterodoxos, “of another opinion,” from hetero-, “other” + doxa, “opinion,” from dokein, “to believe.”
heterodox \HET-uh-ruh-doks\, adjective:
1. Contrary to or differing from some acknowledged standard, especially in church doctrine or dogma; unorthodox.
2. Holding unorthodox opinions or doctrines.
NOTES: The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX, Monotheism; William F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity; H. Richard Niebuhr, Radical Monotheism and Western Culture; About.com, Monotheistic Religion resources; Jonathan Kirsch, God Against the Gods; Linda Woodhead, An Introduction to Christianity; The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia Monotheism; The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, monotheism; New Dictionary of Theology, Paul pp. 496-99; David Vincent Meconi, “Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity” in Journal of Early Christian Studies pp. 111–12
2/ Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History