Chapter III:17: Denial of Fundamentals--Heresy, Part 3

Concerning Heresy Hobbes contends in the worst fashion, that no error pertains to the same; but that all private opinion, whether it be erroneous or not, obstinately defended against the laws of the State, is Heresy: but that it is impossible for any opinion to be heretical that the laws of the state appoint or permit to be taught publicly: that, on the other hand, the Christian Religion in the time of the pagan Emperors was a heresy: see COCQUIUS’ Anatomen Hobbesianismi, locus XVI, chapter XXXIV, § 2-4, pages 594-596.

The Walloon Synod, held in Amsterdam in 1690, testified that it abhors, and under the threat of extreme censure prohibits to teach, that no others are to be held as Heretics than those that assail truth contrary to conscience: see LEYDEKKER’S Præfationem ante Ludovici de Dieu Aphorismos theologicos, section IV, E. 6. That such a notion of Heresy and Heretic some Neo-Pelagians have fashioned for themselves out of their own head, HEIDANUS notes in his de Origine Erroris, book VII, chapter IV, § 7, page 417, so that they might persuade the world that their Syncretism with all sects I not only pious and necessary, but also easy to do and accomplish: see the passage.


Concerning the Punishments, both civil and ecclesiastical, formerly sanctioned against Heretics and especially Heresiarchs, see BINGHAM’S Origines ecclesiasticas, book XVI, chapter VI, § 5-21, volume 7, pages 284-308.


But, although the Heretics themselves wish to retain the Christian name, concerning those erring the most grievously with good reason it is able to be asked, whether they are worthy of the Christian name or not? Certainly the Ancients, on account of the denial of the true Deity of Christ, deprived the Arians of the name of Christians, and placed the names Christian and Arian in opposition to each other, just as HILARY was saying to the Emperor Constantius:[1] “Certainly it is fitting that the words of those crying out be heeded by thy clemency: I am a Catholic; I refuse to be an heretic: I am a Christian, not an Arian.” And FULGENTIUS Afer writes concerning the Arians:[2] “They shall never dare to assert themselves Christians, since the Christian certainly receives the name from Christ; but he that asserted that Christ Himself is not His Lord God could by no means be a Christian.”[3] In a similar manner, the Socinians today are hardly able to complain of injury done to them, when the Christian name is denied to them: for what is highest in the person of Christ, and which is foremost in His office accomplished for us, namely, the Divine Nature, and His true Satisfaction for sins, they deny, and verily pluck up Christianity whole; whence GOMARUS, in Disputation XXV de Justificatione, § 24, writes of Socinus: “Socinus is not a Christian, but a Semi-Turk, an adversary of the person and of the office and benefaction of Christ.” Neither do the Papists or Lutherans feel any more mildly concerning them than the Reformed: see WALCH’S Miscellanea Sacra, book III, Exercitation IV, § 4, page 629, in which he cites Johann Conrad Dürr,[4] as one who accurately and solidly demonstrated that the Socinians are not Christians; BUDDEUS’ dissertationem de Nomine Christiani, § 30, Miscellaneis Sacris, part I, pages 319, 320. And also in the same manner GROTIUS[5] himself pronounces against the Socinians and at the same time the Ancient Samosatenes,[6] in the passages cited by HONERT, Oratione de mutua Christianorum Tolerantia, page 48. But the Socinians are able to bear that with so much less difficulty, when Socinus himself not only would not bear to have a Manichean numbered among those that profess the Christian Religion, Lectionibus Sacris, page 320b, opera, tome I, “We answer that that Manichean, although otherwise renowned, is hardly able to be numbered among those that profess the Christian religion, as it is able to be understood from those things that are recorded concerning him, both by Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, book VII, chapter XXV, and Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica,[7] book I, chapter XVII:” but also would not bear to have Francis David and his disciples thus numbered, because they deny Invocation to Christ, writing concerning them in his Catechsi, “I reckon them not to be Christian, since they do not actually embrace Christ, and in substance altogether deny that Jesus is the Christ, although perhaps they dare not openly in words.” Let Socinus also apply that saying to himself. And so, if these Heretics are to be called Christians, this name is only suited to them catachrestically/improperly: thoroughly compare HOORNBEECK’S Apparatum ad Controversias Socinianas, pages 73-76, Socinianismo confutato, tome I.

[1] Hilary wrote to Constantius II to complain of the persecutions of the Arians against the Orthodox. Constantius II was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. He was a Semi-Arian.


[2] Fulgentius (c. 462-c. 527) was bishop of the North African city of Ruspe. He suffered persecution at the hands of the Arians for his stout defense of Nicean Orthodoxy.


[3] De fide orthodoxa, chapter 3.


[4] Johann Conrad Dürr (1625-1677) was a German Lutheran theologian and polyhistor. At Altdorf, he served as Professor of Moral Theology, and later as Professor of Theology.


[5] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) distinguished himself in the field of international law, but he was interested in many fields of learning, including Christian apologetics, theology, and Biblical criticism and exegesis. His dual interest in international law and theology caused him to run afoul of civil authorities: Embracing Arminian doctrine, he was imprisoned from 1618-1621 after the Synod of Dort declared against the position.


[6] Paul of Samosata (200-275), Bishop of Antioch from 260 to 268, was a monarchian and adoptionist. In 269, he was deposed by a Synod at Antioch.


[7] Socrates of Constantinople, sometimes called Socrates Scholasticus (born c. 380), was an historian from Constantinople who wrote Historiam Ecclesiasticam, covering the years 305-439, as a continuation of Eusebius’ history.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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