The word “heresy” is deployed to brand and stigmatize anything that differs from Orthodoxy. I Peter 1:22 has often been cited to denounce any personal understanding of the Bible. My question is this: what made the interpretation of the Council of Nicaea any less private than anyone else’s? Is it less private because it was a group consensus? Was it non-private because these were learned men? Is it sacrosanct because of its longevity? What was it that established the Nicene Creed or any other traditional statement of faith as the benchmark against which heresy must be assessed?
Cries of heresy are a convenient tool to stifle debate and prevent any reassessment of past doctrinal positions. It is a favorite and generally potent device of the institutional church. Its employment has maintained the tenets of Christianity for centuries. But that leaves unanswered whether the tenets of Orthodoxy are anything more than an ancient private interpretation of scripture.
It should be obvious to anyone that every scriptural interpretation is a private one. The fact that a group of men of above average education derived a “consensus?” understanding of the Bible does not mark their view as sacred. The only view of scripture that could be other than private would be God’s own, which He would have to communicate through other than men. Heresy therefore means nothing more than an interpretation which the church finds objectionable, most likely because it challenges their sacred authority. A non-traditional view has no less value in the field of debate than any others because conventional wisdom has too often proved to be less than wise.