On September 12, 2020, the first-ever English language debate between a message pastor (Jesse Smith of Akron, OH) and an ex-message Christian (Rod Bergen from the Off The Shelf podcast) took place. The discussion was moderated by Jay Cox and Tim Kraus.
This article is one in a series on the history of the Church - you are currently on the topic that is in bold:
- Church History
- Early Heretics
- Popes Through History
- Ethiopian Christianity
- Non-Catholic Christians
- Individual Christians
- Persecuting Christians
- The Date of Easter
Listed below are a summary of a few of the lesser known non-Catholic groups. Some of these may be considered heretics, while some are Christians who were simply labeled as heretics by their persecutors. Many of these groups arose because of the debauchery in the Catholic Church, so while Christians who pride themselves on their orthodoxy may feel justified in pointing to these groups as heretics, it likely was hypocrisy in the established Church that sparked the creation of these groups over the years.
- 1 Ecumenical Councils and Schisms
- 2 Irish Monks (500 A.D. +)
- 3 Paulicianism (650 A.D. +)
- 4 Bogomilism (900 A.D. +)
- 5 Bosnian Church
- 6 Cathars (1000 A.D. +)
- 7 The Poor Men of Lyons (1173 A.D. +)
- 8 Vaudois (1184 A.D. +)
- 9 Lollards (1350 A.D. +)
- 10 Religious Expansion in North America
- 11 Footnotes
- 12 Navigation
Ecumenical Councils and Schisms
- The First Council of Nicaea (325): repudiated Arianism and Quartodecimanism (Easter on the 14th of Nissan), adopted the Nicene Creed (in support of the Trinity), and acknowledge that the patriarchs of Alexandria and Rome had exceptional authority over their respective regions;
- The First Council of Constantinople (381): revised the Nicene Creed into present form, and prohibited any further alteration of the Creed without the assent of an Ecumenical Council.
- The Council of Ephesus (431): repudiated Nestorianism, proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos (Greek Η Θεοτόκος, "God-bearer" or more commonly "Mother of God").
- Council of Chalcedon (451): repudiated the monophysite doctrine, established that Christ had two natures, human and divine; adopted the Chalcedonian Creed.
- Second Council of Constantinople (553): reaffirmed doctrines explicated by previous Councils, condemned new Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite writings.
The Persian Church, 431 A.D.
The Persian Church, or Nestorian Church, was isolated after 431 A.D., and holds to the first two councils only.
The Coptic and Syrian Church, 451 A.D.
The Church in Egypt split into two groups following the Council of Chalcedon, over a dispute about the relation between the divine and human natures of Jesus. Those who disagreed with this council are known today as the Coptic Orthodox Church. There was a similar split in Syria resulting in the Syriac Orthodox Church.
|In 451 AD, 630 Bishops declared at the council of Chalcedon that |
"What Leo believes we all believe, anathema to him who believes anything else. Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo."
Eastern Orthodox Church, 1000 A.D.+
In the 11th century, the Great Schism separated The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The main issue was the "filioque clause" and the authority of the Roman Pope. While the Catholic Church is led by the Pope, the Eastern Orthodox Church is led by the Patriarch of Constantinople (although both consider themselves a “first among equals" rather than a leader).
Irish Monks (500 A.D. +)
Inspired by Patrick and Columba, the Irish Monks would spread the Gospel by sending twelve men into an area where they would build up a Christian town. These men would be carpenters, teachers, preachers, etc., and all would be very well versed in the Word of God and Holy living. This small town would soon be surrounded by students and their families in their own homes, learning the Bible and preparing to go out and serve the Lord as missionaries, leaaders, and preachers. Though the men were free to marry, many did not in order to serve God better. They remainted free from state help, stayed free of politics, and were completely independant of Rome and the Catholic Church.
Paulicianism (650 A.D. +)
Prevalent in Anatolia and Armenia. They called themselves Christians (called Paulicians by others), accepted both the old and new testaments, denied the Trinity, and baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ. The empress Theodora killed, drowned or hanged no fewer than 100,000 Paulicians in Grecian Armenia. This sect was founded by Constantine-Silvanus, who was stoned to death by order of the emperor. Simeon-Titus, the court official who executed the order, was himself converted, and was later burned to death in 690.
In 970 the emperor John Tzimisces, himself of Armenian origin, transplanted no less than 200,000 Armenian Paulicians to Europe and settled them in the neighbourhood of Philippopolis in Thrace. In 1650, the Roman Catholic Church gathered them into its fold.
Some historians believe that the Paulicians may have been much more ancient than presented in the writings of their enemies. In fact, they may have been the descendants of the "Old Believers" of Syrian/Armenian origin.
- ...it has been argued that the Armenian Paulicians dated back to a much earlier period than those in the Byzantine Empire; that they were not linked to Gnostic traditions but were in effect Old Believers holding to the original Syrian form of Armenian Christianity, adoptionist and iconoclastic in character, which had been brought from Antioch and Samosata to southern Armenia and subsequently been rejected by the Hellenization of the northern Armenian church beginning in the late fourth century. This original form of Paulicianism survived in Armenia, where it was taken over by the Tondrakeci, and it also manifested itself amont the later Paulicians in southern Italy. Another group fled to the Byzantine Empire, where they were welcomed in the period of iconoclastic emperors Leo III and Constantine V. There, under the influence of extreme iconoclastic groups, accused of Manichaean dualism and Docetism by their opponents, such as St. John of Damascus, and perhaps in the time of the great heresiarch Sergios-Tychikos, who is accused of major innovations, the Byzantine Paulicians gradually accepted a docetic Christology rejecting matter as evil and ultimately became dualists. This neo-Paulicianism was the one described by the Greek sources and may have influenced the Bogomils, but it marked a radical departure from the original Armenian doctrine. 
Bogomilism (900 A.D. +)
The name of this movement was called "bulgarus" in Latin (meaning "Bulgarian"). This quickly became boulgre, later bougre in Old French meaning "heretic, traitor". It entered German as Buger meaning "peasant, blockhead", and went on to English as bugger. The French term also entered old Italian as buggero and Spanish as bujarrón, both in the meaning of "sodomite", since it was supposed that heretics would make sex (just like everything else) in an "inverse" way.
Bogomilism arose in the first quarter of the 10th century in the area of today’s Plovdiv (Philippopolis). Each community had its own twelve "apostles," and women could be raised to the rank of "elect." The Bogomils wore garments like mendicant friars and were known as keen missionaries, travelling far and wide to propagate their doctrines. Healing the sick and exorcising the evil spirit, they traversed different countries and spread their apocryphal literature along with some of the books of the Old Testament, deeply influencing the religious spirit of the nations, and preparing them for the Reformation. They accepted the four Gospels, fourteen Epistles of Paul, the three Epistles of John, James, Jude, and an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which they professed to have. They rejected the authority of the Catholic church.
Adherents of the church called themselves simply Krstjani ("Christians"). Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches persecuted the Bosnian Church, which they considered heretical, and it disappeared before the Turkish conquest in 1463. The Bosnian church denied the Trinity and the veneration of crosses (remember at this time the worship of icons and crosses was a significant point of division between the Roman Church and the Byzantine Church).
The Bosnian Church was mainly composed of monks in scattered monastic houses. It had no territorial organization and it did not deal with any secular matters other than attending people's burials. It did not involve itself in state issues very much.
Cathars (1000 A.D. +)
Much of our existing knowledge of the Cathars is derived from their opponents, the writings of the Cathars having been destroyed because of the doctrinal threat they posed to Christian theology. They raised a continued protest against the claimed moral, spiritual and political corruption of the Catholic Church. They claimed their own Apostolic Connection to the early founders of Christianity and saw Rome as having betrayed and corrupted the original purity of the message.
The persecution of the Cathars began in earnest when the crusader army, under the command of the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury. The last known Cathar perfect in Languedoc, Guillaume Bélibaste, was executed in 1321. After the suppression of Catharism, the descendants of Cathars were, in some southern French towns, required to live apart from the main town and its defenses. They thus retained a certain Cathar identity, although they became Catholic in religion.
The Crusaders asked papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, Abbot of Cîteaux, how to tell Cathar from Roman Catholic. He replied:
"Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius." — “Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own”.
Prisoners were blinded, dragged behind horses, and used for target practice. What remained of the city was razed by fire. Arnaud wrote to Pope Innocent III and said, "Today your Holiness, twenty thousand heretics were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex".
The Poor Men of Lyons (1173 A.D. +)
Later known as Waldenses, they proclaimed the Bible as the sole rule of life and faith. They rejected the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and the mass, and laid great stress on gospel simplicity. Worship services consisted of readings from the Bible, the Lord's Prayer, and sermons, which they believed could be preached by all Christians as depositaries of the Holy Spirit. Their distinctive pre-Reformation doctrines are set forth in the Waldensian Catechism (c.1489). The doctrine included absolute poverty and non-violence.
Vaudois (1184 A.D. +)
Similar in some respects to the Cathars or to 16th-century Calvinism, may have numbered 20,000 members. They sent forth pairs of missionaires to many lands, and were persecuted savagely in France, Italy and especially Spain. They refused the sacraments and the efficacy of the cult of Saints, and they established their own clergy. The Vaudois were excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1184.
Lollards (1350 A.D. +)
The Lollards had no central belief system and no official doctrine. Likewise, being a decentralized movement, Lollardy neither had nor proposed any singular authority. Believing the Roman Catholic Church to be perverted in many ways, the Lollards looked to Scripture as the basis for their religious ideas. Believing that more attention should be given to the message in the scriptures rather than to ceremony and worship, the Lollards denounced the ritualistic aspects of the Church such as transubstantiation, exorcism, pilgrimages, and blessings. The Conclusions also rejected pilgrimages, ornamentation of churches, and religious images because these took away from the true nature of worship: focus on God. Also denounced by the Lollards were war, violence, and even abortion.
Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury. King Henry IV passed the De heretico comburendo in 1401, not specifically against the Lollards, but prohibiting the translating or owning of the Bible and authorising the burning of heretics at the stake. Lollards were effectively absorbed into Protestantism during the English Reformation,
Religious Expansion in North America
- WITHIN about one-half century, a very considerable body of religionists have arisen in the United States, who, rejecting all names, appellations, and badges of distinctive party among the followers or Christ, simply call themselves CHRISTIANS.
- ...this people originated from the three principal Protestant sects in America. The branch at the south, from the Methodists; the one at the north, from the  Baptists, and the one at the west, from the Presbyterians. The three branches rose within the space of eight years, in sections remote and unknown to each other, until some years afterwards...
- The adopting of the Holy Scriptures as their only system of faith, has led them to the study of shaping their belief by the language of the sacred oracles. A doctrine, which cannot be expressed in the language of inspiration, they do not hold themselves obligated to believe. Hence, with very few exceptions, they are not Trinitarians, averring that they can neither find the word nor the doctrine in the Bible. They believe "Lord our Jehovah is one Lord," and purely one. That "Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God." That the Holy Ghost is that divine unction with which our Saviour was anointed.
- Rev. David Millard, History of all the religious denominations in the United States, 1848.
- Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Joshep R. Strayer (Editor in Cheif), Volume 9, Page 469, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1987.