Heresy never goes away, it simply returns in various forms. Whether it is the gnostic escapism of the Heaven is For Real, so popular in our ‘Christian’ bookstores and movies, or 18th century deism that has re-emerged as MTD, heresy (being a parasite) will always be found wherever true belief and practice occur. The key is not just to be able to identify it, but to recognize now boring it is. Thus, G.K. Chesterton speaks of “the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy:”
“People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”
Those of us advocating for a third way or via media tend to share an interest in basic orthodoxy, in part because we see doctrinal renewal as a key to the vitality of the church, but also because this gives us something more interesting to do that merely wallow around in progressive and conservative echo chambers. As Chesterton notes, the church had to constantly juke to avoid heresies from every corner.
“She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was swerving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman; it is easy to be a heretic. it is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s head. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom – that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth wheeling but erect.” (Orthodoxy [Mineoloa: Dover 1994], 94.)
In my view, the wild truth remains the property neither of the left nor the right in the church. Orthodoxy is not the possession of any culturally-determined faction or party, but it is the inheritance that the Holy Spirit, the saints, apostles, and martyrs have entrusted to us. And that millenia-old party is better than all the dull heresies put together.