AskDefine | Define heterodoxy

Dictionary Definition



1 any opinions or doctrines at variance with the official or orthodox position [syn: unorthodoxy, heresy] [ant: orthodoxy]
2 the quality of being unorthodox [syn: unorthodoxy] [ant: orthodoxy]

User Contributed Dictionary



From etyl grc ἑτεροδοξία.


  • a UK /ˈhɛtɛɹədɒksi/


  1. The quality of being heterodox.
  2. A heterodox belief, creed, or teaching.
    • 1902, William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Folio Society 2008, p. 288:
      A genuine first-hand religious experience like this is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman.


Extensive Definition

Heterodoxy includes "any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position". As an adjective, heterodox is used to describe a subject as "characterized by departure from accepted beliefs or standards" (status quo). The noun heterodoxy is synonymous with unorthodoxy, while the adjective heterodox is synonymous with dissident.

Ecclesiastic usage

Eastern Orthodoxy

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the term is used to refer to Christian churches not belonging to the Eastern Orthodox communion and holding doctrines different from those of Orthodox Christianity. Also, it is used for any idea, thought, dogma, principle or lifestyle that is in conflict with the Orthodox Faith. In general, this term is used in two distinct cases: 1. Whenever Eastern Orthodoxy wants to classify something different, but not as different or thought to be as erroneous as heresy; 2. Whenever Eastern Orthodoxy wants, for any reason, to abstain from the use of the word heresy.

Roman Catholicism

Heterodoxy in the Roman Catholic Church refers to views that differ from strictly orthodox views, but retain sufficient faithfulness to the original doctrine to avoid heresy. Many Roman Catholics profess some heterodox views, either on doctrinal or social issues. For example, the orthodox Catholic position on unbaptized infants is that their fate is uncertain, and "the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1261). A heterodox Catholic might profess the belief that unbaptized infants are offered the option to accept or deny salvation by God at their judgment. The belief is not orthodox, as the Church does not profess a belief as to what happens to unbaptized infants; however, it is also not heresy, as the Church accepts that such a scenario might be possible. By contrast, a denial of the doctrine of "Original Sin" (thereby negating the necessity of baptism for children) or Papal Infallibility -- would be labeled heretical.


As with Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic usage, many Protestants such as Lutherans use the term heterodox (Gr. hetero - other, and doxa - teaching) to describe Christian teachings which are not in agreement with their understanding of scripture. No true Christian denomination knowingly embraces a fallacy, but instead truly believes that their interpretation of scriptures is orthodox (Gr. ortho - correct, and doxa - teaching). Thus, other Christian (Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant) denominations with different teachings which are not heretical are considered heterodox.

Other usage

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.

Political usage against religion


In late 1999 legislation was created in China to outlaw "heterodox religions". This was applied retroactively to Falun Gong, a spiritual practice introduced to the public in China by Li Hongzhi (李洪志) in 1992.


heterodoxy in Czech: Heterodoxie
heterodoxy in Spanish: Heterodoxia
heterodoxy in French: Hétérodoxie
heterodoxy in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Heterodoxia
heterodoxy in Dutch: Heterodoxie
heterodoxy in Polish: Heterodoksja
heterodoxy in Portuguese: Heterodoxia
heterodoxy in Serbian: Хетеродоксија
heterodoxy in Simple English: Heterodoxy
heterodoxy in Turkish: Heterodoks
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