AskDefine | Define heterodox

Dictionary Definition

heterodox adj : characterized by departure from accepted beliefs or standards [syn: dissident, heretical]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. of or pertaining to creeds, beliefs, or teachings, especially religious ones, that are different from the norm ('orthodox'), but not sufficiently different to be called heretical
    The Church of Alexandria in Egypt is considered heterodox, not heretical.

Related terms

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.


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

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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