Saint Irenaeus

Taken from our book, “Scandal of the Cross and It Triumph, Heresies throughout the History of the Church.”

Heresies of the Second Century

It was a young Church; it was an infant Church. We’re sure the early Fathers, after having convened the First Ecumenical Council, thought they had put an end to any and all the problems the Church would ever have. They were most likely sure that what they were handing down to the next generation, was a Church free of strife and in-fighting. However, that’s not what they got. Whereas the Saints of the First Century had gone on to their reward with our Lord Jesus in Heaven, Satan was waiting in the wings, training a brand new group of heretics, to destroy the Church.
The second century was to prove no better than the first with man insisting on being as smart as God, trying to outdo Him, and, as usual, falling flat on his human face.
The Basilidian heresy got its name from its founder, Basilides. He is known to have lived in the time of the Emperors Hadrian and Antonius Pius somewhere between 120 to 140 A.D. Basilides came from Alexandria. The sins of the father very often are passed on to the son. Basilides’ son would follow in his fallen footsteps, in an attempt to keep alive the deceptions his father was trying to promote throughout the whole Christian world. One of Basilides’ teachings was “Know others, but let no one know you.”
The views the Basilidians held on the Deity were:
They rejected Divine Revelation as manifested to us by Holy Scripture. They insisted they had received their own revelations direct from God.
They wrote a new book of Psalms. Basilides authored a new gospel under his own name. We quote John in Revelation “If anyone adds to these words, God will visit him with all the plagues described herein!”(Rev 18:19)
The Basilidian heresy claimed that the God of the Jews had been only an angel. What angel were they referring to? Could it be the work of Lucifer who wanted to be God?
They insisted that the world was created by the angels. Is that not like Lucifer who envied God the gift of Creation, to put God’s Creation under his name, to receive credit for that which he could never possess?
They denied the humanity of Jesus and repudiated all the miracles attributed to Jesus. Are there not those today who would reduce every miraculous happening into human reasoning? Do we not hear; “There is no such thing as a miracle,” “God gives you an intellect and the means to control your own destiny,” “It doesn’t pay to pray for a miracle, God is going to do what He has already planned to do”?
In our former parish, a wonderful young man got seriously injured in a car accident. The hospital was struggling to save his life. To human eyes, there was little or no hope of him living. But not to his family and friends. All the school children of our Catholic School joined the rest of the church in praying for the complete recovery of this young man. During the Homily, the young associate pastor said: “Don’t pray for a miracle. God has already made up His Mind. Maybe God doesn’t want this young man to live. Stop bothering God with your prayers.”
The young man’s daughter ran out of the Church in tears. We ran after her. We told her God loved her, her sister and her Mommy and Daddy; that He heard them. He was there, especially present in the Holy Eucharist in the Holy Mass, waiting for her to turn to Him. She could trust Him. He was listening!
We reminded her of the many times Jesus listened to the pleading of loved ones, sometime in seemingly impossible situations: When Lazarus’ sister Mary turned to Jesus and cried “Lord, if You had been here my brother would never have died.” (John 11:32) Jesus raised her brother Lazarus from the dead. And then, when Jesus saw the Widow of Naim grieving over the death of her only son, He, moved with pity, told the mother not to cry and commanded her son to rise, and Jesus gave him to his now rejoicing mother. (Luke 7:11-17) When a Jewish official pleaded: “My daughter has just died; but come and place Your Hands on her, and she will live.”, Jesus responded to the father’s act of faith and lifted his daughter from her death bed. (Matt 9:18-20, 23-26)
We asked this little girl, did she think Jesus loved them more than He loved her? She prayed, believing in a miracle, and her father is now very active in the Church, very much alive. According to the doctors, he did not have a chance. According to God, all things are possible, if only we believe.
The Basilidians denied the Resurrection of the body; they taught that it was Simon of Cyrene who was crucified in Jesus’ place and that Jesus returned to His Father without having suffered the Passion. Think about it. If Jesus did not die for our sins then we are not redeemed, and all is lost. We believe that our sins died on that Cross with Jesus.
Basilidians believed in magic. These heretics denied the possibility of miraculous intervention of the Divine, but relied on sorcery and magic. Were they not saying that God has no power, but that evil (or Satan) has?
The Church fights back!
The lambs are about to be led to slaughter again, and the Lord sends forth a mighty warrior to fight another one of the Church’s battles: St. Irenaeus was born around 140 A.D., probably in the area of Smyrna. He definitely came from Asia Minor. He was taught by St. Polycarp, another early father of the Church. St. Irenaeus became a bishop around 177 A.D., at the age of 37, after his predecessor, St. Pothinus, died a martyr’s death. His outstanding life was marked by untiring defense of the Church and her teachings, as well as his dedicated role as a peacemaker.
St. Irenaeus wrote to a priest who was preaching heresy; and cautioned him that his teachings were not only unsound, but were so deadly that not even heretics outside of the Church would dare to espouse them. He chastised him, stressing the seriousness of leading the innocent into error.
St. Irenaeus, like other early fathers, faithfully taught as the Apostles before him, never putting himself above the instruction passed down by his teacher St. Polycarp. He stressed that all must be taught according to the tenets of the Church and that we were to proclaim, with one heart and one soul, as the Lord’s one Mystical Body, one Truth as passed down by Jesus and by those He had chosen to teach His Church. Although the Church is spread over all the earth, among people of different races and tongues, we are all to speak with one voice, that of the Roman Catholic Church. Although each nation who belonged to the Catholic Church had different cultures, unique to their own country, the tradition of the Catholic Church is universal, one and the same for the entire Catholic world.
Basilides disputed the Divinity of God as well as the humanity of Jesus. St. Irenaeus answered: No one, not even the Angels, had access to the mystery of how our Lord Jesus came to be from the Father, except the Father and the Son. As someone once said, when you understand the Lord, you have lost Him.

For more information on Heresies click here

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