Modern Day Heresies

Apple recently made waves for firing a longtime star of their software design team, Scott Forstall. Though purportedly axed for crashing and burning with Apple’s now notorious Maps application, many think Forstall was destined for the exit because, as describes it, Forstall liked for “a calendar app [to] look like a calendar.” You know, that tactile real world look of embossed leather borders and paper-flipping animations. It’s called skeuomorphism and it drives a lot of software designers crazy.

Skeuomorphism is a great example of a modern day heresy. To an outsider, the whole debate is just silly. Do you really need to argue over whether notebook applications should look like legal pads or if e-books should settle comfortably into a digital oak bookshelf? But to insiders, it is serious business–and it looks like Forstall’s side has lost.

Heresies like this are fun. They’re weird, myopic, and seemingly irrelevant, but people lost sleep and/or their lives over them. Sometimes they can change the course of history.

I’ve begun reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, which is knee-deep in heresies. Augustine embraces several heresies himself until finally being ordained a bishop and waging war on his old heretical friends. This was a man who was obsessed with heresies, and he wasn’t alone. At the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, Christian heresies were serious business over which blood was shed and kingdoms were conquered. Looking back at them now, they seem pedantic and endless (arianism, donatism, semi-pelagianism, oh my!) but if you don’t know your heresies, then you don’t know why 1,200 years of history played out they way they did.

In an online course at Yale on the Middle Ages, Professor Paul Freedman laments that there is no place you can go on the Internet to take a self-satisfying quiz on your heresy acumen (2 min in to the video). Well, here it is. But not just a quiz on the dusty, early Christian heresies of Augustine’s obsession. You also get our contemporary heresy on, with a selection of the most controversial ideas of today. Match your description with the right heresy and get your score below!

Name that heresy:

1. There was no Original Sin. Adam’s apple eating had no lasting effect on the rest of humanity. This heresy remains a major division between Catholic rites and Protestant denominations.

A. Manichaeism  B. Arianism  C. Donatism  D. Gnosticism  

E. Palegianism  F. Sabellianism  G. Nestorianism 

2. God is not all-powerful but is in a permanent struggle with an evil force, leaving the world divided between warring sides of dark and light. Augustine followed versions of this philosophy for years. 

A. Manichaeism  B. Arianism  C. Donatism  D. Gnosticism

E. Palegianism  F. Sabellianism  G. Nestorianism

3. God imparts secret knowledge to the true believers, a sort of password for living that helps you get to heaven. If you’re not in the know, you don’t get to go.

A. Manichaeism  B. Arianism  C. Donatism  D. Gnosticism

E. Palegianism  F. Sabellianism  G. Nestorianism

4.The first person of the Trinity, God the Father, is too pure to sully his hands with this world, so he created the Son, Christ, to create the world and interact with man. This belief was so controversial that the Emperor Constantine spent much of the end of his life struggling against it.

A. Manichaeism  B. Arianism  C. Donatism  D. Gnosticism

E. Palegianism  F. Sabellianism  G. Nestorianism

5. A deadly game of telephone: If a priest does something really terrible and then officiates at your wedding, you may not be really married because the priest’s power to celebrate sacraments has been invalidated. In short, the actions of the man can automatically negate the authority of his office. Augustine fought hard against these guys.

A. Manichaeism  B. Arianism  C. Donatism  D. Gnosticism

E. Palegianism  F. Sabellianism  G. Nestorianism

6. The human person of Jesus and the divine person are separate and unconnected. The circles of the Venn diagram don’t intersect. Popular in Constantinople in the early 5th century. 

A. Manichaeism  B. Arianism  C. Donatism  D. Gnosticism

E. Palegianism  F. Sabellianism  G. Nestorianism

7. God is not a trinity, but rather the terms “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” are different names for the same One God. Its advocates described the Trinity as three “masks” of God.

A. Manichaeism  B. Arianism  C. Donatism  D. Gnosticism

E. Palegianism  F. Sabellianism  G. Nestorianism


1. Palegianism

2. Manichaeism

3. Gnosticism

4. Arianism

5. Donatism

6. Nestorianism  

7. Sabellianism

And now some modern heresies. I’m using the term very loosely here, of course. None of these have been proven true or false.

Starting with a freebie…

8. Digital versions of physical things (calculators, compasses, address books) should imitate the appearance and texture of the real deal.

A. Objectivism B. Social Darwinism C. Paleoism D. Running Minimalism

E. Skeuomorphism F. Keynesianism G. Sabermetrics

9. The philosophy of Ayn Rand, which she defined in Atlas Shrugged to be “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

A. Objectivism B. Social Darwinism C. Paleoism D. Running Minimalism

E. Skeuomorphism F. Keynesianism G. Sabermetrics

10. When an economy is suffering a decline, the central government should encourage growth by spending on state projects like a drunken sailor. The demon of the modern right.

A. Objectivism B. Social Darwinism C. Paleoism D. Running Minimalism

E. Skeuomorphism F. Keynesianism G. Sabermetrics

11. Inspired by a legendary Mexican tribe, advocates claim this philosophy minimizes athlete’s foot injuries.

A. Objectivism B. Social Darwinism C. Paleoism D. Running Minimalism

E. Skeuomorphism F. Keynesianism G. Sabermetrics

12. A diet that limits foods to only those things a caveman would have eaten, ideally involving the roasting of fresh-caught game on spits in the backyard.

A. Objectivism B. Sabermetrics C. Paleoism D. Running Minimalism

E. Skeuomorphism F. Keynesianism

13. All you need to win baseball games is a few underpaid suckers who can field and steal, and a hell of a lot of math nerds. 

A. Objectivism  B. Sabermetrics  C. Paleoism  D. Running Minimalism

E. Skeuomorphism  F. Keynesianism


8. Skeuomorphism

9. Objectivism

1o. Keynesianism

11. Running Minimalism

12. Paleoism

13. Sabermetrics


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: