In the centuries which followed its recognition by the Roman Empire, the Church had gradually developed a body of doctrine by which to interpret its faith and answer its critics. Once that doctrine was firmly established, those Christians who held contrary beliefs could be branded as heretics. In spite of this, the Western Church was never completely without its critics: Arians, Donatists, and many others. As soon as one doctrine was approved, questions were raised about some other aspect of the faith. The very interpretation of life which the Church offered, with its division into the secular and heavenly levels, seemed to foster this almost continual questioning and criticism. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "5. The Church and Heresy. Pt. III: The Medieval Church." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 51-57.