Question: "What is Bogomilism? What do Bogomils believe?"

Answer: Bogomilism was a heretical sect originating in Bulgaria in the tenth century that continued until the fifteenth century. Bogomilism was a Gnostic religious movement related to Manichaeism. Bogomils believed that everything material was bad and that the spiritual was good. All we have left of Bogomilism today are the folklore of the southern Baltic Slavs and some dualistic, Gnostic elements in some religions in the region.

Although the exact origin of Bogomilism is unknown, it appears to have had roots in the false doctrines of Messalianism, Paulicianism, or Manichaeism. Bogomilism was an attempt to reform the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Not only were the Bogomils against the church, but they were known to be against the government as well. The Bogomils claimed to be Christians but held several major beliefs that contradicted the Bible.

Bogomilism was dualistic in nature; that is, Bogomils believed evil and good were equal forces. This can be seen in their understanding of creation. Bogomils believed that the earth and bodily life was a creation of Satan, an angel sent to earth. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). There are not two Creators.

The Bogomils also denied the incarnation of Christ. As a result, their view of salvation was not that it comes through belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection but through knowledge or enlightenment. Bogomils taught the need for suffering to deny the flesh and cleanse the body. The Bible affirms Jesus as fully human and fully God (John 1:1, 14). In fact, if Jesus Christ did not exist bodily, then He did not actually suffer and die upon the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 2:14–17), and we are still dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1).

Both Catholicism and the Orthodox Church treated the Bogomils as heretics. The Bulgarian church held church councils to condemn Bogomilism and its teachings. Bogomilism was eradicated in Bulgaria and Byzantium in the thirteenth century. However, Bogomilism survived in Bosnia and Herzegovina until the Ottoman Empire gained control in the fifteenth century. The Hungarians launched crusades against the heretics in Bosnia, but it was the Ottoman conquest that put an end to the Bogomilism sect.

Dualism, as taught by the Bogomils, was a heresy that came about in the early church, and it remains a problem today. There is only one God Almighty, the God revealed to us in the Bible. He has no equal. It is in this God of the Bible that we must put our trust and on His Word that we must build our lives and understanding. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).