This process could very easily get messy very quickly. There are a plethora of heretical movements throughout the nearly two thousand year history of Christianity. Enumerating them all not only would be an arduous task, but I believe it would also be unnecessarily complex and rigid. If one doesn't mind a bit of oversimplification, it is possible, however, to boil down all heresies into one of two categories.
Law vs. Chaos
Christian dogma is always about God and Salvation. It answers the fundamental question, "Who is God and how does He save us?" Central to this is the person of Jesus Christ. The orthodox dogma insists that Christ is perfect God and perfect man. Heresies can therefore be categorized into those that overemphasize Christ's divinity and those that overemphasize Christ's humanity (or created-ness).
When Christ's divinity is overemphasized, created matter and its role in salvation is de-emphasized, denied or even seen as evil. Some historic examples include:
- Monophysitism — the belief that Christ's humanity was absorbed into the divinity of Christ, much like a sugar cube dissolves in water. Thus, the role of humanity and human nature in salvation is minimal.
- Sabellianism — the belief that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are different modes of one God instead of three distinct persons. This denies personhood within the Godhead, therefore within the image and likeness of God in human beings. Our individual personhood, therefore, plays no role in salvation.
- Gnosticism — the belief that the creator God (often called the Demiurge) is actually the devil. Thus all created matter is evil and salvation can only happen through knowledge of the true God.
- Donatism — the belief that lapsed Christians (those who had sacrificed to the statue of the emperor during the persecutions of Diocletian and thus set free) could not be received back into the Church through repentance. Further, any sacrament performed by clergy who were not "pure" was not valid.
- Nestorianism — the belief that Christ's divinity and Christ's humanity are two separate persons, where the divinity came only into contact with the humanity (in some variations, this contact happens at the baptism of Christ). An interesting consequence of this is compartmentalization. It is possible to justify two entirely different sets of behavior depending on circumstance. As long as one set is in contact God, all the others are saved, regardless of how heinous they may be.
- Arianism — the belief that there was a time when the Son was not. In other words, Christ is part of creation and only united to God in will, not being. Thus, aligning oneself through will (and thus, those in power who represent God's will) is the only means of salvation.
Good vs. Evil
In classic Christian theology, evil is the absence of God and those things that separate us from God. This understanding, however, is not of much use in terms of alignment, because, technically, all heresies would be evil because they separate us from God.
Rather, I think a more useful understanding of Good vs. Evil is the value one places on the individual person. Good sees every individual as valuable, no matter who they are. Evil sees either no value in individuals or places the collective above the individual.
I am not a big fan of neutrality in the alignment system. True Neutrality is nothing more than a dressed up version of nihilism, which is actually Chaotic Evil. In terms of Law (civilization) vs. Chaos (wilderness), neutrality really means apathy — not something that adventuring PCs could be accused of.
In terms of Good vs. Evil, as I've proposed it, one might argue that Neutrality represents placing value on certain individuals — as in nationalism, for example. This, however, means that it would be possible to make the uncomfortable argument that Nazi Germany was a Lawful Neutral country.
The way around this would be to define neutrality in terms of positive action — the willingness to act to protect/save a certain type of individual persons but not others. When this positive action proactively seeks to destroy or oppress other types of individual persons, then this dips into the Evil category.
This, then, allows for an interesting take on a seven-alignment system:
Lawful Good (orthodox Christianity)What I find interesting about this is the depth it adds to the traditional demi-human/human dynamics. Elves, being Chaotic Good, would make for mysterious and potentially dangerous allies. Whereas they would place a high value on someone's soul, they would place little value on their body. In addition, they would see no problem with meddling with demonic forces if they thought it would help save one of those souls (and demonstrates the path eventually taken by Dark Elves).
In contrast, Dwarves, being Lawful Good, would be much more stalwart (and Christian!) allies and their relationship with Elves would be justifiably shaky, at best.