|Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today’s Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity (Third Edition)
|David W. Bercot
|Scroll (Tyler, TX)
|Third edition is available from the publisher.
Evangelical Shows His Own Religion Isn’t Biblical After All
Review by Marc Schindler
This is a delightful, short and easy-to-read book I wouldn’t hesitate lending to a seminary student interested in apologetics*. Bercot seems to have originally been an Anglican priest but now calls himself an evangelical Christian, with his own church and small publishing house in Tyler, TX, the heart of Baptist country. He has looked at evangelical doctrine and found it in direct contradiction to most of what the early Church Fathers taught in the first few centuries after Christ. In fact, he finds modern-day evangelical Protestantism to have more in common with Gnosticism, of all things, than with true, original Christianity. The point for the LDS believer is obvious.
I first found out about the book when someone (unfortunately I can’t remember who) posted a reference to an extract from the book on the personal Web page of Dr. Steve Jones, a BYU physics professor with an interest in religion and science, and a “cyber-acquaintance” of mine for some years. After reading this excerpt, I just had to buy this book, which I did (through Chapters-Indigo). I’m also going to be lending it to some of our stake missionaries who, I think, need some very basic lessons in apologetics.
Which leads me to the one major criticism: the author doesn’t mention the LDS Church even once, which I find a little bit odd and makes me want to find out more about him, and perhaps what his fellow evangelicals think about him (they can’t like this book; it shatters so many of their basic assumptions). Despite many an opportunity (even referring to Alexander Campbell at one point) he doesn’t make a single reference. I haven’t the foggiest idea why and have no idea what he thinks of the LDS. I’m trying to find out more about Bercot. So far I’ve posted a polite inquiry on a general Protestant discussion board but the only response I’ve received so far is that I probably won’t get much of a response “because none of us have read the book!”
A minor criticism is when the author lumps all New Testament pseudepigrapha together to make the point that the New Testament is a closed canon, which is not necessarily something we’d agree with. He equates the Gospel of Thomas (which is a valuable work) with weird pseudepigrapha even I haven’t heard of, and neglects to mention one work which Church Fathers quoted from a lot but which didn’t make it into the canon, the Shepherd of Hermas.
Augustine and Luther both come in for a real lambasting in the book, and like us, he condemns theologians as a group, claiming that it was the rise of theologians in the early fourth century which led the way to the Church being co-opted by Constantine (but more importantly deciding that they could change apostolic doctrine which no longer appealed to them). To paraphrase Hugh Nibley: God save us from the theologians!
Here are the chapter headings:
- The Prisoner
- Who Were the Early Christians?
- Citizens of Another Kingdom
- Is Right and Wrong Simply A Matter of Culture?
- Why They Succeeded Where We Often Fail
- What They Believed About Salvation
- What They Believed About Predestination and Freewill
- What Baptism Meant to the Early Christians
- Prosperity: A Blessing or a Snare?
- Is Old Testament Morality Still Good Enough?
- Who Better Understands the Apostles?
- Were the Teachings of the Apostles Deliberately Altered?
- How Early Christianty Was Corrupted
- The Remaining Barriers Crumble
- The Most Influential Christian of All Time
- Was the Reformation a Return To Early Christianity?
- The Quest to Restore Early Christianity
- The Anabaptist Fire
- So What Does All This Mean For Us?
*Just so there’s no misunderstanding, I’m using the term “apologetics” here in the same way scholars (including FARMS) use it: as “defense of the faith.” There is no implication that somehow the Gospel needs “apologizing for.”