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Will the Real Heretic Please Stand Up?–Part 1 Lifestyle

Written By: Wesley - Feb• 06•12

I had read portions of the book Will the Real Heretic Please Stand Up by David Bercot.  I always found the portions challenging to my faith and very easy to read.  However with Graduate Work I never took the time to actually read the book from cover-to-cover.  So the other day while moving books in my office I found the small paperback and decided to read it strait through.

General Information

The book contains 19 chapters and a Biographical Dictionary.  The purpose of the book is to explore the writings of the Early Christians, and compare their teachings and practice with the modern day church.  Bercot defines the Early Christians as “Christians who lived between 90 and 199 A.D.” (5).  These group of Christians wrote letters, defenses of Christianity, and commentaries that we now possess and can therefore garner from them their beliefs and practices.

Their Lifestyle

The first 5 chapters speak to the lifestyle of the Earliest Christians.  They were a people who were characterized by separation from the world, an unconditional love, and obedient trust.  They believed in a standard of morality and rejected much of the moral standards of their culture with regards to issues like divorce, abortion, modesty, entertainment, women’s role, and other examples.  They were a spiritual strong people who supported one another, understood that Christianity included bearing crosses for Jesus, and believed that they had to put forth effort in obeying God.

What I took away from these first 5 chapter?

These chapters constantly had me praying to God that I would be stronger in more like my forefathers in the faith. The stories shared by Bercot were inspirational.  The willingness of these Christians to suffer for Jesus, live separate from the world, support one another, and live bold lives apart from their culture was amazing.

They also reminded me that too often what is considered moral by our standards today is not the biblical standard of morality, but rather what is considered moral by the conservative portion of our society.  The outcome is that when conservative opinion shifts so does the moral standard of the church.  The problem, then, is we are no longer following God’s standard, but rather societal opinion.

These chapters were a reminder that many of the issues we face today are not new issues.  The rising divorce rate and how the church should respond was something the early Christians were faced with.  Abortion was a first century problem.  Modest dress with regards to both showiness and sensuality was addressed by these authors. They commented on what we should watch and the danger of the desire to be entertained by carnal viewings.  Even women’s role in the church was an issue discussed by the earliest Christians.  The comments made in these regards reenforced some of my beliefs, but also challenged my own faithfulness to God.

This section also emphasized the need for godly leaders.  The leaders of the Early Church took the blunt of persecution.  They were marked out by the Roman Empire and faced indescribable ends.  Their faith was a witness to the community.  Their faith in death was not the only way they model Christian living though.  The leaders of the Earliest Christians practiced what they taught.  They had an intimate connection with the flock and often times served them at great cost to themselves.

Conclusion

Bercot considered the first five chapters to be the least controversial in the book, however, if someone reads those chapters closely with an eye to the modern day church and their own life, one will find a significant difference between their faith in ours.  We live in a world where Christianity is the predominant thought of the day.  We assume that our culture is Christian and therefore too often just go with the flow.  Reading these first 5 chapters would give anyone pause and remind us that we cannot be in default mode with regards to our faith, but rather have to be sure that what we are doing is not simply going with the flow, but actually boldly following Jesus, even when it causes us pain (i.e. we have to carry a cross) and ridicule.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Ian says:

    I have this book and I think it’s very good. It exposes the fallacy that Calvinism was the original apostolic faith.

    David Bercot also published a collection of quotes from the Ante-Nicene Fathers called ‘A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs’ which I also have.

    That explodes the RCC lie that Peter was the first pope.

  2. Tammy Hackett says:

    Wesley,
    Thank you for letting us know about this book! I am going to order it right now! I have often thought if I was given the opportunity to travel in a time machine, I would use the opportunity to travel back to worship with the first century Christians. I think it would be very enlightening to see how they worshipped verses how we worship today. As a New Testament Christian, I am trying to worship as those early Christians did but I know it is hard to not let culture dictate what we see as “worship”. I look forward to reading the book!

  3. Good review so far, Wesley. Honestly, the second half of the book isn’t going to be as shocking for our fellowship, since we, for the most part, do not agree with Calvinism, or sola fide (faith alone). However, I think I (we) have more difficulty with the first five chapters–the orthopraxy. (unless I am getting the order mixed up)

    I’d say a lot of Christians will shout amen at the parts they agree with (role of women, marriage, baptism, etc…), but the teachings about money (giving a large amount of it away), serving the poor and destitute, limiting our consumption, and especially a faith that not only resists imperialism (America) but also rejects militarism, will probably be brushed aside by comments like, “we’ll they sure were off on that!”

    Further, the early disciples were non-violent peace makers, something that appears to be a minority in churches of Christ (especially in the south! Although it was common among the early restorers and churches). And based off the emphasis that the NT puts on carryig a cross and denying self; I’d say that the first five chapters actually deal with “weightier matters” to borrow a phrase from Jesus (don’t mistake me as saying the less weighty/important things are not important).

    I’d like to make one further observation, by contrasting two ways of approaching this material. Wesley said, “These chapters constantly had me praying to God that I would be stronger in more like my forefathers in the faith.” Where as Ian wrote, “I have this book and I think it’s very good. It exposes the fallacy that Calvinism was the original apostolic faith…That explodes the RCC lie that Peter was the first pope.”

    I don’t hope to start a fight on here, but I couldn’t help but notice the contrast. I think it’s important when reading stuff like this, not to read solely or primarily to combat other people. The best attitude isn’t to direct our gaze out on other people but to direct it to ourselves and ask are we being the church by embodying the teaching of Jesus. If we do, we probably will find ourselves praying something similar to Wesley. God bless and thanks for the review.

  4. Bill VanHuss says:

    This book is a great book to understand the what, whys and the damage of theology. Period. It also exposes the deceit and falsehoods that all modern day theology has so twisted embedded into the faith that we today actually follow a completely differently looking kind of Christianity than the Christianity taught by the Apostles to their disciples. It has helped me on my journey for truth and understand how and where what we’ve been taught got here.

    Bercot took the writings from those who weren’t consider heretical in their day for illustration. The were ones like Polycarp and Ignatius Clements of Rome and Barnabas who all were personal disciples of one or more of the Apostles.

    The credibility of this Historian and his lack of any theological bent provides an honest presentation of what all sides actually wrote. He doesn’t really give much opinion but rather turns to personal writings for what someone thought and believed. He never uses what someone wrote about someone else to understand what they thought but rather the persons own writings.

    This book is just an awakinging for many. It’s set me on a deap two+ years study of What the early Christians lived and thought and died for. From the Apostles disciples to the Heretics of the day like the Gnostic that Apostles kept warning us about. I was shocked to find that it was only the heretical Gnostics that believed that when we die we go straight to heaven. When I followed this through history I found this teaching actually was established by the Westminster Confession when the Calvinist puritans when they ruled England. Ironically even Luther thus Calvin didn’t teach this. Since the puritans were the numerous religious influence on early American church we are now taught this even though Jesus didn’t. And when we look at the theologians attempts to accommodate it we have to through out all of what Jesus said. I offer this as just one example of why factual history of peoples writing are so important to determine the truth of what the did and thought.

    I promise you will be challenged and if like me will dig deeper for the historical proofs and discard the adaptive theology by mere the speculations of men in seminaries completely removed by millenniums, cultures and languages.

  5. [...] author of the book Will The Real Heretic Please Stand Up? Read the earlier sections of the review here, here, here, and [...]

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