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.
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.
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.
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.