Book Review: Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up, by David W. Bercot
The following book review was written by a member of our congregation. The views presented here are
solely those of the reviewer and may or may not align with the views of other members.
S. A. Owens
Very interesting book although a bit perplexing at times.
The premise of this book is that todays denominations have substantially strayed from the practices and beliefs of the early Christians and that a thorough reading and study of writings by “early church fathers” can shed some light on the errors that have evolved over time.
In the above statement “early church fathers” is in quotes because the author of this book makes this statement: “They would have been highly indignant at being called ‘early church fathers.’ The only ‘church fathers’ they recognized were the apostles.” (pg. 6) This reviewer could not agree more with that statement.
The book seemed to be perplexing however because of other statements the author made. Referring to one specific early writer (Lactantius), Bercot stated; “They demonstrate that most Christian beliefs had changed very little during the 223 years from the end of the Apostle John’s life to the beginning of Constantine’s reign.” (pg. 14) This reviewer finds this perplexing since there are numerous places in the Scriptures that indicate there were heretical practices and beliefs cropping up even as the Scriptures were being written. (Gal. 1:6-10; Rom. 16:17-18; II Cor 11:13). The next point in this review will also demonstrate the fallacy of the position quoted above.
The supposition by Bercot that a study of the early writers (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Marty and five others) can unequivocally determine the practices and beliefs of the first century Christians, is an assumption that they were themselves untainted by heresy. That hypothesis is, in this reviewer’s opinion, suspect at best. One example would be the First Apology of Justin Martyr, Chapter LXV, which is entitled “Administration of the Sacraments.” Aside from the title itself being an indicator that he had already been influenced by the teachings of what would later become the Roman Catholic Church, he states: “There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.” (There is neither mention of a “president” nor “wine mixed with water” in the Scriptures). Still further indication (or proof) that at least this one writer had already moved away from the teaching of the Scripture is again in the First Apology, Chapter LXVI, entitled “Of The Eucharist” in which he states; “so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” There seems to be no doubt that Justin Martyr had already accepted the false doctrine of transubstantiation a doctrine practiced yet today by the Roman Catholic Church.
In spite of a problem with some of the authors’s conclusions, this book is very much worth the read if only for the purpose of digesting the four points made at the beginning of chapter 13 as they relate to exactly how and why denominational christianity has so strayed from that of the early church.