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Book Review: The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Kostenberger/Kruger,
This review is from: The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity (Paperback)In today's society, there appears to be only one unassailable absolute truth--there is no absolute truth. Further, the quickest way to be labeled hateful, intolerant, or mean spirited is to suggest that the gospel as revealed in scripture is true and is the exclusive way to God. It used to be that those who would label you hateful or mean spirited for saying that were those outside of the church. That is no longer the case, however, and in fact it is among those who profess Christ that you are likely to find the loudest, most shrill voices railing against the notion of absolute truth. Many of those who advocate accepting any and all beliefs as being equally Christian base their position on the works of German theologian Walter Bauer and a contemporary disciple of his, Bart Ehrman. In short, Bauer, and now Ehrman, propose that what we know today as Christianity is not the Christianity of the apostles and certainly not what Jesus taught. Rather, they propose, there was a diverse opinion about Jesus, what He taught, and what the apostles taught and that there was no one view that was more "right" than any of the others. The fact that we today believe that there is only one correct theological position on, for instance, the Virgin Birth is because the Roman church finally won enough theological and political power to squash any theological opposition to their positions. In fact, they assert, what we know today as orthodox Christianity represents the view of the winning side rather than the truth of the gospel.
The book The Heresy of Orthodoxy was not written to refute this Bauer-Ehrman thesis. Rather, as the authors' state, the purpose of the book is to determine "why the Bauer-Ehrman thesis commands paradigmatic stature when it has been soundly discredited in the past". As such, the authors' review three areas where this idea of multiple but equally valid "Christianities" has been thoroughly refuted in the three sections of the book. They first examine whether, as the Bauer-Ehrman thesis suggests, there were actually a wide array of theological beliefs in the early church and that heresy (diversity) actually preceded orthodoxy. Further, they review material related to the development of the New Testament canon and attempt to determine from the historical evidence if the 27 books we know as the New Testament are more the result of random chance ("some books have all the luck"), as Bauer and Ehrman, would have us believe rather than there being something peculiar about these books that makes them Scripture. Finally, they evaluate the assertion made by Bauer and Ehrman that the New Testament Text is so riddled with errors and inconsistencies that it is virtually unreliable as a record of what Jesus and the apostles taught.
Through the 8 chapters, the authors Kostenberger and Kruger deliver a slam dunk in their presentation. They take the thesis that there were no absolute truths in the early church and we certainly have no way to know exactly what they believed anyway and clearly present convincing evidence to the contrary. In fact, as the reader discovers, the evidence for what we know today as orthodox Christianity is overwhelming and that the thesis presented by Bauer-Ehrman ignores significant historical and textual evidence that discredits their position in addition to engaging in occasional circular reasoning. In short, the book would encourage any Christian to have confidence that their faith is in fact "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jude 1:3-NASB)".
I would recommend this book for all Christians who are interested in a better understanding of their faith or who are looking to better educate themselves in issues related to apologetics. The work is a scholarly text and as such is not a "casual read". I could see this being used in a college or seminary classroom. If you're looking for a resource to gain a better understanding of issues related to postmodernism and its effect on Christianity, this would be a great book to add to your library.
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Initial post: Sep 7, 2010 6:12:34 PM PDT
Thank you for a great review!
Posted on Jan 14, 2011 10:40:07 AM PST
Robert O. Adair says:
Great statement of the Bauer-Ehrman thesis which is simply irrational, self contradictory and completely unhistorical. For one thing it ignores the providence of God and implies that He is really a bungling idiot who allowed His revelation to fall into the hands of power mad ecclesiastical politicians who had the last word in defining Christianity. If this monstrosity was true, Christianity would have been completely void of the spiritual power of the Holy Spirit and died on the vine in the fifth century.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 26, 2011 2:43:25 PM PDT
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2011 5:01:57 AM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2011 8:31:03 AM PDT
Both the reviewer (D. J. Blackmon II) and BRT (and clearly the authors of the book under review) get it wrong. It's certainly true that there are features that make any work of literature "peculiar" compared to others, and this is true of all works of early Christian literature; there are, of course, also similarities between various works of literature that come out of particular schools of thought or utilize similar or the same literary sources. For example, the reason that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are similar is because they utilized two major common sources--one of which was the Gospel of Mark! So certainly the Synoptic Gospels are more similar to each other than to any other extant works of early Christian literature. But how much do the similarities between different gospels or, e.g., between the letters attributed to Paul (some of which, though indeed forged, bear similarities to genuine Pauline letters), have to do with whether early Christians considered the writings to be Scripture? The Shepherd of Hermas is unlike any other work of early Christian literature known to us, and many early Christians considered it scriptural. There is also--unquestionably--"something peculiar about" the Apocalypse of John, which was undoubtedly the reason it was not regarded as Scripture by many, including the whole of Christianity in the East, but it eventually comes to be part of the New Testament, while, on the other hand, the Apocalypse of Peter, regarded as Sacred Scripture by Clement of Alexandria and Methodius of Olympus, did not. Origen certainly thought there was "something peculiar about" 2 and 3 John--namely, he thought they were forgeries. The complexity of the process(es) through which the New Testament was formed is perhaps not so evident when one only superficially considers the question in the early twenty-first century--and it is concealed by the remarkable fact that there eventually came to be (more or less) a single, Christian canon of the New Testament (in contrast to the whole Bible, for which there are various Christian canons)--But all one has to do is look at the literture produced in the second and third centuries and the way that early Christian literature is discussed by Christians during this period to see that a simplistic description of the phenomena just won't do.
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