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Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church Hardcover – March 1, 1998
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About the Author
Harold O.J. Brown, Ph.D. Harvard University, is professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical International University and author of several books.
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For those who would claim, as some do these days, that heresy was orthodoxy, and orthodoxy only the most powerful of the parties who wrote the histories, Brown convincingly shows how what we understand orthodoxy to be today is what has always been believed, from the earliest times, and the earliest sources. It is not however simple to uncover this truth, or simply that what we believe now must be what was first believed- this Brown also makes clear.
Perhaps one of his most interesting insights is how the Roman Church left the path it was on, in reformatting it's doctrine of transubstantiation, making it more exact than it needed to be. In so doing, they removed the personal efficaciousness of soteriology. And though the Eastern Church also believed in a literal transformation, with their less legalistic focus on mystery, they were still able to unite the average believer with her Lord. Unfortunately, this legalistic soteriology dependent on literal transformation of elements, which only priests could perform and thus be fully involved with, created a gap between God and man. This gap needed to be resolved, and lead directly to the Protestant Reformation, in Brown's opinion, as one possible solution. If only the Roman Church had been content to not innovate in doctrine, but allow for differences in understanding on the elements, the Church today might still be more united.
Brown does better on early heresies than later ones. Once he gets to the last few centuries, what he calls the End of the Age of Heresy, his writing style declines, and the story becomes much drier. Without heresy, a book on heresies is simply less interesting. And so it took me a good deal of time to wend through the end, though the first 4/5ths of the book took only a few days.
However,conspicuous by its absence is a treatment of Roman Catholicism. The last sentence of the penultimate chapter states: " It may soon be necessary to say of mainstream Roman Catholic theology that it, like most Protestantism, is neither orthodox(Christian) nor heretical(Christian) but another religion." In other words, despite and aside from Orthodox Christology, it is not the Christian Faith but a syncretistic religion. it's periodic addition of overtly anti-Biblical and anti-Christian dogma beginning in the Fifth Century and continuing to the present renders the Roman Catholic religion wholly hostile to the New Testament Christian Gospel. It is another religion entirely. For example, Ephesians 2:8&9 states:"For by grace are you saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." But the Roman Church, in the Council of Trent, ananthematizes, curses and damns to Hell any one who believes the Biblical doctrine that a person is saved by Grace through Faith without works. The Roman Catholic Church officially repudiates and curses the Gospel of Grace, the very heart and soul of the Christian Faith. It follows, then, the Roman Catholic Church is antithetical to the Christian Faith regardless protestations and its gospel of faith plus works is a counterfeit gospel condemned by all thirteen epistles of St. Paul in the New Testament, from Romans through Philemon. An excellent book on the subject of Rome's actual religion is Petrus Romanus and in particular section three: Doctrines, Dogmas, Supernaturalism and The End Times and Chapter Thirteen: Priestcraft, Sacraments, and Sorcery and Chapter Fourteen: The Occult Queen of Heaven.
Much of the history I was already familiar with, but being able to read it through, seeing the progression of one belief through another, how it impacted history and was impacted by history, was fascinating and enlightening. Never a dull moment here, and it's about a hundred times better than its cover.