Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book: Know the Heretics

A week ago, we looked Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb. Released at the same time, Know the Heretics is the obvious companion volume to that first work.

Historically speaking, one finds that the creeds were often formulated by the councils in response to the heretics, after all. You can’t study them independently and get the full picture.

Holcomb’s Know the Heretics is focused on the troubles of the initial centuries of Christianity, though he pulls one heretic from the late Middle Ages. In doing so, he is cautiously avoiding labeling any major modern Christian group as heretical. There are, after all, some who would lob that title about over something as trivial as whether or not the church takes an offering. Just check the blog-argument-zone for that behavior.

By focusing on these early heretics, Holcomb aids the reader in seeing how the church responded to the various pressures. The greatest threats were not the outside, but misunderstandings within, and often these were ideas that were *almost* right.

Certainly the most helpful segment of Holcomb’s work here is the chapter defining what heresy is and isn’t. This serves as a valuable corrective to today’s rapid tossing about of the term “heresy” for any old error. I find his view in line with mine expressed here.

There is a typo/editing error on page 24, but the context makes clear what Holcomb intended. The bigger problem with the text is this: ENDNOTES. Please, Zondervan, make it stop. You’ve got a lovely explanatory note for page 96 on page 171. I’m reading to learn, not to have perfectly clean lines. And you’re laying it out on a screen, not a printing press.

All-in-all, I wouldn’t recommend this for stand alone study like I would the co-volume of Know the Creeds and Councils. Rather, I would suggest this as supplemental material as you study church history and the early church. Why? Focusing on the errors, even with providing who the primary defenders of orthodoxy were and the right answers just feels a bit off for a specific study. Instead, this makes a great reference work.

And I look forward to the deluxe hardcover edition of Know the Creeds, Councils, and Heretics that combines all this information. Especially if they let it come forth with footnotes.

Free book from Zondervan, which saved me the purchase of a book I wanted. No requirements were made on the content of the review beyond word count.

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