HERESIES: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present by Harold O. J. Brown

HERESIES: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present

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A long scholarly survey of theological trouble-making, competent if uninspired. Brown teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Ill.), and he espouses a forthright conservatism. ""The history of orthodoxy is the history of the truth""--which means that heretics are villains, because the false doctrine they spread can lead to eternal perdition. And so the defenders of the faith, from Irenaeus to J. G. Machen (and Brown himself), have had to do battle against a never-ending onslaught by Gnostics, Adoptionists, Arians, Monophysites, Monothelites, Pelagians, Bogomils, Socinians, Arminians, etc. To his credit, Brown treats these ideological deviants fairly, and for students of his own persuasion this solidly documented account should be quite useful, supplying the equivalent of two or three demanding college courses. But other readers will object to certain peculiarities of Brown's presentation. For one thing, he fails at the (admittedly difficult) task of tracing a close connection between the New Testament and some of the subtle dogmatic structures (notably in Trinitarian theology) later built on it. He makes the Council of Chalcedon (451)--which proclaimed that Jesus combined two natures, divine and human, in a single person--the supreme bench mark of Christian intellectual history; but he doesn't show why the very Greek distinctions it drew should have such absolute, life-and-death importance. By contrast, Brown devotes relatively little time to modem heterodoxy, viewing thinkers like Schleiermacher and Bultmann as unbelievers rather than true heretics (black sheep, but still in the family). In fact, with theological liberalism so widely triumphant, Brown wonders how much longer mainstream Protestant denominations and even major branches of Roman Catholicism will deserve the name of Christian. A dry but informative manual for anyone old-fashioned enough not to blush or smile ironically at the notion of heresy vs. the eternal verities.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday