The Enemy Within

In the fifth episode of Faith of our Fathers, Jonathan Brack and Charles Williams provide an introductory overview to early church heresies, pointing both to the appeals they make, and the cruelties they pose.

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Faith of our Fathers is a program designed to furnish the layperson with a working knowledge of key events in church history, to explore issues in church history from a Reformed perspective, and to consider the practical relevance of studying themes in church history without being merely pragmatic. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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7 years ago

While I’m all about dissecting the problems with Christological heresies (Doceticism, Apollonarianism, Arianism etc etc.) and straight-up bad anthropology (Pelagianism), what about all the heresies that float around that do not have such flashy titles?

What about the Victorian Christ that is mild and bloodless, wanting us all to just get along? Or the Macho-man Christ who really wants to drive monster-trucks, drink beer, and harass people? Or the practical denial of Christ’s lordship and the importance of obedience? Or even the denial of the Prophetic aspect of Christ as a Teacher and Wisdom incarnate (promoted by Justin Martyr and others, perhaps to a fault)? None of these have great Greco-Latin adjectives to go with them, but they’re just as damaging. Will you spend some time on these modern (and not so modern) heresies?

You made a good point about how Scripture is unanimous that orthodoxy and orthopraxy go hand in hand. I totally agree. The life of a disciple is about knowing Christ and following him.

Charles Williams

7 years ago

Hey Cal, thanks for your question.

The Victorian- and Macho-Christs (as you called them) are indeed problematic.

Two things to note:
1. We are currently covering ancient church history, and so focusing exclusively on Victorian images of Christ falls outside the immediate purview of the program. When we get to doing programs on the Modern Church (still another 3-4 years out – we’ve got a lot to cover before then!), these will be topics well worth considering.

2. That being said, I’m hard-pressed to find any modern heretical trends that can’t be explained through the lens of the twelve heresies we’ll discuss in our ancient church programs. In other words, we’re trying to build the case that in learning the twelve fancy-pants’ named heresies of the first six centuries, these will function as a paradigmatic grid for dealing with contemporary false views of Jesus as you have pointed out.

It seems to me that popular evangelicalism (or as I call it: NASCAR Christianity) suffers (pun! –>) from a bad case of Docetism and Modalism, both of which add fuel to the fire of the Christological problems you noted.

Think of it like this. Early church heresies are like season one of CSI: absolutely abysmal. But modern church heresies are like season seven of CSI: they are terrible carbon-copies of an already nauseating formula.

Thanks for listening, Cal. Stick with us. Like I said, our goal is to use our discussion of early church heresies as a grid for understanding modern permutations.



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