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Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth Paperback – 19 Nov 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Society for Promoting Christian (19 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0281062153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281062157
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.7 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 504,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"A penetrating examination by an intellectual powerhouse."--Booklist

From the Back Cover

Our ongoing fascination with alternative pictures of Christianity is on public display every time a never-before seen gospel text is revealed, archaeological discoveries about Jesus make front page news, and a new work of fiction challenges the very foundations of the church. In recent years the distinction between heresy and orthodoxy has come under fire by those eager to reject the formal boundaries of sanctioned beliefs about Jesus. McGrath's provocative thesis is that the categories of heresy and orthodoxy must be preserved by the church today. Tracing back to Jesus the testimony that remain faithful to Jesus's mission and message is still the mandate of the church despite increasingly popular cries that traditional dogma is outdated and restricts individual freedom. Overturning misconceptions throughout the book, McGrath exposes: * How many of the heretical beliefs and practices rejected by the church were actually more stringent and oppressive than rival orthodox claims * That many theological alternatives were rejected when the church had no power to enforce one view over another, long before Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire No heresy has ever been eradicated completely; they go underground and resurface in different forms preserved by subversive movements both inside and outside established church structures. In Heresy McGrath presents the fascinating story of heresy throughout Christian history and sheds light on these shunned beliefs and their consistent appeal today. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
An eminently readable treatise on the complex subject of Heresy in the church. McGrath is always a pleasure to read and his learned stature is the only thing that casts a shadow over this book.
Besides empowering the reader with the latest understanding of historical heresies,this book will help you recognise heresy today or at least proto-heresies.
There are few academic works of this size that I can't put down, but this was one! Simple summaries at every point,and an excellent bibliography.
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In his introduction, McGrath attempts to outline his understanding of why there has been renewed interest not only in the history of heresy, but also the resurrection (or adaption) of earlier heretical ideas. From here, he starts to give an overview of the book, at why it is important to have an understanding of the history of belief and how the notions of orthodoxy and heresy arose.

McGrath then goes on to have a look at some specific heresies; who the main characters were behind them, a history of their origins and the reasons why they became viewed as heresies. These specifically include Arianism, Docetism, Ebionitism, Montanism, Pelagianism & Valentinism.

The picture that McGrath paints of the origins of heresies of that of a group inside the church who are trying to understand the person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. These were not "outsiders" trying to undermine the church, as some may suppose, but they were simply taking their theologies down dead-ends. Then, rather than being driven out of the church, the heretics chose to leave and establish their own breakaway churches.

McGrath also points out the difference of what is a genuine heresy (being a theological disagreement) and what is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a heresy (which was more often than not a challenge to the authority of the church). His main point in example is that of Martin Luther and the origins of the Reformation, declared to be a heretic by the Roman Catholic church, but which was ultimately shown to be a restoration of patristic ideas and that it was particular aspects of Catholicism that were in fact heretical, and continue to be so to this day.

There is also included a slightly odd little chapter on how Christian heresy relates to Islam.
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Format: Paperback
An outstanding introduction to the nature of heresy, especially good on the first five centuries. Deals with the real issue of who decides what is a heresy. In the early church it emerges as the consensus fidelium. Later the Roman Church decides. After the Reformation there is no Protestant body with the necessary authority which is acceptable to all and so it ceases to be so meaningful and falls into disuse.However old heresies can reappear in modern guise. Heartily recommended.

Brian Lewis
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Format: Paperback
This book is academic but approachable. At times you may need to keep concentration levels up, a few things just went over my head(though I think that's just down to my mind being nearly 7 years out of practice in academic reading in UNI rather than the content being difficult)

It's a very concise and thorough review of the concept and history of heresy. The only thing that makes me not give this a 5 star if that i feel it would have been beneficial to delve in the Roman church more, from the reformation onwards. To me, this would have wrapped up the entire concept neatly as it would have confirmed and consolidated his theory that he consistently makes throughout the book that the meaning of heresy has changed over time from a development of ideas that were termed 'heretical' to a word that was used as an excuse to power and control rather than theological grounding.

Other than that however, a fantastic read. Recommend.
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As I would expect from McGrath, this is a well-written, thoroughly researched book, with some bias (he is a Protestant Christian) that is acknowledged from time to time. The negative aspect is that the author has apparently concluded (with some evidence) that heresy became unidentifiable with the end of the unified (Western) church in the 16th Century, since there is no agreed authority to determine what is authentic and what is heterodoxy. I would have liked to see the story continue, with consideration of modern (18th-21st Century) heresies such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Latter-Day Saints and others. These topics have been considered by others, but few with the personal authority and scholarship of McGrath, and it would be good to see him develop the theme.
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