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A blinkered understanding
on 1 November 2007
Bercot is right in saying that modern evangelicalism is a million miles from the faith of the early Christians, but his own understanding of the faith and practice of the early church is very biased and selective. He still seems to want to believe that the earliest church was non-structural and non-dogmatic, whereas Andrew Louth is more correct in stating that by and large the early Christian writers would have "had little patience for the modern demand for religion without dogma".
Bercot claims (in the notes) that "The church of the third centure was more tightly structured than that of the second. Also, the role of the bishop had grown in importance". Yet as early as 110ad Ignatius was telling the cogregations to "do NOTHING without the bishop" and "submit yourselves to the bishop as to Christ...this is necessary if justification is to be yours in full measure". So clearly Bercot's claim is at least exhaggerated, if not downright erroneous. (No wonder he only quotes Ignatius twice in the entire book, despite Ignatius having a relatively large surviving corpus of letters, as they are replete with emphases on the importance of the role of the bishop).
If anybody wants to get a real understanding of what the pre-nicene church practiced and believed, better to hear it from the horses mouth. Grab a copy of the far more informative "The Faith of the Early Fathers - Volume 1" by William Jurgens, where the interpretational prose is limited to the end-notes.