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Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why It Matters What Christians Believe

ISBN: 9780801047497
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What don't Christians believe? Is Jesus really divine? Is Jesus really human? Can God suffer? Can people be saved by their own efforts?

The early church puzzled over these questions, ruling in some beliefs and ruling out others. Heresies and How to Avoid Them explains the principal ancient heresies and shows why contemporary Christians still need to know about them. These famous detours in Christian believing seemed plausible and attractive to many people in the past, and most can still be found in modern-day guises. By learning what it is that Christians don't believe--and why--believers today can gain a deeper, truer understanding of their faith.

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  • Shows in each of its essays how Christian reading of the Bible is a delicate but beautiful and complex task
  • Seeks to serve as an introduction to the Christian faith that is as informative as it is attractive and intersting
  • Examines some principal, ancient heresies, and explores the relevance for contemporary Christians to be aware of them

Part 1: Heresies of the Person of Christ and How to Avoid Them

  • Arianism: Is Jesus Christ divine and eternal or was he created? - Michael B. Thompson
  • Docetism: Is Jesus Christ really human or did he just appear to be so? - John Sweet
  • Nestorianism: Is Jesus Christ one person or does he have a split identity, with his divine nature separate and divided from his human nature? - A.N. Williams
  • Eutychianism: Is Jesus Christ divine and human or a hybrid, a third thing that is neither fully one nor the other? - Marcus Plested
  • Adoptionism: Is Jesus Christ divine and human or a hybrid, a third thing that is neither fullly one nor the other? - Rachel Muers
  • Theopaschitism: Is Jesus Christ able or unable to suffer in his divine nature? - Michael Ward

Part 2: Heresies of the Church and Christian Living and How to Avoid Them

  • Marcionism: Can Christians dispense with the God of the Old Testament? - Angela Tilby
  • Donatism: Do Christia minsiters need to be faultless for their ministration to be effective? - Ben Quash
  • Pelagianism: Can people be saved by their own effors? - Nicholas Adams
  • Gnosticism: Can people be saved by acquiring secret knowledge? Anders Bergquist
  • The heresy of the Free Spirit: There are two kinds of Christian, those with divine wills and those with human wills - Denys Turner
  • Biblical Trinitarianism: The purpose of being orthodos - Janet Martin Soskice
This is a deeply refreshing book, full of exciting ideas. It manages both to be generous to the heretics and to show the beauty of orthodoxy. It is theologically profound while being immensely readable.

Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans)

This is broadband, big-picture theology, brightly clear and easy to read--not in the least bit 'dogmatic' in the contemporary, negative sense of that word.

The Very Rev Paul Zahl, former rector, All Saints Church, Maryland; former president and dean, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Pennsylvania

This overview of specific heresies includes discussion of key related scriptures, orthodox positions, and contemporary application of these debates. . . . The goal throughout is a balanced approach that resists errors and embraces truths from the right and the left, working against hypocrisy and idolatry and connecting orthodoxy to orthopraxy. This clearly written, accessible overview of heresies and orthodoxy could be useful in courses introducing Christian doctrines and in church lay discussion groups.

Religious Studies Review


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