emember how Satan slithered into the Garden of Eden and asked Eve, “Did God really say that? Isn’t there another way to interpret what might have been going on?” Okay, so that’s a slight embellishment, but you get what I’m saying. Well, for the record, that’s exactly how heresy works. Heresy is generally never a full frontal attack on our understanding. It commonly acknowledges the bits and pieces of what we know and/or believe are accurate, but suggests that somewhere along the way took on some syncretistic practices. Heresy is oftentimes so subtle that people are unaware they are caught up in it. Sometimes, heresy even appears orthodox. This has been the contention of such titles as Pagan Christianity and Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus and Jesus, Interrupted. These authors, enamored with the idea of diversity, have taken early Christianity and stood it on its head. It is into this historical milieu that Andreas Köstenberger and Michael J. Kruger via their new title, The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity.
Yes, ladies and gentleman. The subtitle says it all. Köstenberger and Kruger are deeply concerned that Walter Bauer’s denial of clear orthodoxy—what Andrew Greer would call “top tier”—has worked to define modern New Testament criticism. This has served to undermine the authority and efficacy of Scripture in the eyes of many scholars and laypersons. Further still, this low view of Scripture has trickled out of the halls of academia and down into the mainstream media and, subsequently, the average American household.
Here’s the basic premise. Writers like Bart Erhman have revived Walter Bauer’s 1934 thesis that “diversity of doctrine in the early church led to many competing orthodoxies.” Köstenberger and Kruger challenge this notion, arguing that this thesis is nothing more than postmodern relativism attempting to make orthodoxy fit into a particular mold. Thankfully, the weight of history is squarely on the side of the authors as they deftly provide an “analysis of the evidence of unity in the New Testament, the formation and closing of the canon, and the methodology and integrity of the recording and distribution of religious texts within the early church.”
The Heresy of Orthodoxy is not light reading. I’d suggest it for pastors and seminary students. The difficulty is that everyone should be reading this book. None of us are immune to the affect of higher radical criticism. Many of us are being affected without our knowledge or consent. Like the ancient apologists, Köstenberger and Kruger provide a reasoned and detailed defense of classic Christian history and provide evidence that the orthodoxies we have come to are not the result of some syncretistic practice or backroom dealing ala Dan Brown. I would highly suggest this book to any reader, but expect to chew on some difficult concepts.
–C. E’Jon Moore
Review title provided courtesy of Crossway Books