Last week I began a new blog series (see first post here) addressing the theme of unity and diversity in early Christianity, particularly as it pertains to the well-known work of Walter Bauer.
Essentially, Bauer argued there was no such thing “heresy” or “orthodoxy” during this time period. These ideas, he argues, are simply artificial constructs of the later theological victors.
This series is exploring Bauer’s thesis through a number of video conversations between myself and Andreas Köstenberger. These videos reflect on our book that critiques Bauer: The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity (Crossway, 2010).
In this installment, we simply observe one of the most significant weaknesses in Bauer’s argument–a weakness that many scholars have observed over the years–namely that Bauer never really deals with the first century. Most of his attention is on the second century and later.
But if we consider Christianity in the first century we see a different picture emerge than the one Bauer promotes. The New Testament books, our earliest Christian writings, show that early Christians are already having to draw hard lines between heresy and orthodoxy. That wasn’t something that had to wait till later centuries.
Moreover, many of the “heretical” groups rejected by our NT writings look similar to the heretical groups rejected in the second century and beyond. In other words, there is a continuity between the first and second century in terms of the core commitments of early Christians.
Here’s the video that highlights these issues: