A Brief History of Heresy / Edition 1

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This short and accessible book introduces readers to the problems of heresy, schism and dissidence over the last two millennia. The heresies under discussion range from Gnosticism, influential in the early Christian period, right through to modern sects.

The idea of a heretic conjures up many images, from the martyrs prepared to die for their beliefs, through to sects with bizarre practices. This book provides a remarkable insight into the fraught history of heresy, showing how the Church came to insist on orthodoxy when threatened by alternative ideals, exploring the social and political conditions under which heretics were created, and how those involved were 'tested' and punished, often by imprisonment and burning. Engaging written, A Brief History of Heresy is enlivened throughout with fascinating examples of individuals and movements.

  • A short, accessible history of heresy.
  • Spans the last two millennia, from the Gnostics through to modern sects.
  • Considers heresy in relation to ecclesial separatism, doctrinal disagreement, church order, and basic metaphysics.
  • Enlivened with intriguing examples of individuals and movements.
  • Written by a leading academic in the field of Religious History.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A clear and elegant book." The Guardian

"What Gill Evans's lively and accessible study shows is that if the Church today is to proceed towards a unity truly based upon Christ, we need to distinguish between desirably dissident ‘whistle-blowers’ where the official Church has gotten out of step with its founder, and those voices of dissidence which, on examination, prove clearly contrary to the teaching of Christ. This is accordingly a timely as well as entertaining book, a distillation of wide learning designed for the intelligent common reader." David Lyle Jeffrey, Baylor University

"It is an excellent survey of heresy throughout the church's history. Those who read for information and insight will be abundantly rewarded." Ashland Theological Journal

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Product Details

Meet the Author

G. R. Evans is Lecturer in History at the University of Cambridge. Her previous publications include Law and Theology in the Middle Ages (2002), The Church and the Churches (1994), Philosophy and Theology in the Middle Ages (1993), and Problems of Authority in the Reformation Debates (1992). She is also the editor of The Medieval Theologians (Blackwell Publishing, 2000). She was for ten years a prominent member of the Church and Order Advisory Group of the Church of England, and is a former diarist for The Church Times.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 The Importance of Being United 1
Forming Consensus 5
The Papacy 10
The Bible in the Hands of Heretics 13
Areas Where Disagreement May be Allowed 20
2 The Boundaries of Orthodoxy: Faith 23
The Apostles' Creed 24
The Nicene Creed 29
Catechesis 34
Misdirected Worship and Taking the Name of God in Vain 38
Does the Faith 'Develop' Through History? 41
The Content of the Creeds and the Question of Orthodoxy 45
3 The Boundaries of Orthodoxy: Order 47
'Disorder' at the Wild Fringes 47
Orderliness 53
Ministry and Order 55
The Rigorist Dispute 57
Schismatics 59
Diaspora 61
Orthopraxis 62
4 Classifying Heresies 65
What Could be Imported from Ancient Philosophy? 66
Incarnation and Christology 67
The Augustinian Trio 70
The Easter Controversy 71
The Doctrine of Transubstantiation 72
1054 and the Schism of East and West 73
From Sect to 'Confessional Identity' 76
The Power of a Name 80
Categories of Unbelief 83
Pinning Accusations to Suspected Heretics 86
The Creation of a Critical Literature 88
5 Heresy and Social Challenge 90
Popular Heresy: The Anti-establishment Dissidents Speak up for Themselves 93
The Road to Dissent 98
The Waldensians 99
John Wyclif and the Lollard Movement 106
Jan Hus 110
The Hussite 'Movement' 117
Social Consequences After the Middle Ages 119
6 Good and Evil 123
The Medieval Dualists 126
7 Dealing with Heresy 134
University Sermons 136
The Preaching of the Heretics Themselves 138
Crusade 141
Inquisition 142
The Change in the Balance of Power 149
Living with Difference 151
Conclusion 157
Notes 166
Further reading 180
Index 186
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