Book Review – The Gospel According to Heretics

The Gospel according to Heretics Book Cover The Gospel according to Heretics
David E. Wilhite
Baker Academic
October 20, 2015
Publisher's Description

Since what Christian doctrine denies can be as important as what it affirms, it is important to understand teachings about Jesus that the early church rejected. Historians now acknowledge that proponents of alternative teachings were not so much malicious malcontents as they were misguided or even misunderstood. Here a recognized expert in early Christian theology teaches orthodox Christology by explaining the false starts (heresies), making the history of theology relevant for today's church. This engaging introduction to the christological heresies is suitable for beginning students. In addition, pastors and laypeople will find it useful for apologetic purposes.


Book Review

The Gospel According to Heretics is a wonderful book that propels the reader into the historical context of the early Christological conflicts of the church. This book, written by David Wilhite rethinks the typical approach to church history in favor of one which makes the conflicts come alive to the reader.  The most significant difference in Wilhite's book is his ability to tell the story of each conflict from a reasonably equitable perspective. Rather than leading the reader to take the church fathers words at face value, he points out that their arguments were often laced with hyperbole and ad hominem. However, he does this in a responsible manner, never once deviating from orthodox teaching.

I really appreciated his approach because it allowed me to be honest with evidence while also maintaining a high regard for the truth of orthodoxy which was discovered in the early centuries of the church. During the course of reading the book, it became evident to me that what really matters in the historical narrative is that the early conflicts forced the church to closely examine scripture in order to form the doctrines in question. In other words, regardless of how the heretics arguments were represented by the church the fact that orthodox doctrine arose from such confusion is a compelling argument for God's providential hand at work in the his church.

If I have any complaints about the book it is simply what I believe to be an over abundance of humor. However, I think this is a peculiarity to me and should not discourage you from purchasing this book. For me, it was simply too distracting. It isn't that Wilhite doesn't have a good sense of humor.. quite the opposite is true. I simply found it difficult to regain my focus after having a good chuckle. I think most readers will appreciate his use of humor however. It adds a much needed touch of flair to a topic which many see as dry.

I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to better understand the Christological heresies. Wilhite's ability to make the events come to life are sure to keep anyone's attention. This book would also be a useful addition to your homeschool curriculum and is written in such a way that most homeschooled students will be able to comprehend and appreciate the importance of the church's battle for orthodoxy.

If you would like to purchase a copy of this book you can find it through Baker Academic or on Amazon by following this link.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Baker Academic in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About The Author

Truett Graduation Class Picture with the Dean - Powell Chapel at Truett Seminary – 05/16/2014 Truett Seminary – David Wilhite – faculty portrait – 05/16/2014

David E. Wilhite (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is associate professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. He is the author of Tertullian the African: An Anthropological Reading of Tertullian’s Context and Identities and coauthor of The Church: A Guide for the Perplexed. He is the coeditor of Tertullian and Paul and The Apostolic Fathers and Paul in the Pauline and Patristic Scholars in Debate series.

4 thoughts on “Book Review – The Gospel According to Heretics

  1. Well it looks like I missed this review. It looks very interesting. I enjoy this time in history when the church was fighting against error and establishing doctrine. What an exciting book!

    • Marie, I think you will enjoy the book. It was fun to read.

  2. Steven

    I missed this too. I just saw it after getting the email for the new one. My children are homeschooled and my oldest three (triplets) are turning seventeen next month. This may be what we have been looking for in a history book. We have been wanting them to get a better grasp on why we believe what we do and that these were not random beliefs but came about through rigorous debate. The problem is most books on church history are very dry as you pointed out. Is there a sample chapter available? I would live to see how the writing style comes across. They would be beginners when it comes to the vocabulary of the church heresies so we are looking for something that would give clear definitions as well explain the basic ideas of what each heresy involved.

    • Hello Steven! Yes, it appears that the notification didn’t go out for this post. No harm done. I agree that your children would probably enjoy this book. The author is a wonderful communicator and doesn’t let anything go undefined. Seventeen is probably a great age to start learnin these things and I can’t think of a better book!

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