This is a fascinating lecture if you’re me. (And if you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you are.) In 1996, I read David W. Bercot‘s Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up? and its followup Common Sense. These works were my first introduction to the potential relevance for Christians of early post-biblical Christian history. It was Bercot’s work that put me on the path that would lead me to place membership with the Roman Catholic Church less than two years later [as well as to be an insufferable teenage know-it-all who thought he had mastered theology and Church history at 17 after six months of study], and it kindled my still burning interest in deconstructing partisan standard models of Christian history and critically reconstructing them in as evidence-based a manner as possible. I’d be hard-pressed to name a non-biblical and non-comic book author who has had a greater impact on me than Bercot.
That said, beyond these two books, I completely lost track of his work for the past twenty years. In fact, this 2014 lecture, which I watched today for the first time, is actually the first time I’ve been able to put a face to the name. While he has taken his passion for early Christianity in different directions than I have, and seems to rather uncritically give credence to traditional legend-based models of the subapostolic age and to envision far too uniform* a Church in the early centuries, he remains full of insights for the contemporary Church.
*In fairness to Mr. Bercot, however over-uniform his model of early Christianity strikes me, in his own life he does embody the kind of diversity I see present in earliest Christianity as an Anglican priest who identifies as Anabaptist and also fellowships with churches of Christ.
(At the beginning of his lecture, he shares his own story, beginning with his roots in Jehovah’s Witnesses and his eventual departure from that fellowship. Please note that I share this lecture without any anti-Witness polemical intent. His story is what it is.)