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Heresies and How to Avoid Them

Why It Matters What Christians Believe

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"This clearly written, accessible overview of heresies and orthodoxy could be useful in courses introducing Christian doctrines and in church lay discussion groups."--Religious Studies Review

What don't Christians believe? Is Jesus really divine? Is Jesus really human? Can God suffer? Can people be saved by their own efforts?

The early church puzzled over these questions, ruling in some beliefs and ruling out others. Heresies and How to Avoid Them explains the principal ancient heresies and shows why contemporary Christians still need to know about them. These famous detours in Christian believing seemed plausible and attractive to many people in the past, and most can still be found in modern-day guises. By learning what it is that Christians don't believe--and why--believers today can gain a deeper, truer understanding of their faith.


"This is a deeply refreshing book, full of exciting ideas. It manages both to be generous to the heretics and to show the beauty of orthodoxy. It is theologically profound while being immensely readable."

Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans)

"This is broadband, big-picture theology, brightly clear and easy to read--not in the least bit 'dogmatic' in the contemporary, negative sense of that word."

The Very Rev Paul Zahl, former rector, All Saints Church, Maryland; former president and dean, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Pennsylvania

The Authors

  1. Ben Quash

    Ben Quash

    The Rev Dr Ben Quash is professor of Christianity and the arts at King's College, London, and is the author of Theology and the Drama of History.

    Continue reading about Ben Quash

  2. Michael Ward

    Michael Ward

    The Rev Dr Michael Ward senior research fellow at Blackfriar's Hall, University of Oxford, and is the author of Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis.

    Continue reading about Michael Ward


"Each essay is well written and provides evidence of solid research, and should prove useful within an ecclesiastical or catechetical setting."--Catholic Historical Review

"This overview of specific heresies includes discussion of key related scriptures, orthodox positions, and contemporary application of these debates. . . . The goal throughout is a balanced approach that resists errors and embraces truths from the right and the left, working against hypocrisy and idolatry and connecting orthodoxy to orthopraxy. This clearly written, accessible overview of heresies and orthodoxy could be useful in courses introducing Christian doctrines and in church lay discussion groups."--Religious Studies Review

"The book uses a clever way to remind the church of the importance of truth and the value of sound doctrine. It illustrates how well meaning people can take an element of truth to extreme. It also shows that while a message may sound good, it can be deeply flawed. Even more, and perhaps surprisingly, it challenges those committed to orthodoxy to listen to and have dialogue with those who might be in error. In the end, it rightly suggests, the thing that matters most is for orthodoxy to involve 'the whole person living out the truth of the gospel daily in thought, feeling, spirituality, and action.'"--Pneuma Review

"[This] volume will serve well as a textbook for college or seminary courses in church history (especially those covering the patristic era), Christology, theological foundations, and biblical interpretation. . . . Complex theological debates are presented in an understandable manner. . . . Each chapter is well structured. . . . This volume vividly illustrates the notion that responding to theological errors has served the church by prompting orthodoxy as the church has clarified its doctrine."--Adam Harwood, Southwestern Journal of Theology

"The contributors, including two Roman Catholics, an Eastern Orthodox, a Quaker, and eight Anglicans, keep the tone simple and practical, reflecting the preached origin of their contributions, which are intended to prevent modern Christians from stumbling into ancient heresies by showing how the Church dealt with these problems in the past. . . . The contributors offer clear explanations of the major heresies and show how they fit with one another and into the development of mainstream faith. . . . The book would be a light but handy introduction to the notions of orthodoxy, heresy, and the latter's role in the formation of Christian doctrine."--J. Kevin Coyle, Theoforum