Catholic Answers, I think of their call-in radio show, their helpful website, and their informative magazine. However, they also have a very successful publishing arm of their ministry. They don't publish a lot each season, but the books that they do are always top-notch in terms of quality and presentation. I'd even go so far as to say that they are quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers. In addition to their ever-growing Catholic Answers Classics, two of their Fall titles which caught my eye are entitled Handed Down and The Apostasy That Wasn't. Both are about the early Church, and I will be reviewing the latter today.
The introduction to The Apostasy That Wasn't begins with the author, Rod Bennett, telling a story of a small community of Evangelical Christians in North Carolina which was founded by A.J. Tomlinson. This group of Christians, like other groups, believed that they were the only ones who were true Christians, descended from the Apostles, and everyone else was wrong. Their story and history, like other Christian and non-Christian sects, is very skewed. Allow me to explain. There is a theory among Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, etc. called the Great Apostasy. This theory, which is largely anti-Catholic, believes that the Church entered a fallen state due to their integration of Greco-Roman ideas. The emperor Constantine is one of the big lightning rod figures, and he is believed to be the one who pushed the Church of the New Testament into a dark period in history that lasted 1600 years, until a specific group (insert any of the ones I listed earlier) was formed and they are the heirs to the "true Church." Sounds crazy right? This book, The Apostasy That Wasn't, explains exactly why the Great Apostasy is mere fiction.
The book's first chapter talks about what the author refers to as the "Ghetto Church." People like to pretend that the Church was pure and holy from the time of Jesus until about the 300s. However, that is far from the case. Origen even said the Church was whoring itself. There was at least one man who stood up for what was right and what the Church and her leaders should be like, and his name was Anthony of Coma. You probably know him as St. Anthony the Great, and the only reason we know his story today is because it was written by St. Athanasius of Alexandria. Chapter Three in this book introduces us to Eusebius of Nicomedia. Eusebius was a friend and support of Arius; baptized Constantine; and was responsible for convincing Constantine that Arius' false teachings were not in conflict with the Council of Nicaea. The facts in this chapter are accurate, but it does take a little bit of creative license at some points to make history come alive. The major themes we see in this book deal with Constantine, Arius, Athanasius, the state of the Roman Empire, and the state of the Church. There was clearly turmoil in the early centuries of the Church, but the Church has always had the Holy Spirit and saints to light our way and keep us from straying too far.
The Apostasy That Wasn't is billed as a sequel to his first book Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words, but it also stands on its own and can be read without having read the other. This book is part history book and part dramatic prose, which both instructs the reader and keeps him engaged, not wanting to put the book down. This is a book that all Catholics should read to better understand a greatly misunderstood period in Church History. I would go so far as to say that it would be a perfect text at the high school level and should be adopted by all Catholic high schools. In conclusion, I highly recommend this book and plan to visit again as it was truly a fascinating read.
This book was provided to me for free by Catholic Answers Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!