Documents Of The Christian Church, selected and edited by Henry Bettenson
It is clear from reading this book that Bettenson considers the Anglicans and Catholics of the utmost importance, and that he is a big supporter of the ecumenical movement as well as being extremely biased against Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Unfortunately, there was very little in this 330-odd page book that I found remotely Christian. It is a reasonably broad selection of statements by Hellenistic Christians of various stripes, with a heavy slant towards Catholic and Anglican sources. Those who are believers in Primitive Christianity will have only a small handful of early church history documents and a very brief selection from the Remonstrants at the Synod of Dort that are congenial to a biblical view of Christianity.
While the rest of the book is more demonstrative of fallen Hellenistic Christianity (often highly tinged with paganism as well as fallacious Greek reasoning), that does not make it useless to read, only useless as a model of genuine biblical faith. So much of the book consists of statements like “He who denies this dubious and Hellenistic exaggeration of biblical truth shall be anathema,” to paraphrase literally hundreds of statements found within. One gets the (not entirely inaccurate) idea from this book that what so-called Christian leaders have done throughout the centuries is divide over doubtful speculative points of human reasoning and anathemize others over them. The book is meticulous in showing that key doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, including the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, were not actually decided upon until very recently, in 1854. The doctrine of papal infallibility did not come about until 1870. We see here that the Roman Catholic Church claims ancient traditions but engages in subtle innovations to increase its own power and remain relevant with whatever branch of heathen philosophy is in currency–just as it did with Neoplatonism in the third and fourth centuries AD, so it does with theistic evolution now (not covered in this volume, sadly). The pattern never changes, only the garbled Latin.
What is particularly striking, given that the editor of this work is an Anglican, is just how close Anglicans are to being Roman Catholics. Anglicans consider themselves as Catholics, and have numerous times sought an olive branch by which they could preserve their own patriotism while remaining within the Catholic fold along with other faiths (like the various branches of Orthodox Christianity, which really get neglected here). The book cares nothing about “Primitive” or Sabbatarian Christians like myself, only giving a small amount of space to those like the Wycliffites and Waldenses with whom we would find some sympathy, or to the Celtic Church that was largely responsible for converting the British Isles to Christianity. All of this is ignored in the book’s relentless focus on the Roman Catholic Church and its arrogant claims, its constant quarrels over money and investiture with kings, its church councils and worthless papal bulls, as well as the various Gnostic Christian offshoots, especially the Anglicans.
So, while there are isolated parts of this book that are enjoyable to read, the book has some value in demonstrating the wide gulf between the faith of the apostles and the early Church and the “traditional” faith of Roman Catholics and Anglicans. The wide gulf between their insistence that any ecumenical movement must include an admission of the validity of the Nicene Creeds and the early Hellenistic Church councils from Nicene I to Chalcedon (at the very least), along with Trinitarian beliefs, suggests that there is no peace possible between the Hellenistic Church of Satan and the genuine Church of God. The fact that genuine Bible believers or their writings are to be found in these collections suggests that the editor scarcely knows where to look to find genuine biblical thought in any fashion. This book has the chief value of knowing one’s enemy, and knowing the pattern of operation, especially the authoritarian top-down ramming of extreme positions that force an idolatrous regard for the Pope and his claims is of help in deciding firmly to resist knowing what one is resisting against from their own mouths and pens. This is of some value, even if it is largely a negative virtue. The fact that the book closes with some practical comments on how different “Catholic” branches of Hellenistic Christianity are already uniting together gives a clear warning to the rest of us to have no part in such heathen well-wishing.