Here’s an abstract of my paper, “Irenaeus: Not a Lucky Winner.” Feel free to post any questions or comments below.
Contemporary writer and lecturer Bart Ehrman has achieved great notoriety over the past decade by espousing his view that the Christian church of the early centuries was a variegated enterprise. Consolidated only by a series of political and ideological victories, the victors of these theological battles bestowed upon themselves the title “orthodox,” while the losers, deemed “heretics,” were erased from the history books. Ehrman’s idea is not original. In fact, the 1934 treatise by Walter Bauer which gave the thesis it’s fullest expression has taken severe criticism which has flowed constantly since the 1950’s. Yet, postmodern skepticism has kept the ground fertile for contemporary writers to continue the promulgation of the theory. Perhaps the greatest recipients of this skepticism have been the early Fathers of the Church. Among these, none is more central than Irenaeus, the second century bishop of Lyons and author of Against Heresies, the anti-Gnostic polemical work. In the face of insinuations that Christianity lacked any unique identity and that Irenaeus’ motives were to enforce his own version of Christianity in order to increase his power base, this paper will demonstrate the contrary. An objective orthodoxy can be established and Irenaeus was a man of both high competence and noble motive.