Burnham & Dickens, “Medieval Heresy”

In May, I.B. Tauris Publishers will release Medieval Heresy: The Church’s Struggle for Orthodoxy and Survival by Louisa Burnham (Middlebury College) and Andrea Janelle Dickens (United Theological Seminary). The publisher’s description follows:

Medieval HereticsInquisitors in the Middle Ages believed they could easily tell the difference between orthodox believers and heretics. They wrote manuals that described the beliefs and practices of heretical groups, devising questions designed to ferret out the fifth columnists hiding dangerously and threateningly in their midst. Heretics were the enemy within, the rotten apples in the religious barrel. It was essential to sort the sheep from the goats, in order to sustain the social and ecclesiastical order. But were heretics and faithful Christians really so very unlike? Louisa Burnham argues that historians have been too anxious to make simplistic distinctions between heresy and canonical orthodoxy. She contends that heretics were part of a complex movement that was as deeply spiritual as that of their enemies.Far from existing at the margins of popular religious life, heresy was central to the medieval Church’s attempt to define itself.Examining in turn some of the key heretical movements of the period (such as the Cathars, Waldensians, Beguins, Lollards, Wycliffites and Hussites), this bold and original textbook shows students and teachers of medieval history that there was a fine line between heresy and orthodoxy: and that, apart from circumstance, the distinction made between sinner and saint might often have been very different.

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