In the 1930's world famous and renowned lexicographer Walter Bauer argued that Christian belief emerged out of myriad theologies that existed within the church during the Patristic era. Out of this context, he argued, Rome emerged as the theology with the most political favor and thus became the 'true' or 'orthodox' theology of the church. However, Bauer provided little evidence to substantiate his claims other than the theory upon which they were built. In fact, Bauer was refuted by many scholars when his theory was first translated into English. The evidence simply does not fit the theory Bauer propounded.
Nevertheless in our current pluralist culture, which assumes that those who have power unjustly establish hegemonies in their favor whenever possible, this theory is still being propagated by scholars like Bart Ehrman. Again, this theory states that Christian orthodoxy arose from within the context of many theologies that later fell prey to the centralized and dominant Roman Church.
In this book The Heresy of Orthodoxy prolific and leading NT scholar Andreas J. Kostenberger along with Michael J. Kruger argue to the contrary showing that Christian orthodoxy was established and adhered to in-at least-the first half of the second century. To do this Kostenberger and Kruger open two fronts, one historical and the other canonical. First, the authors establish historical situation of early Christianity and show, via historical sources, an early orthodoxy that geographically diverse. They also demonstrate the consistency of the biblical witness to this context in relationship to other historical documents. Finally, they also show the logical and historical impossibility of developed heresies prior to the 3rd century-even the largest and most widespread heresy, Gnosticism.
Moving onto Canon, Kostenberger and Kruger explain what modern scholarship, that does not put theories before evidence has routinely shown, namely that the NT books that later constituted the Canon were understood as authoritative revelation by a majority of the church before many of the other books of 'alternative Christianities' were even written.
But Kostenberger and Kruger, even after making their arguments from the evidence, not theory, remain uncomfortable with the scholarship that supports the Bauer-Ehrman thesis. They contend, in polemical fashion, that Bart Ehrman is ignoring evidence that is not only strongly against him, but obvious to any person who does not have a cultural agenda that demands all perspectives are equal no matter how unequal the historical record in fact may be.
The Heresy of Orthodoxy is a much needed correction to the scholarship and popular writings of Bart Ehrman and his unsubstantiated attacks on the integrity of the NT canon, his manipulation of history, and his patent disdain for orthodox belief. It should be read widely by Christians who want the best scholarship, that being scholarship that allows the evidence to dictate the results of the inquiry, and who want to learn where they can go to find the primary sources.