David Bercot Gets The Infamous
Skull and Crossbones Award

Dan Corner

A Critique of David Bercot's Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up

David Bercot (born in 1950) is an influential teaching source especially in Mennonite and Anabaptist circles, but that is not good! Why? David Bercot's heavy (even vital) emphasis on the ante-Nicene church fathers and de-emphasis on reading the Scriptures directly and alone for doctrine is enough to severely deceive the God fearing and to merit the infamous Skull and Crossbones Award. Sadly, however, there is more. David Bercot's book, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up? (Scroll Publishing, 1989 edition) is what will be examined and quoted here. (All bold emphasis is my own.)

David Bercot's correct mention of the ante-Nicene church fathers not believing in once saved always saved could be the bait (and snare) for many who have come to learn that the Bible does not teach that doctrine. Regardless the draw to his book, it is not one which should be accepted, recommended for others to read or considered as a sound teaching source for various spiritual reasons, as you will soon see.  

SHOCKING! David Bercot Thinks Infants Are Reborn at Infant Baptism

David Bercot's ERROR #1: (He Rejects Sola Scriptura)

David Bercot boldly maintains the Bible will not be understood by reading it alone and sola scripture is a myth (p. 137). David Bercot says that is what has led to 22,000 denominations and groups with different doctrines (p. 139). Hence, to get the proper interpretation, have sound doctrine and unity, we supposedly need to go to the Ante-Nicene church fathers (whom he calls the “early Christians”) and believe like them:

So the real issue isn't a matter of believing the Scriptures, but one of interpreting the Scriptures. (p. 64)


David Bercot chose various examples from their writings of what he thinks sound doctrine is:

To illustrate, these next few chapters discuss five beliefs that were accepted by nearly all the early Christians. (p. 56)

In contrast to what David Bercot wants us to believe, THE TRUTH IS:

ALL Christian teaching (doctrine) is to be from the Scriptures to be valid:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16,17)

It is UNSAVED people (not Christians), who can NOT understand the Scriptures:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. (2 Cor 4:3)

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!” (Mark 4:10-12)

The Holy Spirit teaches Christians what the Scripture says:

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)

Therefore, God's word can be correctly understood with the help of the Holy Spirit teaching and guiding a diligent Christian who wants truth. Furthermore, spiritual insight and understanding come from meditating in and obeying the written word of God:

I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. (Psa 119:99,100)

We do NOT need to go to some source other than the Scriptures (the ante-Nicene fathers or another) to learn truth. Hence, David Bercot's whole book is invalidated immediately! To consider the contents of David Bercot's book for doctrine is to make a very basic and dangerous mistake by trying to get truth from another source, especially when it contradicts the Scriptures, as will be shown!

Here is Why The Apocrypha is NOT Reliable!

David Bercot's ERROR #2: (The Water Gospel)

One of those alleged early Christian sound beliefs referred to by David Bercot was water baptism for salvation.

David Bercot boldly declares water baptism brings forgiveness of sins, the new birth and spiritual illumination (pp. 78,79)! (David Bercot, therefore, teaches like the Mormons, Catholics, Lutherans and others on baptismal regeneration, but there is more.) Shockingly, David Bercot also unwittingly admits that the same people (he thinks are the reliable interpreters of Scripture) had a double contradictory message about salvation itself. Read this carefully:

Likewise, they believed that although baptism was the normal channel of grace and the means of rebirth, God was not necessarily bound by it. For instance, they believed that unbaptized babies who died in infancy could still be saved.... Another example was that of martyrs. Many new believers were martyred before they ever had a chance to be baptized. The early church knew that the God of love would not abandon such persons. The church said that, in a sense, they had been baptized in a baptism of blood. So although early Christians stressed the significance of baptism and its role in the new birth, they didn't portray God as a cold, inflexible Being who could work no other way. (p. 81)


NOTE: David Bercot just mentioned the contradictory messages the ante-Nicene fathers had about “rebirth” and getting “saved.” Imagine that! This alone is enough to prove the sources David Bercot cites are NOT reliable. Furthermore, they did not have unity in doctrine, as he claims elsewhere!

David Bercot also gave no documentation from the ante-Nicene fathers for those contradictory statements for the reader to examine. David Bercot also softly mentions infant baptism by bringing up babies!

The Book of Enoch is NOT Trustworthy!

David Bercot's ERROR #3: (Infant Baptism For Forgiveness Of Sins)

Dear reader, did you know that when David Bercot magnifies water baptism for forgiveness of sins, he is referring to infant baptism for forgiveness of sins! One must conclude, David Bercot himself (if consistent) must believe in INFANT baptism for the forgiveness of sins, rebirth and to receive the Holy Spirit! David Bercot takes his readers one GIANT step towards Roman Catholicism and back under the Pope with that doctrinal endorsement of infant baptism for rebirth. Also, note the following statement!

Several years ago when our adult Sunday School class was studying the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, we discussed their use of the word “grace” to refer to sacraments administered by the priest. I remember thinking to myself, “Catholics sure can get things fouled up!” I realize now that the Catholic use of the term may be more akin to the way the New Testament Christians understood the word. (pp. 78,79)

How is that for leading his trusting readership towards Roman Catholicism (RC)! David Bercot's first sentence is factual, that is, Catholics sure can get things fouled up. (As a former Roman Catholic I know from first hand experience.) RC teaches the sacraments (which include infant baptism) is how grace comes and David Bercot just agreed! That is related to salvation and is supposed to be sound Christian teaching! David Bercot teaches:

In short, baptism in early Christianity was the supernatural rite of initiation by which a new believer passed from being the old man of the flesh to being a newly reborn man of the spirit. (p. 80)

David Bercot Now Contradicts His Own Endorsement!

After dangerously endorsing men (as being sound doctrinally) who taught infant (baby) baptism for forgiveness and salvation, David Bercot also shockingly wrote this!

They specifically taught that God was under no necessity to grant forgiveness of sins simply because a person went through the motions of baptism. A faithless person was not reborn through water baptism. (p. 80)

NOTE: David Bercot wants it both ways. Logically, David Bercot can NOT agree with both the Catholic church and its baby baptismal regeneration and at the same time reject a faithless person can be reborn! Why? Because INFANTS are faithless!

COMMENT: There is absolutely NO evidence from the Bible that babies were ever baptized for any reason, much less for salvation. Infant (or adult) baptismal regeneration is heresy! (David Bercot, based on your book title, will you please stand up!) On baptism alone, David Bercot's book is dangerous and must be rejected, since it is spreading a false plan of salvation. There is no need to go any further!

How could David Bercot ever get this far from God's truth? Perhaps David Bercot, now an Anglican, never got completely free from his past indoctrination as a Jehovah's Witness and their belief that the Bible can NOT be understood by reading it directly! Regardless, David Bercot is misleading his trusting followers.

Critique Of The Book of Enoch

David Bercot's ERROR #4: (No False Theology In The Early Churches)

A foundational book premise of David Bercot is a denial that false doctrines had crept into the Christian congregation until the fourth century:

There was nothing wrong with early Christianity. It didn't need “fixing.” But the fourth century Christians became convinced that they could improve Christianity. (p. 158)

The writings of Lactantius are important because they were written at the very end of the pre-Constantine period of the church. They demonstrate that most Christian beliefs had changed very little during the 233 years from the end of the Apostle John's life to the beginning of Constantine's reign. (p. 14)

Although this book primarily focuses on the Christians who lived between 90 and 199, the common beliefs and practices of these early Christians were generally maintained by Christians living in the next century. For that reason, the discussion that follows will also include quotations from writers who lived between 200 and 313, as long as their teachings agree with those who lived in the period immediately after the apostles. (p. 6)

In fact, even three hundred years after the death of Jesus, orthodox Christians were still one united body. (p. 116)

David Bercot's primary quotes come from: Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian and Lactantius. (**Remember, by the term early Christianity he is referring to people after the New Testament to the fourth century, as represented by the men he exalts in his book.)

David Bercot could never agree that serious false doctrines crept into the Christian congregations even when the original apostles were still alive and the New Testament was being written! If it did, then immediately the sources he quotes from, which were after the original apostles to the fourth century, are subject to even greater error. In keeping with his book's theme, David Bercot again wrongly informs his readers about the Bible:

In Revelation, what did Jesus have to say to those seven representative churches? Did he reprimand them for teaching false doctrines? Did he rebuke them for believing that works play a role in salvation? No, just the opposite. He exhorted them to increase their works. He told the church in Sardis that their works were not complete. But He said nothing to any of them about their doctrinal beliefs. (p. 117)

There is nothing in Jesus' messages to indicate that any of the seven churches were teaching false theology. (p. 117)

NOTE: The following false doctrines were mentioned by the Lord Jesus as being in the different Christian congregations in Revelation, the opposite of what David Bercot wants us to think and his book premise is built upon:

(The church at Pergamum)

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. (Rev 2:14)

Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (Rev 2:15,16)

(The church at Thyatira)

Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. (Rev 2:20)

Dangerous False Doctrine Did Enter The Churches Early

COMMENT: David Bercot is clearly wrong. Not only were there false doctrines in those churches mentioned in Revelation, false doctrines actually entered the Christian groups earlier!

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” (2 Cor 11:3-5) ... And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Cor 11:12-15)

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer (1 Tim 1:3)

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 3,4)

Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question (Acts 15:1,2).

Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. (2 Tim 2:17,18)

False teaching spreads like GANGRENE, a potentially fatal problem. We are now living 2,000 years later after the leaven had plenty of time to work through the whole batch of dough.

David Bercot has misrepresented those important relevant facts in his book. False doctrine was actually in congregations while the apostles were still alive, though David Bercot must deny this. On this point also David Bercot's book premise is destroyed and flatly refuted. The real truth is, unlike David Bercot's teaching, the ante-Nicene fathers were NOT always sound, even though he presents them as such:

Nevertheless, there still were some essential doctrines and common practices that all orthodox Christians held to. This book will focus on these common or universally-held beliefs and practices. (p. 7)

The early church was a disciplined church. Yet unlike some later religious groups, the early Christians generally didn't try to legislate righteousness through a plethora of rules and regulations. Instead, they relied on sound teaching, righteous example, and voluntary commitment. (p. 42)

Actual Quotes by the Same Men David Bercot Exalts

Here are some actual quotes from the same people David Bercot exalts showing they embraced the false plan of salvation of infant baptismal regeneration:

Irenaeus (infant baptism)

He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age ... [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age. (Against Heresies 2:22:4).

Origen (infant baptism)

In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3).

I take this occasion to discuss something which our brothers often inquire about. Infants are baptized for the remission of sins. Of what kinds? Or when did they sin? But since “No one is exempt from stain,” one removes the stain by the mystery of baptism. For this reason infants are baptized. For “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Homily on Luke 14:5).

Cyprian of Carthage (infant baptism)

As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born (Letters 64:2).

Divorce Misrepresented?

David Bercot has presented a sanitized version of the ante-Nicene fathers, which his followers have made the serious mistake of accepting as sound. Regarding divorce he wrote:

... they didn't permit divorce except for adultery. (p. 26)

What David Bercot didn't mention, but is critical, was they did NOT allow for remarriage even when the spouse was guilty of adultery! David Bercot quoted Hermas, according to his footnote. Read for yourself what Hermas wrote:

“I charge you,” said he, “to guard your chastity, and let no thought enter your heart of another man's wife, or of fornication, or of similar iniquities; for by doing this you commit a great sin. But if you always remember your own wife, you will never sin. For if this thought enter your heart, then you will sin; and if, in like manner, you think other wicked thoughts, you commit sin. For this thought is great sin in a servant of God. But if any one commit this wicked deed, he works death for himself. Attend, therefore, and refrain from this thought; for where purity dwells, there iniquity ought not to enter the heart of a righteous man.” I said to him, “Sir, permit me to ask you a few questions.” “Say on,” said he. And I said to him, “Sir, if any one has a wife who trusts in the Lord, and if he detect her in adultery, does the man sin if he continue to live with her?” And he said to me, “As long as he remains ignorant of her sin, the husband commits no transgression in living with her. But if the husband know that his wife has gone astray, and if the woman does not repent, but persists in her fornication, and yet the husband continues to live with her, he also is guilty of her crime, and a sharer in her adultery.” And I said to him, “What then, sir, is the husband to do, if his wife continue in her vicious practices?” And he said, “The husband should put her away, and remain by himself. But if he put his wife away and marry another, he also commits adultery.” (Hermas The Shepherd book 2, Comm. 4, chap. 1).

Hermas was not alone! Justin Martyr, who David Bercot also exalts, believed that to marry a divorced person equals adultery:

Concerning chastity, He uttered such sentiments as these: “Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart before God.” And, “If thy right eye offend thee, cut it out; for it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of heaven with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into everlasting fire.” And, “Whosoever shall many her that is divorced from another husband, committeth adultery.” And, “There are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake; but all cannot receive this saying.” So that all who, by human law, are twice married, are in the eye of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman to lust after her. For not only he who in act commits adultery is rejected by Him, but also he who desires to commit adultery: since not only our works, but also our thoughts, are open before God. And many, both men and women, who have been Christ's disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years; and I boast that I could produce such from every race of men. (Justin Martyr, Apology XV)

Was Lactantius Like The Apostle John?

David Bercot wrote:

The writings of Lactantius are important because they were written at the very end of the pre-Constantine period of the church. They demonstrate that most Christian beliefs had changed very little during the 233 years from the end of the Apostle John's life to the beginning of Constantine's reign. (p. 14)

How close to the Apostle John's doctrine was Lactantius? Should we believe they both taught the same? Here is what Lactantius taught:

In God's sight, no one is a slave; no one is a master. Since we all have the same Father, we are all equally His children. (p. 35)

Here is the same quote David Bercot refers to, but with a greater context. It shows that Lactantius was a heretic, teaching the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man:

For God, who produces and gives breath to men, willed that all should be equal, that is, equally matched. He has imposed on all the same condition of living; He has produced all to wisdom; He has promised immortality to all; no one is cut off from His heavenly benefits. For as He distributes to all alike His one light, sends forth His fountains to all, supplies food, and gives the most pleasant rest of sleep; so He bestows on all equity and virtue. In His sight no one is a slave, no one a master; for if all have the same Father, by an equal right we are all children. (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, bk. 5, chapter 15)

To believe like Lactantius is to deny the Biblical truth that some people are children of the devil. Here is God's truth. (The first reference is from the Apostle John himself):

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)

Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:9,10)

Again, the ante-Nicene church fathers are shown to NOT be sound when compared to the Scriptures. They did NOT always teach and believe like the Lord's apostles. David Bercot has misled his trusting readership. Most are probably not even reading their writings for themselves, but only relying upon what David Bercot claims they said!

David Bercot's ERROR #5: "Traditions" Are Authoritative - Cloth Head Coverings

Not only does David Bercot also exalt tradition (as Roman Catholicism does), he changed what the Bible says from long hair to a cloth head covering regarding the Scripture: If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice nor do the churches of God:

Paul told the Corinthians, “Now, I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2 NAS). Paul goes on, however, to rebuke some of the Corinthian women who were not wearing prayer coverings. Yet, there had been no prior written command from the apostles for a Christian woman to cover her head while praying or prophesying. But there was definitely an apostolic custom or tradition, as Paul testifies: “If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice nor do the churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16). (p. 105)

NOTE how the Bible declares a very different message. Here is God's truth to cling to:

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God. (1 Cor 11:14-16)

Dear Bible believer, which contrasting message will you believe? They are definitely different!

David Bercot's Men - Praying for the Dead and Purgatory!


It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the Day of Judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord (Letters 51[55]:20).

Tertullian (PURGATORY)

The faithful widow prays for the soul of her husband, and begs for him in the interim repose, and participation in the first resurrection, and offers prayers on the anniversary of his death (Monogamy 10).


If a man departs this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter. For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (I Cor., 3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones? Neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works. (Patres Groeci. XIII, col. 445, 448).

NOTE: Origen (182-254) is shown to be a HERETIC in other areas too, even more so than some of the others! For example, Origen believed in Universalismthe false belief that all will be saved in the end.

The Church Fathers REFUTED

True Salvation and How To Find It

There are only two gates and two groups of people. Most will go to the lake of fire in the end. (Mt. 7:13,14 cf. Rev. 21:8; etc.). People must go to the Scriptures (Bible) for sound doctrine (and truth) or be deceived. The Scriptures point us to Jesus—our life, our hope and the only way to the Father. One gets initially forgiven and reborn at the point of repentance and a submissive faith in Jesus, not through water baptism. The faith in Jesus which saves is a faith which has good works and OBEDIENCE with it. To depart from Scripture is to depart from light and truth and to take a giant step towards spiritual darkness, death and Roman Catholicism. The earliest NT Christians are shown to be reading Scriptures directly and for their doctrines (Col. 4:16; 2 Cor. 1:13; etc.). The Holy Spirit will help and teach us as we seek God's written truth (the Bible) and compare scripture with scripture. That is God's way to find his eternal truth, not with some later writings filled with false doctrines and contradictions written by men who have been labeled in an exalted religious way. [Pass this important info about David Bercot on to your friends and family. Don't allow David Bercot's popular book, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up to influence you in any way!]

Skull And Crossbones Awards For False Prophets And False Teachers

Sinful Nature Or Flesh Or Either

The Humanity Of Christ

Is Mary The Mother Of God?

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