Author and speaker David Bercot shares his personal faith journey and early church history research that led to his conversion to Anabaptist Christianity.
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How many of you have read any books from Scroll Publishing? Okay. Well, it looks like the majority of you. And you’ve maybe seen our book table in the back and you’ve wondered, “You know, who is Scroll Publishing. What are they about? How did they get started?”
And the brothers who put on this Kingdom Fellowship Weekend invited me to share fifteen minutes just to tell you a little bit about our ourselves, the history of it.
The roots of Scroll Publishing started back in 1985 when I was in a spiritual crisis. I was in an evangelical Bible church, it had many, many good facets about it, but did not believe in non-resistance, did not believe in the two kingdoms, doctrines that I’ve actually grown up with, and were very, very strong and teaching eternal security, unconditional eternal security. When you’re saved, you can’t lose that. Well, that isn’t what I seemed to see in the Bible when I read the Bible. And you know, I talked to the pastor about it, he said, “Well, David, that’s your Jehovah’s Witness background. It’s affecting you, and you’re not being able to see the Bible clearly.” And that wasn’t, you know, a bad answer. I gave a lot of thought to that. Well, you know, maybe that’s true, but it does seem to be clear what the Bible says on those issues. And yet I didn’t want to put my own personal interpretations ahead of the historical understandings of the Christian church.
So I decided I wanted to find out, “What was the historic faith?” I mean, I’ve been on this journey by that point for a good ten years, my wife and I, of finding out “What is true Christianity?” and I thought “Yeah, I’d like to see ‘What did they believe right there after the time of the Apostle John?’”
Brother Terry read us that passage, the beginning of First John. He says, you know, we’ve been witnesses, we’ve handed all of this down to you, we’ve shared all of this doctrine with you. Well, what did those people believe? John would have written that around the year 100, or 95, something like that. And yeah, the obvious answer was “Well, go to the primary sources and find out.”
Now you may not be familiar with the term primary source. A primary source is an original source that was created at the time that you’re looking at. So, the primary source of “What did those people believe who are hearing the Apostle John who got that letter of First John?” are writings from Christians who lived in that time period around the year 100.
So, I bought a set of the antenicene fathers that started in that time period, and they go for about the next 200 years. I thought, I’d see for myself what these people believed. And I took out a year to read the writings and boy, I did find out they did not believe in war, they believed in non-resistance. They believed in the two kingdoms, and they did not believe in unconditional eternal security. So all of that was very gratifying (or reassuring, I should say).
On the other hand, oh boy, they believed in the head covering their believed in modest dress. They believed a lot of stuff that I had never thought about, never paid any attention to, read right past in the scriptures. And it really brought about another spiritual crisis in my life. What do I do now with this information?
Well, I started off making changes in my life. I was an attorney. I didn’t primarily spend my time in the court, but I did sue people, I did write some pretty nasty letters when I think about it now. And, you know, to me non-resistance always meant you don’t go to war, you don’t serve as a policeman or carry a gun. I’d never realized it carries beyond just that. It carries on how you live everything in your life. And I saw, well this isn’t following Jesus. I can’t go on suing people and writing people threatening letters. “This and this is going to happen if you don’t do this in ten days,” and all of that. My whole idea of, you know, obtaining prestige and wealth in this world, well, that that had to go. Even more importantly, what was first in my life? Was it Jesus Christ and his kingdom? Well, I honestly had to look at myself and say, “No, that was part of my life. But no, it was not what I was seeking first. I was not seeking first the kingdom. I was seeking first material prosperity and prestige. So that had to change. And then as a family we had a lot of changes, looking at our entertainment our dress – things like that.
Well, I then began sharing this with friends at church. “Look what I discovered,” you know, and this and that. And they all said, David you ought to write a book about this. Well at first, yeah, I just I laughed him off. Yeah, right. I’d never in my life ever thought of writing books. It didn’t ever even crossed my mind. But after a while, you know, I talked to my wife Debra, I said, “You know, I think I’m going to be guilty before God if I go to my grave without ever having shared any of this to anybody other than just a few friends.
So the result was the book, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up?” That’s the book that launched Scroll Publishing. It’s still one of our more popular books, and it shared briefly the things I had discovered about the early church and particularly the kind of Christianity that involves your whole life. It wasn’t a matter of just having some doctrine correct, but your whole life was devoted to Jesus Christ. You are living an obedient love-faith relationship with him, and it affected things like your job and your ultimate loyalty – was it to your country, or was it to the kingdom of God and to Jesus Christ? Issues like that.
And then I talked about what happened to the church and I got into the Anabaptists because I had kept digging to see what happened. “If this is what they believed in the beginning, where did it go? How did it change?” And I discovered that, and I look for “Well, did anyone ever pick it up again?” And I discovered the Anabaptists.
Now at that time our family did not join the Anabaptists. There were a lot of cultural barriers, and I think most of you know what I’m talking about there, that made it a difficult decision. We weighed the decision. I visited Brother Dale, I think it was in 1991 in Costa Rica, I was visiting the Beachy church down there at that time. And we were we were seeking what to do, and we took quite a lot of long time in making a decision.
But we kept on with Scroll Publishing. Originally, our focus was on early Christianity and printing what the early Christians believed, and this culminated in the “Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.” Some of you may have seen that. I know many of you have it in your home. It’s a reference work that contains over 7,000 quotations from the early Christians, just direct quotations on over 700 biblical topics. So you can see for yourself, this is what they believed, this is what they said in their own words. Now we didn’t cherry-pick, “Well, I like this quote and so I’ll use it. I don’t like this one.” I wanted to be intellectually honest; that’s been one of our primary emphasis at Scroll Publishing, is, you start with a blank slate, you go to primary sources, and you are intellectually honest. You don’t cheat with what you find. So there’s quotes in there I don’t like; quotes in there I don’t agree with. But I wanted the truth to be out there and people could look at it and see what it says.
Now, you might be thinking. Well, who cares what they believed back then? What difference does it make? Well, all of you should care very much. I’m assuming that most of you here, probably all of you here, are Kingdom Christians. That is, your Christianity, whether you’re Anabaptist or in some independent house church or whatever – is, you’re committed to living by the Sermon on the Mount. The kingdom of God comes first in your life. You wouldn’t go to war if your country said you have to go and kill your fellow Christian because your country commands it.
Well other churches would say, “Well, you fanatics! What are these things on your head?” And you know, I notice most the sisters have this thing on your head. “Well, why are you doing that? Well see, the early church – you can go back and say “This is the historic faith. This is what they did back then. We didn’t make this up wearing head coverings. You can read. They wore this back then. They wore modest dress. You can read all about it. They refused to go to war. You can read about it. We haven’t made this up. We’re not the newcomers with some kind of new teaching. We are upholding the historic faith.”
Okay, now in 2003 Scroll Publishing changed directions a bit, slightly. Began with publishing the book “The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down.” And in coincided with a decision our family made. Like I say we had been looking at the Anabaptists since I wrote the book “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” in 1989. It was now 2004, and we finally decided “Let’s throw in our lot with the Anabaptists. They’re not perfect. They don’t claim to be perfect. There are cultural issues to deal with. But they’ve lasted five hundred years. They have some stability and history behind them. And they uphold all of the lifestyle issues of the early church.” There are a few theological doctrinal differences, but when it comes to how you live, how you walk with Jesus Christ, I mean, you can go almost right down the line, what the Anabaptists teach, what the early Christians taught as well. And so we said, “Let’s throw in our lot with them.”
Now, I haven’t lost interest in early Christianity at all, but I realize it’s far more important living the Christian life, seeking first the Kingdom, and emphasizing that with Scroll Publishing. And one of the things in the last ten years or so that we have wanted to do at Scroll Publishing, have sought to do is to help equip the Anabaptists’ world with books that can serve particular needs. The “Kingdom” book was written for the specific purpose to use in witnessing to people. Most of the copies of it go out at evangelism rate. We don’t make a lot of money on it. But a lot of Anabaptists, a lot of you who are Kingdom Christians not associated with the Anabaptists, you have found that very useful in witnessing to people, bringing them back to the original Gospel. And so that’s why that was written.
Now, as it’s turned out a lot of Anabaptists said, “Well, this helps me to understand my own faith. You know, I never understood why we didn’t go to war.” That surprised me, but we’re glad if it has served that purpose. We’ve worked very hard in helping Anabaptists to understand their own faith, helping other Christians to understand the historic faith.
Training in public speaking: We don’t have seminary trained ministers. Now today, you’ve heard some excellent speakers, but yeah, most of us aren’t quite at that level, but you know, every Christian man can learn to speak effectively. I mean, you might not be, you know, someone invited to speak at seminars, but you can learn to do that. So, we published the book “Plain Speaking.”
We have wanted people to understand why we stand for non-resistance, and the history of it. Also developing an inner spiritual life. That’s an area where the Anabaptists have been weak in the last 300 or 400 years. Great on the external life, but weak on the inner life.” And, so we published the book “Secrets of the Kingdom Life” to help deal with that need.
Well in the past few years. We’ve expanded our vision to reach out globally with the Kingdom message, and with the help of other ministries, the book “The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down” and some of our other books are now published in numerous languages.
We’ve also published online editions. One nice thing about the internet – it’s got a lot of danger to it, and you definitely need some safeguards if you’re using it – but you can reach the whole world with it for almost nothing. And countries can’t keep you out very easily. And so we’ve published a lot of our literature online. Currently the book “The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down” is available in these languages: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Chinese, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Ukrainian. And we’re just a small family-run company doing this. This has been through the help of other ministries, through the help of volunteers, through the help of donations. All of the foreign language books, donations have made it possible. Here is the “Kingdom” book: the top one is Azerbaijani, the middle one is Japanese, and the bottom one is in French. So it’s been exciting to see this message reach throughout the globe.
Well, what’s next on the horizon? What’s next is a project I’ve been working on two years, and there’s at least two more years to go. And it’s in some ways a strange one for me to be working on, because I have been generally very against study Bibles. But that’s because they contain so much inaccurate information, so much information that tears down the historic faith, tears down what you and I believe. And you know, for years I said “Just use a plain Bible. Don’t use a Study Bible. Don’t use commentaries.” Well, I’m pragmatic enough to know, okay, people are still going to do it. And so I finally decided, if you can’t lick them, join them. And so I’ve been working on an Anabaptist Study Bible, and also an early Christian Study Bible. They will be very similar, but the focus will be on the Kingdom teachings of Christ, and everything in these study Bibles will be based on verifiable primary sources, original sources. Nothing made up.
Now I know this is very hard for most of you to believe. When you pick up a commentary or you read notes in the study Bible. You would not think it possible someone would just have made that up. Let me tell you a secret and it shocked me at first but I guarantee you what I’m telling you is the absolute truth: the vast majority of things you read in commentaries and notes in study Bibles are simply made up. They are totally bogus. Now, I don’t mean the editor necessarily made it up. He usually grabbed it out of some other reference work, and that person grabbed it out of some others, and often it started with this, and then it kind of grew and it grew, and you hear a lot of nonsense like “Oh, the reason Paul told the Corinthians to wear head coverings is because there were a lot of prostitutes in that city and the only ones who didn’t cover their head were prostitutes.” And that’s totally bogus. Nothing, not one drop of that is true.
And so in this study Bible, not only will it be from primary sources, but every single note will be referenced both online and on a CD-ROM so you can see the original source. This is coming from Josephus. He says this about the destruction of Jerusalem. You can see the source for yourself.
Well, in brief, that’s where Scroll Publishing has been, where we are now, and where we’re going. If you have any questions, feel free when this session is over with to talk to us back there at Scroll Publishing. Thank you very much.