One of the most misunderstood topics in the Church today has to be what heresy is. Whenever someone is accused of false teaching they are quickly labeled a heretic. Often times though people are talking about secondary issues and having a discussion about them isn’t bad, but rather helpful when the conversation is centered around the Word of God. The frequency and volume of talk about heresy suggests that we as Christians don’t understand what it is. We live in an age where people place a premium on what they feel rather than on the solid foundation of biblical doctrine. Enter into this environment a new and important book Know the Heretics by Dr. Justin Holcomb.

The book opens up with explaining what heresy is then moves to look at Judaizers, Gnostics, Marcion, Docetists, Mani, Sabellius, Arius, Apollinarius, Pelagius, Eutches, Nestorious, Socinius and finally concludes with two appendixes exploring the council of Nicaea and Antioch and Alexandria on two understandings of Christ.

The author defines orthodoxy as, “the teaching that best follows the Bible and best summarizes what it teaches- best accounts for the paradoxes and apparent contradictions, best reserves the mystery of God in the places where reason can’t go, and best communicates the story of the forgiveness of the gospel” (11). The author explains that a “heretic is someone who has compromised an essential doctrine and lost sight of who God really is, usually by oversimplication. Literally, heresy means “choice” that is a choice to deviate from traditional teaching in favor of one’s own insights. But that sense of the word has been lost. To some people today, heretic suggests a rebel—someone with courage, the kind of person who can think for himself and stand up to the institutional church. Some Christians simply use the word to refer to anyone who doesn’t agree with their particular version of Christianity. In modern parlance, the word heretic usually means that you aren’t in the club, but it’s not the sort of club you would want to be in anyway” (11).

Know the Heretics like Know the Creeds and Councils is a very helpful primer on an important issue. While some people throw the label heretic loosely, Dr. Holcomb reminds us in this important book what the word heresy means. In our theological discourse we desperately need to be biblical and engage what the Word of God says in addition to looking back to the rich heritage that is ours as God’s people. Know The Heretics and books like it will help the lay person who may not know what these issues are to learn about them and why they are important. Know The Heretics along with Know the Creeds and Councils are books pastors should give out to people in their congregations to help them understand what the Church has taught throughout its history. In addition, these books would be used well for personal study, small groups and Sunday school classes. I highly recommend Know the Heretics and believe it will help lay Christians understand not only what the Church has taught throughout her history but also why having a strong foundational is so vital to a healthy Christian life and ministry.

Title: Know The Heretics

Author: Justin Holcomb

Publisher: Zondervan (2014)

I received this book for free from Zondervan for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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