Saturday, June 14

Know the Heretics by Justin S. Holcomb



I’ve seen a lot of chatter online recently about heretics. It seems that certain segments of the church love nothing more than accusing others of heresy. If a well-known author or speaker says something they disagree with, or if they hold a different interpretation of a certain biblical text, then they are labeled either a heretic or a false prophet.

How often are these accusations of heresy true? Could that person truly be a heretic? If so, there seem to be an awful lot of heretics running around. Just google the following names followed by the word ‘is’ and you’ll find that ‘heretic’ is one of the top suggested words to complete the search. Go ahead and try, I’ll wait.

Joel Osteen
Rick Warren
Rob Bell
Donald Miller
Shane Claiborne
Philip Yancey

Chances are you may not agree with everything single thing that all of these people have said or believe. But are they heretics? Or is that word being thrown around with a proper understanding of what it means?

In the wise words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”


With how often that word has been thrown around lately, I decided it would be good to learn more. Zondervan recently released a book titled, Know the Heretics by Justin S. Holcomb, which is a part of a new series. Within the book, Holcomb takes a look at different heretics or heretical movements, from the Gnostics, to the Docetists, to Appollinarius. He starts with the history of how the teaching came to be, explains the parts that are heretics, shows the church’s response to the teaching, and then explains why he believes it is important to be aware of these heresies today.

Holcomb explains, “Traditionally, a heretic is someone who has compromised an essential doctrine and lost sight of who God really is, usually by oversimplification.” Today that word seems to have mutated and is used in many other circumstances.  Too often it is used to refer to someone who disagrees on a certain part of Christianity (such as gender roles, interpreting Revelation, etc.).

While the chapters are short, each one does an excellent job in explaining the heresy. Holcomb is careful to brand these people as ‘bad.’ Rather he presents them as people who were struggling with legitimate questions but ended up coming to a wrong conclusion. Still, by seeing why that conclusion would be wrong, we are better able to understand the correct answer. Each chapter also ends with suggestions for further reading, if you are interested in learning more about a particular heresy.

Are there modern day heretics? Sure there are. But hopefully Know the Heretics will make people think a little bit more about what it truly means to call someone a heretic, especially on social media where such accusations are usually meant to cause harm and pain.

4.5/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook book review bloggers program. 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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