Know the Heretics  -     By: Justin Holcomb
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Know the Heretics

More in KNOW Series
Zondervan / 2014 / Paperback

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Product Description

There is a lot of talk about heresy these days. The frequency and volume of accusations suggest that some Christians have lost a sense of the gravity of the word. On the other hand, many believers have little to no familiarity with orthodox doctrine or the historic distortions of it. What's needed is a strong dose of humility and restraint, and also a clear and informed definition of orthodoxy and heresy.

Know the Heretics provides an accessible "travel guide" to the most significant heresies throughout Christian history. As a part of the KNOW series, it is designed for personal study or classroom use, but also for small groups and Sunday schools wanting to more deeply understand the foundations of the faith. Each chapter covers a key statement of faith and includes a discussion of its historical context; a simple explanation of the unorthodox teaching, the orthodox response and a key defender; reflections of contemporary relevance; and discussion questions.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 160
Vendor: Zondervan
Publication Date: 2014
Dimensions: 7.10 X 4.70 X 1.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0310515076
ISBN-13: 9780310515074
Availability: In Stock
Series: KNOW

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Publisher's Description

There is a lot of talk about heresy these days. The frequency and volume of accusations suggest that some Christians have lost a sense of the gravity of the word. On the other hand, many believers have little to no familiarity with orthodox doctrine or the historic distortions of it.

What’s needed is a strong dose of humility and restraint, and also a clear and informed definition of orthodoxy and heresy. Know the Heretics provides an accessible “travel guide” to the most significant heresies throughout Christian history. As a part of the KNOW series, it is designed for personal study or classroom use, but also for small groups and Sunday schools wanting to more deeply understand the foundations of the faith.

Each chapter covers a key statement of faith and includes a discussion of its historical context; a simple explanation of the unorthodox teaching, the orthodox response and a key defender; reflections of contemporary relevance; and discussion questions.

Author Bio

Justin Holcomb (Ph.D., Emory University) is an Episcopal priest and a professor of theology and Christian thought at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. He has authored, co-authored, and edited several books, including On the Grace of God. He lives with his wife and daughters in Orlando, Florida.

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  1. 4 Stars Out Of 5
    A small paperback offering knowledge worth gaining
    June 18, 2014
    Scotty
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    What is heresy?

    Who is a heretic?

    As a Christian, would you know heresy if you heard or read it?

    Heresy isn't just the problem of biblically false teachings that plagued the church centuries ago, it's a very real problem within the church today. And many of the heresies being promoted today have their roots in heresies originally crafted long ago. That's why "Know The Heretics" by Justin Holcomb (published by Zondervan) is a valuable, small paperback that provides Christians with some basic knowledge worth gaining.

    "Know The Heretics" provides well-written, concise information about a handful of the major heretics who most greatly challenged orthodox biblical teaching in the early church. So great was the impact of these heretics and their heresies that some of these heretical ideas are still being spread today.

    Holcomb provides more than a summary about the heretics highlighted in this book, but doesn't drag the reader into the minutia of their lives. Each chapter focuses on a single heretic, with the chapters generally outlined as follows: historical background, the heretical teaching, the orthodox response, and the contemporary relevance.

    "Know The Heretics" helps readers gain an understanding of what heresy is, and by providing insight into some of the primary heresies in the history of the church, this little book helps to equip readers with a basic capacity to identify heresy when they hear or read it. "Know The Heretics" is one small book that should take up a little space on any Christian's bookshelf.

    I received this book free from HarperCollins Christian Publishing as part of their 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."
  2. Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Good introduction to heresy and orthodoxy
    June 12, 2014
    bookwomanjoan
    Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Today we hear lots of Christian teaching. How do we know if what you hear is truly biblical?

    Heresy is nothing new. It has come up at various times through Christian history. To help us understand the development of heresy and orthodoxy, Holcomb has chosen twelve major events in which the church preserved the biblical message.

    For each of the heresies, Holcomb presents the historical background, the heretical teaching, the orthodox response, and the contemporary relevance. Discussion questions are added at the end of each chapter.

    People and beliefs covered:

    Judaizers: Gentiles must be circumcised like the Jews or they cannot be saved.

    Gnostics: the enlightened have special knowledge hidden from most people.

    Marcion: the Old Testament God is wrathful, Christ was sent by the real God of love and peace.

    Docetists: Jesus was totally divine and His humanity was merely an appearance (flesh is evil).

    Mani: crafting a global religion combining Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity.

    Sabellius: "persons" of the trinity are merely three different ways God wants people to think of Him (modalism).

    Arius: the Son is not co-eternal with the Father but was the supreme creation.

    Apollinarius: Jesus Christ took on humanity only to the extent of assuming a human body and a sensitive soul.

    Pelagius: man has the inate ability to live as God commanded (no original sin).

    Eutyches: Christ had a hybrid nature of divine and human, not two natures.

    Nestorius: the divine and human natures of Jesus are totally separate.

    Socinus: only the Father is truly divine, Jesus is only human.

    Holcomb concludes that the pursuit of theological truth can be messy but we need to leave room for the mysterious.

    This is a very good introduction to the topics of heresy and orthodoxy. It is not comprehensive but does cover enough so readers can have a good idea of what both are. Holcomb also shows how the church's understanding of what they are has developed over time. A feature I appreciated in the book was the "contemporary relevance" section. He frequently mentions recent authors and teachings, making the book current and relevant. The twelve studies and discussion questions would make this book a good choice for a Sunday School class or a small group.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
  3. Harrison, AR
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Understandable summary of heresies & responses
    June 2, 2014
    Debbie from ChristFocus
    Harrison, AR
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    "Know the Heretics" is a summary of the historical discussions about what Christians believe. This short book effectively communicates the information. A layman--even a teenager--can understand the issues being discussed and why they were and are important. The author did an excellent job at defining theological words and explaining complex theological issues in an understandable way. I think this would be a great study for high school- or college-age church groups.

    The author didn't cover every heresy, but he picked important ones--some of which are still around in slightly different forms. He explained the historical and personal background of the founder of the heresy, what was being taught, the orthodox arguments against those teachings, and why this is relevant to us today. He also included discussion questions.

    The heresies where mainly chosen from early church history. This book covered some of the same ground as "Know the Creeds and Councils," but this book focused on the theological arguments while that book focused on the creeds developed in response to these heresies.

    I'd recommend this book to those interested in knowing more about why Christians have historically believed certain core doctrines, especially to those people intimidated by "theology" or "doctrine" books.

    I received this book as a review copy from the publisher through BookLook.com.
  4. Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Who's wrong? And what's wrong with them?
    May 27, 2014
    whiteninja
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Why would anyone want to write on the guys who go it all wrong? It would be like trying to make a movie on Lex Luthor's Injustice League, but Holcomb gets this book just right. Why? Because these guys would be able to show you how you can go wrong. And so, an alternative title could be "Don't repeat these mistakes again guys". Living in an era where innovation and novelty is highly sought after, this book reminds us that sometimes new isn't always better.

    At the forefront, Holcomb defines what he means by heretics and orthodoxy, dealing especially with the "orthodoxy" as defined by Walter Bauer (orthodoxy is that which is defined by the winner), over and against that, Holcomb defines heretics as that which "best follows the Bible and best summaries what it teaches - best accounts for the paradoxes and apparent contradictions, best preserves the mystery of God in places where reason can't go, and best communicates the story of the forgiveness of the gospel".

    Holcomb also defines what heresy is, and is not. It is not "every potential wrong belief, rather only those beliefs that contradict(s) the essential elements of faith".

    Alongside with clear definitions, the format for each wrong heretic includes the four sub-sections, historical background, the heretic teaching, the orthodox response, and contemporary relevance.

    A total of 12 heretics were covered in this book chronologically, starting from the Judaizers all the way to Socinus. The major heretics such as Macion, Sabelius, Arius, Nestorius, such to name a few are covered. Socinus was a surprised, one that was new and I've never really heard of him thus far.

    One minor complaint that I have with this book was the chapter on Nestorius. It was rather repetitive, parts of the content was already mentioned in Knowing the Creeds and Councils (see my review it) and it felt as if I was re-reading the same arguments as before. For the others however, Holcomb was able to present the false teachers and teaching in greater detail as compared to Know the Creeds. This is no small feat and Holcomb should deserve due credit for his work on this.

    Holcomb ends off the book reminding us the importances of getting our doctrines right. And reminds us that not every disagreement is to be deemed as heretical, as long as imperfect humans are studying the Bible, there will bound to be disagreement among us.

    If I had to choose between this or Know the Creeds, I would recommend Know the Creeds. As they direct believers to firmer grounds to build their faith. However, I would still recommend the same christians to then read this book, just to let them see the relevance and importances of right doctrine in the christian life, and how they can they might have so easily got their theology wrong.

    Ratings: 3.75/5
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