Manipulation and Society
Vol. 9, No. 2 -- 1992
- Orthodoxy and Heresy: A Biblical Guide to Doctrinal
- R.M. Bowman. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992.
Reviewer: Frank J. MacHovec, Ph.D.
This is a brief book with fewer than 100 pages of text in
12 short chapters, two appendices, a short glossary, a four-column scripture index, and a
two-page subject index. It is a book about heretical Christian sects for evangelical
Christians, with limited application outside this context.
Orthodoxy is "the right standard of doctrine";
heresy is "any doctrine the Bible explicitly labels as destructive, damning
error,...not to be tolerated" or that "utterly contradicts essential truth"
(p. 80). The Bible is the only infallible, definite standard, the norm of all norms. Nine
"enemies of truth" are listed with six heresies (revelation, God, Christ,
salvation, the church, the future). It is said there are "thousands of clever
distortions of Christian theology that deserve the label heresy," which are
"becoming more subtle, more deceiving" (p. 80).
Helpful guidelines are provided: know what you want, ask
about affiliations and a doctrinal statement, study the founder and leaders, check
references (three are given). We can "learn discernment" by growing in faith,
love, and holiness; knowing scripture; thinking logically and sensitively; studying a
variety of orthodox Christian traditions and questionable teachings and groups, including
"what they say about it themselves" treating this "with both respect and
caution," giving the benefit of doubt if uncertain; posing basic
"foundational" questions; and consulting with "reputable discernment
ministries that honor biblical principles of discernment" (p. 107).
This book contains commonsense advice, but other books on
destructive cults contain more information. Concise and clearly written, Orthodoxy
and Heresy will be of interest to Christians concerned about sectarian
differences and competing ministries. Political,
personality, occult, and Eastern-style
cults are omitted.
Frank J. MacHovec, Ph.D.,
Director Center of the Study of the Self
Purchase from Barns and Noble Orthodoxy and Heresy: A Biblical Guide to Doctrinal Discernment.