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.
Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.