This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1992, Volume 09, Number 2, pages 253. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
Book Review - Orthodoxy and Heresy: A Biblical Guide to Doctrinal Discernment
R.M. Bowman. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992.
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
Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2, 1992