Q&A: What is heresy?

What is heresy?

Question

What is heresy?

Answer

The word "heresy" comes from the Greek word hairesis which means "faction," and at times translated even as "sect," "party," or "divisions" (Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5, 14; 26:5; 28:22; 1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20; 2 Pet. 2:1). Heresy is simply a false teaching; in Christianity that which isn't orthodox. It is a weighty term and should be used with caution.

As implied above the opposite of heresy is orthodoxy. A doctrine is true if it agrees with the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). However, regarding Christianity heresy it is any belief, philosophy, or idea that is in contradiction to the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). So, within the context of Christianity, a heresy is that which deviates from biblical teaching (cf. Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 1:3-6; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 4:1-6).

There are different degrees of heresy or false teachings. Paul ranks certain heresies with seditions (Gal 5:20). In Corinthians we observe that it leads to a division in the church (1 Cor. 11:19). And in some instances, it is a person who follows his own self-willed questions (Tit. 3:10). Some false teaching is completely destructive (2 Pet. 2:1), while other error leads to only temporary disagreements (Acts 15:36-41; Gal. 2:11-14). Also see 1 John 4:1-6 and 1 Timothy 1:3-6.

Though there are many, here are some modern day examples of heresies: (1) many of the teachings of the Word of Faith movement; (2) the Jehovah's Witnesses which deny the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ; (3) Mormonism which believes God is an exalted man from another planet and that man can become a god; and (4) any denomination or anyone that teaches that salvation is by works and not grace alone.

Scripture pronounces condemnation upon all false doctrines and false teachers (see, Gal. 1:8-9; 1 Cor. 16:22; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 Tim. 1:18-20; Tit. 3:9-10).

Related Topics:

The Word of Faith Movement and Romans 4:17?
What is Jehovah's Witnesses?
What is Mormonism?
List of False Religions?
Christological Heresies?
What is apostasy?
What is the meaning of the word cult?
Is Jesus the ONLY WAY to Heaven?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).