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 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).

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?
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 (IIIM).