How should a Christian respond to heretics?


I know people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Bahá’ís, part of the Unification church (Moonies) , Mormons etc. All the previously mentioned people are heretics and I would love to know how to treat them, as well as others not mentioned in the list. What kind of relationship am I allowed to have with them? What does God allow and what does He not allow, in a Christians relationship to a heretic?

We live in a time when there are many, many heresies that attack the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ which is written in the Holy Bible. We must realize that this is not anything new, brought on by this age.  The Church has been battling heresy from Its very beginnings and that is why the subject of heresy is thoroughly covered in the Bible. Here is some of the advice that God gives to us in the Holy Bible.

Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints

In Jude’s epistle, the author originally intended to write about the common salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, but he felt the need instead, to write about their need to contend earnestly for the faith that was handed down to the saints once for all time. Why?

4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude)

How do you contend for the faith? Should we begin a new “Inquisition”? No way! That is not the way that Jesus Christ teaches to defend the faith from heresies and heretics or from people of other faiths. Christian spiritual warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the spirits of evil. A spiritual battle is fought over convictions, not hand to hand. As Jude explains his epistle, he shows the Christians how they are to contend earnestly for the faith in a practical manner:

  • They are to confront and reprimand those who have fallen away from the Church and into heretical teachings
  • They are to seek to snatch them out of the fire. With this comparison, Jude wants to show how dangerous heretical teachings are. If you want to snatch someone out of a heresy, you must be very careful, very cautious so that you will not also fall victim to heresy.
  • They are to have mercy on some who are doubting, that is, on those who were zealous about saving heretics but have endangered themselves and others by walking too close to deadly, heretical teachings.

Do not argue with heretics

In the Apostle Paul’s second epistle written to Timothy, Paul specifically writes to Timothy teaching how to deal with heretics who had entered the church and began attacking sound doctrine. Within this great letter of instruction, we find the following:

16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, (II Timothy 2)

When you take part in an argument with a heretic you are not avoiding empty chatter. The people bringing the heresy usually get angry and dishonor God through their actions and by what they say about Him and heaven forbid that you fall into the trap and end up dishonoring God by word or deed. Also, if there are others who are listening to the conversation (argument) then they are also in danger of falling victim to the heretical teachings as well. It is like gangrene, which starts under a finger or toenail yet quickly spreads to the entire limb and cause a lot of damage and possibly amputation. In fact, Paul uses that very example when speaking of heretical teachings.

17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. (II Timothy 2)

Do not get trapped into one of those kinds of discussions, instead . . .

Flee from crazy, useless questions posed by heretics

That is one of the basic strategies used by heretics. They are trained to ask crazy, useless questions discussed in a very cunning manner so that  Christians will ponder on them until they begin to doubt the sound doctrine of the Word of God. Timothy was a servant of the Gospel, the leader of a church, an overseer. Paul had to remind this strong leader to stay away from useless discussions with heretics because of the dangers and consequences.

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. (II Timothy 2)

These useless questions produce arguments, and you know how it is with arguments, once you have fallen in, it is very difficult to get out because you want to prove your point. Also, when arguing, people do not really listen to each other’s points because they are too busy trying to prove their own point. Once again, do not fall into the trap set by heretics with useless, provocative questions, but instead, act according to Paul’s advice:

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (II Timothy 2)

If there is an opening or an opportunity to share with a person who has fallen away from the faith (if that person is actually open to listening to you) then benefit from the moment. Share with gentleness and hope that the Lord will open the person’s eyes and cause repentance. Maybe the person will come back to his senses and leave the terrible trap of Satan set out by the heretical teachings that he was following and promoting.

Do not open your door for the person who wants to bring heresy into your home

During the first century, the heresy of gnosticism attacked the Church ceaselessly. Because of this heretical teaching, Saint John had to write his second and third epistles to the believers, informing them how to deal with heretics. Here is what we find in his second epistle:

 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God ; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting ; (II John 1)

The Apostle’s advice is very clear – If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting. Why? So that you will be protected from the heresy and so that you will not lose all of the fruit of your labor in the Gospel but instead, you will be given a full reward for your lifestyle.

May the Lord help us follow sound doctrine and avoid all traps set by Satan’s cunning hand through heretical teaching so that we will not fall victim to the one who roams about like a lion searching for someone to swallow up.

Translation by: Erik Brewer