Read Ministries Today Review

Book Review of Heresy Hunters: Character Assassination in the Church

Reviewed by The Bookstore Journal, December 1993

James Spencer
Huntington House Publishers
ISBN: 1-56384-042-1

In the first line of his introduction, Spencer writes, "A heresy hunter, by the definition I use in this book, does not really hunt heresy; he hunts people."

Spencer's purpose in writing this book is to attempt to put a stop to Christians' discrediting one another to the extent that the body of Christ is divided and ministries are shut down. He's especially concerned about attacks on charismatics such as Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton, and Benny Hinn and on "Satan fighters" such as Mike Warnke and Bob Larson.

Spencer himself is a charismatic converted from Mormonism, who continues to witness to Mormons. He's also been a journalist. He writes with great clarity and persuasion, crafting his sentences, paragraphs, and even entire chapters with unusual skill and sensitivity. He also writes with a sense of restraint, so that he might not be accused of that which he writes against. Yet he speaks clearly, naming names and quoting articles and books that show how character assassination is going on within the church.

Perhaps the pivotal chapter of the book is the third, in which Spencer attempts to define the term "heresy" and differentiate between heresy and heretics. Under a section titled "Can a Man Teach Heresy and Not Be a Heretic?" the author says, "A person who ignorantly reports heretical ideas is wrong, but he may not properly be called a heretic." Building on this idea throughout the book, Spencer shows how the men under investigation have made erroneous statements or even "stupid" ones, but they aren't heretics in the true sense of the word. He also points out that men like Hinn have been quick to admit when they've been wrong and have tried to correct certain statements.

The point that Spencer makes is one that's sorely needed-i.e., attacking each other personally, rather than questioning certain doctrines, is very destructive in the body of Christ. However, he also raises several important questions regarding the need for media celebrities to make themselves accountable for their words and to be more hesitant to speak if they haven't thought through a certain teaching. He also seems to be hesitant to call any teaching of other charismatics heresy.

Spencer believes that "our century has produced two periods of great revival which were as historically significant as the Great Awakening. The first was the Pentecostal Revival that began with the turn of this century. The second was the Charismatic Renewal that began in the 1950s and lasted until the early 1980s."

Further, he is concerned that "it is possible that history could mark the decline and eventual end of the Charismatic movement with the end of the ministry of the Faith Teachers... I hope they [the heresy hunters] are not guilty of resisting something God is promoting." This sounds very much like Gamaliel's speech to the Jewish council in Acts 5, but Spencer stops short and doesn't repeat the heart of the speech-"but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them" (Acts 5:39 NASB).

Spencer's tone throughout is one of humility and conciliation. It appears he does desire that heresy be removed from the church without the destruction of people in the process. This book will be an excellent tool to be used for that end. W.B.