We often hear the words “heresy” and “aberration” used in reference to unbiblical doctrines. But what exactly is the difference between a doctrine that is aberrational and one that is heretical?

The word “heresy,” in its most common usage, refers to false teachings that destroy. They are destructive because they overturn the basic elements which make up the historic Christian faith, substituting in their place doctrines which distort or contradict the teachings found in the Bible.

The doctrines of the Trinity, the unique deity of Jesus Christ, and the resurrection are among the essentials of Christianity. They represent the core of Christian belief as contained within the pages of Scripture, and they compose what is commonly called “orthodox theology.” And thus, heresies are teachings which openly deny any one of these fundamental doctrines. Examples of heresies include the Mormon doctrine that there are many gods, and that you may become one, as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who clearly deny the Trinity.

RELIGIOUS HERESY- Heresy Vs. Aberration
It may be the case, however, that a particular teaching does not overtly deny basic biblical theology, but is nevertheless dangerously inconsistent with an orthodox confession of faith. A good example of this would be the “prosperity” teachers who are growing like wildfire within Christian denominations — doctrines of this variety are referred to as aberrations. Thus, a group may be orthodox in its central theology while at the same time maintain teachings and practices that are clearly at odds with essential Christian theology.

RELIGIOUS HERESY- Heresy Begets Heresy
Once we realize that doctrines never function in isolation but, instead, work together to form the structure of a belief system, it becomes easy to understand how one doctrinal error can eventually lead to the corruption of other doctrines as well. As Walter Martin used to put it, “Error begets error, and heresy begets heresy.” (2 Pet. 2:2 NIV). As Christians we are responsible, therefore, to make sure that the precious doctrines that God has given us remain sound (1 Tim. 4:16; cf. 2 Tim. 4:2-5).