Who’s Watching The Heresy Hunters?

Witch Hunt, by Bob and Gretchen Passantino (Nelson, 254 pp.; $9.95, paper). Reviewed by Bruce Barron, author of The Health and Wealth Gospel (IVP).

This book moves at a snail’s pace—out of necessity. The Passantinos, veterans of 17 years of Christian apologetics and cult research, have taken on the unenviable task of distinguishing proper from improper methods of exposing heretics. Such an effort is bound to arouse their colleagues in the field, especially those whom they cite as bad examples, to counter: “Who appointed you as a judge over us?”

To parry such criticisms in advance, the Passantinos write ponderously, setting forth with exquisite care their motivations for writing and their standards for good research. The result may not be exciting reading, but it is valuable reading.

The Passantinos discuss common errors—such as guilt by association, inconsistent logic, and inadequate understanding of permissible diversity within the body of Christ—that plague less rigorous researchers. They argue that these poorly formulated attacks do harm in several ways: by slandering reliable ministries, by making it easier for the real heretics to defend themselves and appear innocent, and by leaving the average Christian confused as to whom to believe. And they do not hesitate to provide examples of such “witch hunting.”

The Passantinos might not have decided to write a whole book on this topic had not Constance Cumbey, the renegade writer who accused all sorts of ministries of complicity in a giant New Age conspiracy, provided so many glaring and high-profile illustrations of the problem. In fact, Cumbey turns out to be the sole offender cited—repeatedly—in ...

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