We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Legalisms

An odd thing I have discovered is that many Christians claim that only the father of a family should be teaching the children Scripture, and that mothers are not to be doing so.


My first question is, where does one find that in the Bible? Proverbs 1:8 tells the young man to listen to his father’s instruction and his mother’s teaching. 2 Timothy 1:5 and 3:15 speak of Timothy having the faith from infancy which “first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice.”


My second question is, what if there is no father or if the father is not a Christian? Is the mother then not to teach Scripture to her children?


I sometimes find it difficult to understand where people come up with these legalistic ideas. I know a lot of this type of stuff comes through home-schoolers. I’m not making this charge without justification; I have first-hand knowledge because we home-schooled our kids and went to many conventions where we found lots of legalistic teachings, especially coming from the home-school icon, Bill Gothard.


I understand the motivation for Christian home-schooling is to protect our children from the atheistic, evolutionist, sex-driven government school systems, and that is wonderful; it is the reason we left the government schools. But, from what I have observed, home-schoolers as a rule seem to have some of the most bizarre and legalistic ideas outside of the cults. Aside from Bill Gothard we also have the Pearls, the Ezzos, Amish/Mennonite and other curricula, each claiming to have “God’s way” of doing things, each claiming more holiness. All these legalistic teachings twist Scripture out of its context, and all of them teach authoritarian dictatorship as the normal leadership model for the home. Additionally, virtually all of these legalistic methods live in the Old Testament, requiring much adherence to ceremonial and dietary laws that were meant only for Israel. So they have left the government schools to live in bondage to Pharisaical rules.


So what is my point? First, before telling another Christian that they are in error for the way they are teaching their children or living their lives, be sure you have Scriptural support. There are many issues that are covered under Romans 14 - - if you want to live legalistically, so be it, but don’t consider other Christians less holy if they don’t accept your idea of holiness. Second, don’t just jump on any teaching that claims to be “God’s way”; only the Bible can be trusted to be truly “God’s way.” Thirdly, check scripture in context and be Bereans (or at least Missourians) and say, “Show Me,” when claims are made about the Bible.

9 comments:

Betsy said...

I enjoyed reading some of your posts, but I have to say something about this:

"But, from what I have observed, home-schoolers as a rule seem to have some of the most bizarre and legalistic ideas outside of the cults"


How many homeschoolers do you actually know? Of course, just like any "group" of people, there will be extremists, but being a homeschooler for 6 years now and being for involved with other homeschoolers, I haven't personally met anyone like you described above.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Betsy,

To respond to your questions, I know many home-schoolers who, like you, do not get into all this legalistic nonsense. Unfortunately, I have also known many more who are into legalistic teachings. All one has to do is attend a few home-school conferences - as I have - and there will be myriads of curricula from Bill Gothard (whom, as I said, is a home-school icon), to Mike and Debi Pearl stuff, to Amish/Mennonite material. The Amish and Mennonites are very legalistic in their theology and much of their home-school material reflects it. The "courtship" movement goes from good ideas to restrictive, over-controlling methodologies.

When we first started home-schooling most we met in the movement were like us, looking for Christian alternatives to the secular brainwashing and keeping the Lord as our focus. As we got more involved and joined the county home-school group and, later after moving to Iowa the Iowa state organization, that is where we saw so much of this stuff. We have been to churches where they are predominantly home-school and that is where some of the most bizarre stuff has been.

I will always recommend home-schooling over government schools, but I also give warnings to be alert for the legalistic stuff to be found at the conferences and to avoid "seminars" by those you don't have solid information about.

If you have missed out on this by those you know, then you have been very fortunate. May you be blessed in your endeavor.

Dave said...

Hi Glenn,

This is an interesting post. My family has homeschooled for 24 years and I have pastored a church with a predominantly home-school congregation. I would have to say that I agree with your statement. We know hundreds of homeschool families, many of whom were or are followers of Gothard. There certainly seems to be a draw toward the odd and legalistic. It doesn't seem to matter whether we are talking about clothing, food, medicine, patriotism, or theology.

I would suggest that there are two primary motivations among the majority of homeschoolers that open them to these "bizarre" ideas. The first is fear. You talk about it yourself. We fear the corruption and "brainwashing" that the secular institution threatens. It is not at all uncommon for people to open themselves to error while trying to avoid something they fear.

The second thing is this whole idea of spiritual comparisons. I have known many families who got into homeschooling because they thought it was more spiritual somehow. Many pastors will tell you of an elitist spirit among their homeschoolers.

If you combine these two, you get something like the old story of the two men who met the bear in the woods. Just before they ran away from the bear, one of them stopped to put on his running shoes. The other told him that he would never outrun the bear just because of a change of shoes. The reply is one I have thought of so many times as I have worked with homeschool families: "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!"

With respect to Betsy, this certainly does not describe all homeschoolers and may, in fact, be changing. Homeschooling does not require the conviction it once did, nor is it considered particularly strange any longer. The "better than you" attitude simply isn't as necessary. Betsy may not experience what we have and I would be very happy for that.

Dave
www.gracefortheheart.org

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks for that insight and your experience. I know that there are many like us who have experienced such things.

On another note, I looked at your site and am a bit disconcerted about some of the books you have reviewed and promote. I'm referring to the following titles which either have heresy, mysticism or just plain false teachings that have been exposed by many, many apologetics ministries:

Blue Like Jazz
The Shack
The Ragamuffin Gospel
Abba's Child
Messy Spirituality

I am also concerned about your linking to and promotion of Brenning Manning who teaches mysticism, including contemplative prayer.

Discerning Christians should not be aiding the promotion of false teachings and false teachers. This is part of the reason the church today is in the state it is in. I highly recommend you remove Manning's link and all promotion of these books.

In His Service,
Glenn

Dave said...

Glenn,

Thanks for the input. You are not the first to question my inclusion of these titles and authors as people worth reading. Let me give you a little of my perspective.

I have a PhD in Theology and have been a doctrinal leader in a major evangelical denomination for over 20 years. Right doctrine is essential to both right living and right thinking in the Christian life. If you asked me doctrinal questions, I would fit point by point within the evangelical tradition.

As I read someone like Brennan Manning, I understand that his doctrine will be different from mine. I doubt that I would agree with him in several important points. This is what I state in my reviews of his books. At the same time, Manning expresses the compassion of Jesus better than almost anyone I have read. In a day when evangelicals define themselves by being against certain other believers, Manning reminds us that Jesus is real and His love is meant for all. I would not be recommending his books if I thought they would lead believers into error. In fact, I would be hard pressed to find specific errors of doctrine in Manning’s books.

It interests me that some people will dismiss a Christian author on the grounds of “mysticism.” Evangelicals readily accept Tozer, A. B. Simpson, Theresa of Avila, Fenelon, and others who could be considered mystics according to some definitions. A mystic, within the Christian tradition, has simply been a person devoted to a personal relationship with Jesus: led by Jesus, in communication with Jesus, and deeply in love with Jesus. The idea certainly does not automatically mark a person as unorthodox or heretical. Nor does the idea automatically grant orthodoxy to the person’s doctrine.

For example: Fenelon is known among evangelicals primarily for the little book, “Let Go.” It is a helpful writing from a man of prayer and devotion to the Lord. Few evangelicals know that he also wrote a long defense of the Catholic idea of purgatory. In fact, he wrote a great amount of peculiarly Catholic doctrinal works. His devotion to these Catholic ideas does not make the information in “Let Go” invalid. It simply reminds us that we follow Jesus, not any particular earthly teacher.

I would never suggest that Don Miller gives a helpful doctrinal treatise in “Blue Like Jazz.” Instead, he reveals a walk that many have experienced. He seeks a faith that has reality and relationship and finds that in Christ. That’s more than many in the traditional church, with wonderful and right doctrine, can say. The Christian faith is not really about doctrine after all – it’s about Jesus.

Glenn, it goes back to that fear I mentioned in my other post. Am I so afraid of error that I must limit my reading only to “approved” authors? Or can I trust Jesus to lead me to truth no matter what I read? I am not suggesting that we set out to read and understand false doctrine. That would be foolish, dangerous and a waste of time. But someone like Brennan Manning has such a wonderful heart toward those who feel unacceptable and unloved and he openly proclaims that heart as only reflecting the love of Jesus. I need to hear that message and so do many within the homeschool community. We have based our identity so much on what we disagree with that we have trouble remembering and celebrating that which we share with all who belong to Christ.

Well, that’s enough for now. I would be happy to correspond further on this. At the same time, I will understand if you don’t want to publish these thoughts on your site. If you choose not to post this, just let me know so that at least I know you have read it. Also, if you don’t post this, please have the courtesy simply to delete both my previous post and your answer. But it would be interesting to see what others think about these thoughts…..
Dave
www.gracefortheheart.org

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Dave,

First, I want to assure you that I don’t have a problem with contradictory viewpoints being published as comments on my articles. I will only reject false teachings and comments that use uncivil or abusive language. For the former, I will not be a vehicle to spread false teachings (I have had one writer try that very thing); for the latter, if someone isn’t civil enough to engage in rational discourse, then I will not give them a forum for abuse.

Let me start with Brennan Manning. From all I have studied about him, I don’t find him to be a teacher I would want any but the most discerning Christian to read because he can easily lead people into false teachings. His character is also called into question when one considers his false claims about his actions in regards to hurricane Katrina. Rather than go into the problems with his “Ragamuffin Gospel” here, I recommend this link for a review by a very good author and apologist, Pastor Gary Gilley:
http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/BookReviews/book_reviews.asp?ID=218 I would have to agree with Pastor Gilley that this book is downright dangerous to the average Christian, let alone presenting a false view of the Faith to unbelievers.

I think your definition of mysticism is a bit off. The mysticism of the current “emergent” and “Ancient-Future Faith” teachers and adherents is in line with the old Roman Catholic mysticism which, according to Pastor Gilley, sought to “purge the senses and intellect in order to be filled up with a nonsensical form of illumination which leads to an unexplainable experience of ecstasy which culminates in union with God.” This unbiblical practice is where Manning is leading us. And with this promotion of mysticism the “emergent” and A-FF movements seek to reunite with Romanism.

I have found nothing of this in any of A.W. Tozer’s writings. Fenelon is a name totally unknown to me, so I cannot comment on his writings. All I know about A.B. Simpson is that he taught divine healing through prayer as the only proper means of healing, and that he established the Christian Ministry and Alliance. Theresa of Avila is familiar as a Roman Catholic mystic whose teachings should be avoided.

As for Don Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz,” I will again link to a Gilley review because it is convenient:
http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/BookReviews/book_reviews.asp?ID=216
While I have read many other review, and have many in my files, I think this one sums up quite well the problems with this book, as well as Miller’s teachings in general.

Not reading false teachings, and not promoting false teachings, isn’t about fear. The only time I intentionally read false teachings is for apologetics research into the latest fad. Often others have done the reading for me and I rely on their reviews, while at other times I read the books anyway for my own perspective. HOWEVER, I would NEVER recommend questionable teachings to anyone because most Christians are not discerning enough (mainly because they are not taught to be discerning) to separate the wheat from the chaff and can take some really bad roads. But Proverbs 4:23 is a good passage to remind us to protect our minds from rubbish.

Additionally, there are many, many passages of Scripture that tell us to avoid false teachings, to protect the flock from false teachers, and not to promote them just because we shouldn’t fear what false teachers have to say.

I guess I wonder why you’d want to promote authors with questionable teachings when there are so many good authors writing about the same subjects? And what about “The Shack,” a novel with blatant heresy and blasphemy? Why should Christian leaders want their flocks filling their minds with such confusion?

As time permits, I am going to have to start addressing these books in articles that expose the false teachings, demonstrating why we, as Christian teachers, should not be sanctioning them for what little dubious value they may have.

In His Service,
Glenn

Dave said...

Glenn,

I went to Pastor Gilley’s website and read how he is against charismatics, Promise Keepers, Henry Blackaby, Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, Mel Gibson and the Passion, John Eldredge, Jim Cymbala, Catholics, and even C. S. Lewis. That’s all the time I had to read. I assume that the list is longer. Obviously, Gilley has the right to be against anyone he wants to be against. I simply disagree with his conclusions and the general spirit presented in the posts.

If you are willing to read some of these books for yourself, and I hope you do, please do so with an open heart. There are sincere believers, people who love Jesus and His Word just as much as you, who find encouragement from these books. As I said before, there are certainly things in all of them that I believe to be wrong (just as there is much in Pastor Gilley’s writings with which I would strongly disagree) but that doesn’t stop the Holy Spirit from using these writings to bless and lead His people. Over the years I have heard people say that they had to agree with everything an author or teacher presented in order to be content with any of it. Good luck on that!

If you find actual false teaching in the books, not just things you don’t like or things stated in a way that makes you uncomfortable, then say so. But be careful. When you accuse a brother of heresy, you will want to make very sure that you are both right and gracious when you do so.

Two quick notes. The Shack is designed to make people like you and me uncomfortable. I read it with serious concerns and found that the author didn’t actually cross foundational lines. For example, is God really a black woman? Of course not, but neither is He an old white man with a beard. I am uncomfortable with the feminine imagery because Scripture seems to assign God a masculine pronoun consistently. But the truth is that God is far beyond our genders and, by using this imagery, The Shack forces us to think outside the narrow box of our comfort. The whole point of The Shack is the love of God that is found only in relationship with Him.

As far as the definition of something like mystic is concerned, it depends just who is doing the defining. Those who have decided that it is a bad word and concept define it one way. Those who like the idea define it another. I like John Eldredge’s comment:

"You’ll notice how dominant the “reason and knowledge are everything” approach has been by noticing that men who have fallen in love with God are often referred to in the church as “mystics,” a term that gives a sort of honor while at the same time effecting a dismissal. Mystic, meaning “inexplicable,” which devolves into “unreasonable.” Mystic, meaning also “exceptional, as opposed to perfectly normal.” Odd, even. Difficult to analyze."

Pastor Gilley would dismiss this, of course, but Eldredge is simply pointing out that mystics are those who don’t fall in line well with the traditional and controlled understanding of the Christian experience. If to desire a love relationship with the Savior – a real love with heart feelings like in any other relationship – is mystical, then there are many mystics among us and I pray for more.
I will close with a quote from A. W. Tozer:

"But the evangelical rationalist today is still wearing our uniform. He comes right in wearing our uniform and says what the Pharisees said while Jesus was on earth (and they were His worst enemies), “Well, truth is truth, and if you believe the truth, you’ve got it!”
In His day or in our day, such people see no beyond and no mystic depth, no mysterious heights, nothing supernatural or divine. They see only I-believe-in-God-the-Father-Almighty-Maker- of-heaven-and-earth-and-in-Jesus-Christ-His-only-Son-our-Lord. They have the text and the code and the creed, and to them that is the truth. So they pass it on to others. The result is we are dying spiritually.
Now, what about the evangelical mystic? I do not really like the word mystic because you think of a fellow with long hair and a little goatee who acts dreamy and strange. Maybe it is not a good word at all, but I am talking about the spiritual side of things—that the truth is more than the text. There is something that you must get through to. The truth is more than the code. There is a heart beating in the middle of the code and you must get there." (Faith Beyond Reason)

Glenn,
This “heart” is what my ministry is all about. There are too many believers trying to live by the rules and lists without ever being able to relax and enjoy a real loving relationship with Jesus. We like to tell people that Jesus is God’s grace for the heart!

Dave

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Dave,
Forgive the length of this response: I don’t really want long comments on my blog and would prefer to do this via regular e-mail. However, since I feel your comment should be posted out of courtesy and respect for you, then it will require a lengthy response. If you wish to continue this conversation, please use my e-mail.

You imply that there is something wrong with Pastor Gilley being against all these particular teachers. My question would be, why aren't ALL pastors - the shepherds who are supposed to be protecting the flock - against these teachers? As for "the general spirit presented," I've never seen a problem with his presentation - he's never rude or condescending. Perhaps you would have a problem with the spirit in which Paul or Jesus condemned false teachers?

From my personal knowledge of Gary Gilley, having sat under his teachings at conferences, read his books and all the "Think on These Things" letters, I have to say that you are making a sweeping generalization when you say "he is against charismatics." What Pastor Gilley is against is the false teachings among charismatics, which actually covers a lot of ground! As for C.S. Lewis, Gilley only warns us that Lewis is not all good, and very often in error with his support of Roman Catholicism, and I think we should ALL be against Roman Catholicism as a whole.

Now let me address the remainder of those you cite as Gilley being "against":

Promise Keepers: This organization does not address doctrine so as not to cause "division," meaning any false teaching can be involved, and they are openly supportive of Roman Catholicism. Yet at the same time PK has brought in Manifest Sons of God doctrine via it's Vineyard origins. Bill McCartney has, in past meetings, stated that pastors need to go to his conferences or explain why not - "Why wouldn't you want to be a part of what God wants to do with His hand-picked leaders?" I find that to be rather arrogant and presumptuous. At this same conference he stated that God will "rip open the hearts" of Christian leaders and "put them back together again as one. One leadership. We've got to have one leadership only." The idea is that all Christian assemblies should have one leadership head - presumably Bill McCartney? Bill McCartney has claimed that the "laity" cannot understand Scripture and need clergy to teach them. McCartney claims that God has "mandated" him to bring all denominations together. Much of what PK teaches is that virtually every man is guilty of abuse and abandonment. PK has taught "identificational repentance," a totally unbiblical concept. Past PK conferences have promoted the Pensacola - Brownsville "revival." It would take too long for me to cite all the false teachers at PK events, as well as false and aberrational teachings. My question then becomes, why would any discerning shepherd NOT be against Promise Keepers?

What about Henry Blackaby? He teaches a subjective mystic relationship with God totally contrary to the Bible. Again, his false teachings would take too long here - I spent too much time on PK. But why would a discerning Pastor approve of any false teachings?

Rick Warren's feel-good teachings leave a whole lot to be desired. I don't question the man's faith or his sincerity, but his "Purpose Driven" ecumenical teachings again are leading to Rome. There are many teachings in Warren's books that misuse Scripture to support his positions. Warren is a promoter of Contemplative prayer. Warren is also steeped in the pop-psychology that is becoming so pervasive in the church today. I have read his "Purpose Driven Life" and found some real problems with it, Scripturally speaking, especially chapters 30 & 31. The book is full of junk food theology. Warren has been criticized by numerous apologetics ministries for his unbiblical teachings, his immersion into pop-psychology, his romance with Rome, and a host of other problems. I have a file full of Warren's unbiblical positions, including his invitations for false teachers to speak at his church. I think a good indication of how weak Warren's teachings are biblically is the size of his church; people don't flock that way to good teachings, they flock to feel-good messages. Again I have to ask, why would any discerning pastor NOT be against Rick Warren's teachings?

Robert Schuller is a name I am totally surprised that you find problematic as being against. Schuller is an abject heretic! We are talking about the man who virtually invented the self-esteem gospel, the one who claims sin is a lack of self-esteem!!!! So why would you have a problem with pastor Gilley being against Schuller?

Mel Gibson's "Passion" movie was nothing more than a Roman Catholic catechism in pictures. It was rife with unbiblical teachings. Even Gibson admitted that it was to promote Roman Catholic doctrine. Of course you seemed to be concerned that Gilley was "against" Roman Catholicism. I would hope you are also against Romanism, since it is a false gospel such as Paul condemned.

I was introduced to John Eldredge's psychobabble books by a Christian counselor who asked me to read "Waking the Dead," which I found to be totally unacceptable. I've also read "Wild at Heart," which I found to be, as Midwest Christian Outreach puts it, "Wildly Unbiblical." Why would a discerning pastor NOT be against this sort of false teachings?

As for Gilley being "against" Jim Cymbala, the only reference I found was Gilley's critique of his book, "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire," where he exposed much of the unbiblical charismatic teachings in it. I guess I wonder why a discerning pastor would NOT give a denouncing critique of this book.

I have no desire to read books that have been reviewed by others who expose flaws in the teachings. I have way too much to read to be filling my mind with stuff that is not edifying. There are many movies I refuse to attend because I read the reviews; why not use the same idea about books? Whether there are sincere believers finding encouragement from false teachings isn't the issue; the issue is whether they should be encouraged to read false teachings. Paul said that anyone teaching another, false gospel was to be eternally condemned, and I must say Schuller's gospel of self-esteem, Roman Catholicism, and many other false teachings are certainly false gospels. I don't believe the Holy Spirit ever uses false teachers and false teachings to "bless and lead His people." God can always bring good out of any circumstance; after all, I believe God used my experience in the Mormon church to allow me to be able to reach those trapped in false teachings.

You said if I find actual false teachings to say so: I'M SAYING SO! As previously stated, as soon as time permits I will address all the books you promote. Until I do, there are many, many apologetics sites which people can go to for this information.

I am really surprised you are so supportive of "The Shack." Please be a wee bit more objective. This book is rife with heresy and blasphemy. It treats God very flippantly. I think this is the most seriously problematic book of those in your list. Some good reviews can be found here:

http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/BookReviews/book_reviews.asp?ID=387

http://www.thebereancall.org/node/6982 (go to about the middle of the link to the Q&A section)

http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/shack.htm

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/newsletter042808.htm#LETTER.BLOCK13 (click on the article title on the left side and it will take you directly there)

http://herescope.blogspot.com/2008/07/shack-elousia-mythical-mystical-black.html

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/newsletter062308.htm

http://www.carm.org/features/theshack.htm

http://www.tektonics.org/books/shackrvw.html#Review

Additionally, Apologetics Resource Center just did a short review in their "Worldviews" newsletter.

Anyone wading through all these reviews who still thinks "The Shack" is something of value for Christians, is not, in my opinion, very discerning.

As for your defense of mysticism, all spirituality is mystical in some way. However, the mysticism promoted by the likes of Blackaby, Manning, et al, is of the medieval Roman Catholic version wherein they believe in purely subjective emotionalism leading to a supposed mystical union with God. This is unbiblical.

Dave, I again respectfully suggest you drop support for these false teachers from your site. My ministry is also about the heart, but first and foremost protecting it!

Dave said...

Glenn,

I have been away from the web for a couple of days. Thanks for the exchange! May God bless you as you follow Him!

Dave