Monday, August 15, 2011
Is Exposing False Teachers Wrong?
This post will be similar to one from three years ago, but I am updating it and responding to many comments I have received which make charges against me as a Christian apologist.
I want to emphasize that I am always open to correction; God knows I have had some wrong understandings of Scripture in the past, and probably will many more times to come, so I don’t respond to comments in anger or arrogance as I have been charged with, but hopefully with an attitude of humility - knowing I am indeed accountable before the Lord, especially since, as a teacher, I am directly addressed in James 3:1.
There are many, especially those who follow Word of Faith teachers, who compare exposing false teachers to “touching God’s anointed“ as they point out how David refused to go after Saul as one who God anointed. The assumption is that God has used these teachers directly to spread His Word rather than indirectly, implying that these teachers are God’s “anointed.” I don’t think we can claim anyone is anointed of God without direct revelation. So the comparison fails.
I understand that we need to be careful about jumping too soon to the conclusion that someone is a false teacher. After all, we all make errors in our teachings. However, when someone’s teaching is consistently wrong, consistently against God’s Word, and they refuse correction, then that person must be denounced as a false teacher. One can be a true Christian but have their theology wrong to the point they can lead others astray. For example, I firmly believe there are many Roman Catholics who are true believers in Christ, but to then permit them to teach about purgatory, the perpetual virginity of Mary, or that the host in the Mass is Christ, without denouncing them as false teachers, is just plain wrong.
To clarify a term, when I speak of people of "their ilk,” I don’t mean that all are false teachers in the same degree, just that they are of the “ilk” of false teachers who need to be exposed and avoided. Some may be heretical unbelievers while others may just preach severe aberrations that lead other believers into spiritual bondage (such as many accepted by the Church today).
Some commenters have charged me with judging these teachers against my standards, by what I believed - that they weren’t passing my tests. On the contrary, I place their teachings against Scripture as the standard by which they must pass.
1 Thes. 5:19-22 says that we are to test all things and to stay away from those who teach falsely. The last part of that passage says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (KJV) or “Avoid every kind of evil.” (NIV). Since false teachings are evil, that passage does indeed tell us to avoid them. Incidentally, one does not “quench the Spirit” nor “despise prophecies” when exposing false teachings - as has been claimed by many of my detractors.
One detractor of my blog said that “Scripture does not deputize you with the right to assign publicly the label ‘false teachers’ to men and women who sincerely confess Jesus as Lord.” On the contrary, the Scripture calls on ALL of us to expose false teachings, and to challenge the teachers. In 1 Tim. 1:3, for example, Paul tells Timothy to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” Look at some other passages such as Rom. 16:16-17 and 1 Tim. 6:3-5 where Paul says to avoid false teachers, while never saying these teachers were unbelievers. Was Paul wrong for publicly exposing them? Paul was emphatic about condemning those who taught another gospel - the Judaizers who were Christians but demanded circumcision.
We are continually warned in Scripture that false teachers will arise from within the Church. While I cannot judge the spiritual condition of Bruce Wilkinson, Rick Warren or Eugene Peterson, for example, I can certainly judge that their new age and mystical teachings are another gospel. I can certainly judge Beth Moore’s claims of direct revelation from God with what the Bible teaches and declare her a false teacher, and even a false prophet, without ever claiming she is not a true believer.
Someone mentioned the errors of Apollos and Peter as examples for why we should not label people false teachers, but Apollos and Peter both received correction while the teachers I have mentioned have continually denied they are in error. By the way, it is not a “put down” or “tearing down” to label one a false teacher any more than it is a “put down” or “tearing down” to label someone who cheats on his wife an adulterer. It is factual description of their condition.
Aside from the other aspects of the false teachings propagated by those I name, these people also add to God’s Word by either changing the message of the gospel, by claims of direct revelation, or by twisting the passages beyond their meanings. We know that God condemns those who do so.
In closing, I want to cite Dr. Harry Ironside, who was pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948; I think he gives some good food for thought on this subject: “Error is like leaven, of which we read, ‘A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.’ Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died.”