Doubtful Disputations

Doubtful Disputations
Vol: 109 Issue: 29 Friday, October 29, 2010

Every now and again somebody will email me to accuse me of being a false teacher because they have a different take on a particular doctrine or theory. 

The accusation of ‘false teacher’ is something one ought to be careful about throwing around – for a couple of reasons.   The first and most obvious reason is that by making such a declaration, you are declaring your own view to be infallible.

That is pretty dangerous territory to find oneself in.   Depending on what standard is applied, pretty much every Gospel preacher or teacher is a false teacher to those who don’t agree with him.

If one leans towards preterism, then I am a false teacher. If one leans towards Dispensationalism, then Marv Rosenthal is a false teacher. If one trends towards Southern Baptist, then Dr Pat Robertson is a false teacher.

To some others, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell was  a false teacher; to others, it is Franklin Graham. And we haven’t even touched on the view non-Catholics have of the Pope.

Declaring any of them to be ‘false teachers’ immediately shifts the debate away from what is true into establishing what is false.

It is really difficult to imagine what is of less value than a discussion about what is false, but that’s about all these discussions entail.

I had a lady once take exception to my comments regarding Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She called him a “wonderful man of God” and challenged me to show what was wrong with his doctrine.

Therein lies the problem. It always begins with the obligation to prove the other guy’s doctrine is false. It isn’t until that obstacle has been overcome that there can be any forward movement.

The latest accusation is that I “used to be solid but now I am subtlety mixing Scripture” over the question of predestination vs. foreknowledge.

 . . . this business of God predestined as a result of foreknowledge is screwy, and NOT what the Bible says. The Bible says plainly and numerously, that WE (members of the Body of Christ) were CHOSEN…IN CHRIST…BEFORE…the foundations of the world. Ephesians 1:4, etc.

Jack is now saying something very different. It is subtle but different.

I shared your article and he said you use to be solid and now you are subtlely mixing scripture. I also thought you were pretty solid and this seemed to be a compromise of scripture man’s conjecture! I do respect you, but why must man add his ideas instead of saying I do not understand fully the words and intent of God. It is not written and we should not add or subtract from God’s word when we don’t understand. We should just accept and pray for understanding from the Holy Spirit! I say this in the utmost humbleness! 🙂 I perceive you know and understand more than me, but I did read the scripture and it did not imply these concepts, but man’s limitation does repeat this idea.

Ummm . . . I have diligently searched the Scriptures on this issue and I am not sure where the objection actually is.

Let’s examine the relevant Scriptures.

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  

Note the words I set off in italics in this verse.   Those He foreknew He also did predestinate.”  

“Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)

If there is a difference between foreknowledge and predestination, it is different only insofar as the question of free will is concerned.   What Paul is describing is a progression.  God foreknew who would be saved because God has perfect foreknowledge.

And SINCE He foreknew, Paul says they were predestinated. This isn’t a case of filling in what we don’t understand.  Divine foreknowledge IS predestination, since God cannot be wrong about what He foreknows. 

So because He foreknew, that means they were predestinated, called, justified and glorified.

It is an issue of perspective.    I see it as a variation on the question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  

Prophecy is foreknowledge from our perspective, but predestination when looked at from God’s.  

Otherwise, there would be no point in witnessing – if God has predestinated someone’s salvation, then they will be saved anyway.   

And if they have been predestined to be lost, witnessing is a waste of my time, since they can’t be saved,  if they are predestined to be lost.   

I might as well fold up the Omega Letter and get a job writing TV documentaries about World War Two.  

Foreknowledge is when God knows —  but we don’t. 

Predestination is when God has preordained, so we needn’t interfere. In practical terms, since God is God and we are not, it is a distinction without a difference, apart from one  of perspective.

The argument being advanced is that we play no role in leading someone to Christ because they are predestined to be saved . . .  or we can’t help it because we are predestined to lead them.   This defies all the Scriptures that tell us that salvation is a choice.

If there really isn’t a choice because it was predestined, then on what basis can we be rewarded?   Or for that matter, on what basis there be just punishment?  It is predestined, we didn’t really do it – God did. 

How could either giving a person a reward or punishment for something that God really did be seen as either  just or fair? 

You see the problem?  There is no compromise involved here.  Nothing is added or subtracted.   

I work from the perspective that God knows, but I don’t, so I can’t sit back and assume somebody is predestined to be saved or lost.

I have to do my best based on the assumption that while God knows, I don’t.   From God’s perspective, it is predestination, but from my perspective, I still have to make a free will choice. 

And so does the person choosing salvation. 

Assessment:

Back to the issue of false teachers and false teaching.  A false teaching is one that is not taught or confirmed by Scripture.   Foreknowledge and predestination are clearly taught by Scripture.

Being foreknown by an all-knowing God, for all practical purposes in the finite world, is the same as being predestinated.  But being predestinated in the sense of being chosen to be saved or condemned to be lost deprives one of free will choice.  

If one is predestined to be lost and has no choice in the matter, upon what basis can such a one be punished?

A false teacher, by definition, knows his teaching is false, but for motives of his own, (profit, institutional loyalty, power, prestige, pride) he teaches it anyway.    

A false teachING is error. That is both a distinction and a difference. It is possible for a sincere believer to unknowingly propagate a false teaching — but that doesn’t make him a false teacher.

Nobody, however sincere, is exempt from error. Each of us, at some point along the way in our Christian walk, embraced and shared doctrinal views that, as we matured, came to realize were in error.

Labeling a person as a ‘false teacher’ unfairly implies insincerity.  Someone can hold to a false doctrine and still be a sincere believer. There are those who hold to a different view of the Rapture, but that doesn’t make them false teachers.

At worst, it makes them believers in a doctrinal view that I believe is false. I have opinions as to who are deliberately false teachers, but I am not God. I cannot judge their sincerity, only their teaching.

We are called to search the Scriptures, “to prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good,” (1st Thessalonians 5:21).

In the Book of Acts, the citizens of Berea are called “more noble” because, “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

It is a tough walk, this being a Christian. Sometimes it is all I can do to keep from throwing around the false teacher label myself.   It isn’t like there aren’t a lot of targets out there.

But all it would accomplish would be to drive away sincere, believing Christians who are still searching the Scriptures, like the Bereans did, still seeking to prove ‘if these things are so’.

Paul teaches us: “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. . . . Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1,4)

“Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (1st Timothy 6:5)

My understanding of predestination and foreknowledge may not necessarily be the same as yours.  I am not infallible, either.   

But I believe with all my heart and soul that what I teach is true.  And I trust God’s Word.

“Yea, he shall be holden up:  for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4)

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About Pete Garcia

Christian, father, husband, veteran, pilot, and sinner saved by grace. I am a firm believer in, and follower of Jesus Christ. I am Pre-Trib, Dispensational, and Non-Denominational (but I lean Southern Baptist).

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