Heresy Hunters And Why I Ain’t One
Vol: 147 Issue: 13 Friday, December 13, 2013
From time to time, somebody will send me a column, or someone will post one in the member’s section, ‘exposing’ the latest false teacher. From Rick Warren to Benny Hinn to Paul Crouch, plus a dozen or so others, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Robert W. Tilton — and I’m just getting started.
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, Dr. Jerry Falwell is 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 of 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 most common reaction for exposing some false teaching isn’t gratitude. It is more commonly anger; “How dare you say such things about such a good man!”
After anger comes denial: “That isn’t what he teaches — you need to do your homework.”
And it’s all downhill from there.
There is a world of difference between a discussion of false teachERS and false teachING. A false teaching is a doctrine not taught or confirmed by Scripture.
A false teacher 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.
If it did, then the term ‘false teacher’ loses any pejorative, since 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 false.
Calling someone a ‘false teacher’ 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.
Engaging in heresy hunting demands a few necessary prerequisites, including, 1)an infallible understanding of Bible doctrine; and, 2)an ego big enough to believe item #1.
I teach what I teach because I have examined as many other possible views as are credible against the Scriptures and proved to my intellectual and spiritual satisfaction which view has the strongest support in the Scripture.
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 going after those teachers out there that I believe are heretics in every sense of the word.
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)
“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” (2nd Timothy 6:20)
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
Note: Today’s Letter was chosen due to a couple threads that have sprung up in the forums this week; we pray this brief blesses your personal ministry. Alf Cengia’s column, “Poetic Irony and Gifts” is a wonderful reminder that the Lord is intimately involved in the lives of His people.