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Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


Do you have any thoughts on Todd Friel’s latest comment that Rick Warren is not a heretic?

Yes, I’m a faithful listener of Wretched Radio, and I did hear that episode. (You can listen to the specific remarks this reader is referencing here starting around the 5:25 mark.)

I’d like to start by saying that I don’t speak for Todd, so if this is of great concern to you, I would recommend contacting Todd directly and getting a “straight from the horse’s mouth” response from him.

The following is what I understood Todd’s remarks to mean:

I believe Todd was using a more classical theological definition of heresy used by many pastors and theologians (and which I agree with), which a lot of people are unaware of these days because the term “heresy” is tossed about so haphazardly (I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it myself). In this definition, real heresy is narrowly focused. It has only to do with the basic doctrines of salvation. In other words, the things you have to believe to be a Christian, and the things you can’t believe to be a Christian.

For example, T.D. Jakes is a heretic for two reasons: a) he is a modalist, a classic heresy which denies the biblical nature of the Trinity, and b) he preaches Word of Faith heresy – “another gospel” as described in Galatians 1:6-9.

Rick Warren, on the other hand, is someone I would categorize as a “false teacher” (again, I cannot speak for Todd, so I don’t know if he would use that label, but I think he would agree with the remainder of this paragraph). He says and does a lot of unbiblical things which he needs to stop and repent of, and nobody should be following him, but he does not preach or claim to believe anything (to my knowledge anyway) that goes against the basic doctrines of salvation. If you sat him down and talked to him, he would affirm the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, that Christ is the only way of salvation, etc.

I think the confusion is that the classical definition of heresy differentiates between true heretics and false teachers, but many Christians don’t seem to understand that because the terms “heretic” and “false teacher” are often used interchangeably. This is a definitional thing. Todd is not saying Rick Warren is a doctrinally sound pastor you should be following. He’s made that abundantly clear on a number of occasions.


My friend Samuel had a great question on Twitter recently:

This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
Titus 1:13

It’s a great passage with a lot to consider. My thoughts:

1. Look at the rest of 13: “that they may be sound in the faith”. That’s the goal of the sharp rebuke- to bring them out of false doctrine and restore them to sound doctrine. That goal is what should inform the “sharpness” of the rebuke as well as the tone.

2. I think the “sharpness” has more to do with the urgency and immovability of the content of the message you’re conveying, and gentleness, kindness, etc., have more to do with the way (tone) in which you convey it.

3. Notice the word “For” at the beginning of v. 10. It draws our attention back to v. 5-9, the qualifications for elders. In other words, “Elders need to have these qualities (5-9) because of the need to silence and sharply rebuke these false teachers (10-16).” Verses 7-8 call for an elder not to be “arrogant…quick-tempered…violent…but…self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” Those qualities should govern how an elder gives a sharp rebuke.

4. I totally agree [I think someone else in the Twitter discussion mentioned this] that we should follow Christ’s example in Matthew 23, but we need to keep in mind that a culturally appropriate sharp rebuke in the first century Middle East might not be exactly the same as a culturally appropriate sharp rebuke in 21st century America. We convey the same message, but in a different way.


What is an Enneagram? A church in my area is offering a Bible study on it. Is it biblical?

The Enneagram is basically a tool that purports to help you discover which of nine fundamental personality types you are in order to maximize your strengths and grow in areas in which you are weak.

Is it biblical? There are a lot of different opinions and information out there, so it depends on who you ask. Some would say it’s merely a tool that helps identify less Christlike areas of your personality so you can be aware of, and strive to be more obedient in, those areas of weakness. Others grab on to the Enneagram and dive headfirst into the New Age mysticism that seems to be lurking in all its nooks and crannies.

I would just ask – have you ever read a passage of Scripture that says we need to analyze our personalities – using any tool, for any reason? No, you haven’t. And that’s the main reason I would say you don’t need the Enneagram or any other personality evaluation tool. Just like Christians for the past 2000 years haven’t needed them.

God gives us everything we need for life and godliness in the Bible. Do you tend to be too much of a people pleaser? That’s called fear of man. It’s in the Bible. Too harsh with others? You’re being unkind. It’s in the Bible. Struggle with anxiety? You’re not trusting God. It’s in the Bible.

A lot of people don’t want to hear this again and again because it’s not shiny and new, popular and fun like the Enneagram, personality tests, or internet quizzes (plus it takes longer and involves hard, spiritual work), but we don’t need to be looking for the latest evangelical fad to microwave us into spiritual maturity. We need the slow, deep, plodding work of studying our Bibles, sitting under good preaching and teaching at church, being discipled by older, wiser brothers and sisters in Christ, praying for wisdom, and repenting of sin.

If I were considering using the Enneagram, here’s what I would ask myself:

Why would I rather use the Enneagram – which isn’t mentioned or suggested anywhere in Scripture and has some sketchy spiritual elements to it – than use the methods (prayer, Bible study, discipleship, etc.) I know God has prescribed in Scripture?

For more information on the Enneagram here are some good resources:

Enneagram at Berean Research

Christian Answers for the New Age (Marcia posts great information on her Facebook page. You may have to scroll a bit or ask her to find the specific topic you’re looking for. Here’s something on the Enneagram I happened to find near the top of her feed today.)

Girl What’s Your Number? The Enneagram Episode at Sheologians

The New Age & Quack Spirituality Origins of the Enneagram with Marcia Montenegro and Steve Kozar


Can you recommend a good resource on _____ [a very specific relationship issue]?

There are a lot of wonderful books and other materials out there that can help us deal with certain relational issues, and when I’m aware of those resources I try to recommend them if I think they would help. I am all for reading and learning from helpful, doctrinally sound materials.

But the more specific and interpersonal the issue is, the less helpful resources are, because those resources are general by nature and can’t address every conceivable scenario, including yours. Sometimes you don’t need to read a book, you need to have a conversation with the other person(s) involved in the issue.

For example, if Sally is constantly gossiping about you to other people at church, you don’t need to read a book on gossip or relationships between church members. You need to go to Sally and ask why she’s saying these things. You might need to set the record straight about your behavior that she’s gossiping about. You might have received a false report that she’s gossiping about you. You might need to rebuke her and proceed to the next step of church discipline. But you won’t know any of those things unless you sit down and talk to her. And you’re not going to find those answers in a book.

In other situations, getting the wise counsel of a godly older sister in your church, or setting up an appointment with your pastor for counseling can be much more helpful than simply reading a book. These people know you and care about you. They’re available to help you and answer your questions. They can walk through the changing ups and downs of the situation with you over time. You can’t get all of that from a book.

Materials and resources are great and can be very helpful, but not in every situation.


I still meet with my ladies Bible study group, but they continue to choose very questionable material. Teachers that you have warned against as false and I agree with you. I have voiced my concerns to them over and over and at this point I am just starting to sound like a broken record. My question is, do I still participate and try my level best to help them discern or do I just leave the group?

In my article The Mailbag: Should I attend the “Bible” study to correct false doctrine? I addressed the question, “Should I attend a study using a false teacher’s materials in order to correct false doctrine, or should I decline to attend the study due to the unbiblical materials they’re using?”

Either option can be perfectly biblical depending on the situation and the people involved. This reader chose to go the former route, which brings up an additional question: If I join this group and they continue to teach false doctrine via materials by false teachers despite my correction, how long do I hang in there and continue to correct?

Since every situation is different, I can’t give a hard and fast answer to that. I would reiterate the counsel I gave in the previous article about praying for wisdom and discussing it with your husband and your pastor. If, in these discussions, you and your husband decide that, in addition to the women’s group, there are sufficient biblical reasons to look for another church, you may want to hang in there until you move to a new church.

If you decide to leave the group, another natural time to make the break would be when they finish the book they’re currently using and before they begin a new book.

If the question is less, “When should I leave?” and more, “Is it biblical to leave the group when it’s obvious they aren’t going to listen to biblical rebuke and sound doctrine?” the answer is yes, and practically the whole Bible is precedent for this.

Think back over the Scriptures. What is the Bible’s general posture and response to people – particularly God’s people – who have been repeatedly warned about their sin or presented with biblical truth, and choose to continue in that sin or ignore that truth (as this group seems to be acting toward the reader)?

Think about God’s repeated warnings to Old Testament Israel about their sins of idolatry and syncretism (which are basically what importing false doctrine into a church is). Even God didn’t hang in there continuing to warn them forever. What was His eventual response to them? He used pagan nations to conquer them and send them into exile.

Passages like these also help us see the New Testament’s take on moving on when sound doctrine is rejected:

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
Titus 3:10-11 (For more on false doctrine as “division”, see Romans 16:17-18, Jude 18-19.)

And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.
Mark 6:11 (see verses 7-13 for context)

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Matthew 7:6

Do you have scriptural grounds to leave if a group rejects biblical correction of their false doctrine? Yes. When should you leave? You’ll have to ask God to give you the wisdom to decide.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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