Discernment, False Teachers

Shauna Niequist

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.

 

I get lots of questions about particular authors, pastors, and Bible teachers, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found above at my Popular False Teachers tab. The teacher below is someone I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on her.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

b) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers. This is a violation of Scripture.

c) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be teaching false doctrine.

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

If you’d like to check out some pastors and teachers I heartily recommend, click the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.


Shauna Niequist
Not Recommended

Shauna, an author, speaker, and podcaster, is the daughter of Bill Hybels, former pastor of Willow Creek, where Shauna has preached the Sunday sermon on many occasions.

This information from my 2016 article on Shauna is from a pastor friend of mine who knows Shauna’s family personally:

“[Shauna is] the daughter of Bill Hybels, the founder and pastor of Willow Creek in Barrington, IL. Because of very personal experience with it, I will tell you that this stuff they peddle has proven to be the worst kind of Christianity, and probably a Matthew 23:14-15 type of situation, at least in my opinion.

Next, this post right here ought to really be enough.

She is a friend of Rachel Held Evans. She is touring with Jen Hatmaker, who is a complete mess. Really, there is no other way to describe her than secularism covered with some Bible words.

Aaron [Shauna’s husband] is a worship leader at Willow Creek. He began a HUGE movement with contemplative prayer a couple of years ago. Because of his music, he comes off as very spiritual and sound, but there is nothing inherently Christian about anything he says or does, really. Take a look at Aaron’s blog here, which will give you more insight. [Aaron has apparently removed the blog portion of his website. He is no longer with Willow Creek, and neither is Shauna.]

There is ZERO discernment with this family, they either promote or flock to whoever is popular, and they are all about using words that sound really great, but have no substance to them at all. They are on this big thing lately about “Holy Spaces”, which sounds great, but is so anti-biblical when you really think about it. You don’t create a space that is holy, only God can do that. Anyway…

This is the Willow Creek legacy, in a nutshell: their lack of sound doctrine, lack of Bible, lack of biblical discernment, and their false teaching and false gospel. Shauna and Aaron are simply products of what her dad has built, which is a huge gathering of people who neither know Christ, nor have reverence for His word.”

As I began re-researching Shauna to update this article on her, her most recent Facebook posts alluded to the fact that she hadn’t written anything in a while and that her family had gone through some “adjustments” and other issues. I was hoping this meant God had convicted her of past sin and false doctrine and was straightening out her theology. Unfortunately, a mere scroll back through the last several months of her Facebook posts demonstrates that Shauna remains a false teacher to avoid.

A few years ago, Shauna publicly congratulated Jen Hatmaker for affirming homosexuality.

screenshot-2016-10-29-at-5-00-58-pm

And here’s Shauna recently affirming homosexuality herself.

“This is so beautiful,” says Shauna about this blasphemous article from female “preacher” and feminist Sarah Bessey. The purpose of the article is for Sarah to explain to a young woman (who is on the fence about the inclusion of practicing, unrepentant homosexuals into church membership and wrote to Sarah asking for advice) how she became affirming. In addition to shamelessly twisting and abusing the Scriptures throughout the article, Sarah has the unmitigated temerity to suggest that Jesus Christ, the sinless, perfect Son of God, had to be taught by the Syro-Phonecian woman about His privilege and His prejudice against Gentiles. And Shauna says, “This is so beautiful.”

Shauna continues to violate Scripture by preaching to men. Aaron says his wife is the “best preacher ever.”

She continues to yoke with, affirm, and maintain close friendships with, some of the most egregious false teachers out there, including Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle (The “Christian” mommy blogger who divorced her husband and “married” her lesbian partner, Abby. Shauna has recommended Glennon and spoken glowingly of her and Abby several times.), and the late Rachel Held Evans.

Here, Aaron says he and Shauna are helping Nichole Nordeman (homosexuality affirming, frequent associate of false teachers) fund her next album.

In addition to these (and so many more) glaringly unbiblical relationships, positions, and violations of Scripture, notably absent, or nearly so, from Shauna’s Facebook timeline is any meaningful mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible. Her post on “Holy Saturday” (the day before Easter) doesn’t even mention Jesus, the crucifixion, or the resurrection. And the benediction she wrote for her church’s Easter service barely does, in passing.

For a taste of Shauna’s theology, consider the following:

Shauna recently appeared on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday to promote her book, Present Over Perfect, “a path away from frantic pushing and proving, and toward your essential self.” She does not mention Christ, the gospel, or the Bible, and only mentions God in the most generic (“God loves me”) of terms. When explaining what was most helpful to her in overcoming her stress and anxiety, Shauna credits centering prayer, an unbiblical, mystical, New Age practice.

 

Shauna’s website markets Present Over Perfect as a “Bible study.” You can download the first two chapters of the book, and view the teaching video for the first session of the study. I did both.

Shauna writes engagingly, there’s no doubt about that, but the first two chapters of the book read like a memoir of someone who is aching to know God but hasn’t found him yet. Christian-y words like “God,” “sin,” “grace,” and “baptism,” are sprinkled through the narrative, but there’s a palpable disconnect between Shauna’s artistic usage of these words and her grasp and internalization of what they truly, biblically mean. It’s almost like “stolen valor” – a guy desperately wants to be a soldier, so he dresses and talks the part, but he has never served and isn’t actually in the military, yet he hopes doing all these things will fulfill his yearning to actually be a soldier.

And, keeping in mind that this is supposed to be a “Bible study,” there is nothing from or about the Bible in the first two chapters of this book. No verses. No discussion of passages or books of the Bible that will be studied in subsequent chapters. It is all about Shauna and her thoughts and experiences.

The teaching video is very much the same, minus most of the sprinkling of Christian-y words. There is no Bible in this “Bible study” video. It’s all about Shauna’s opinions and anecdotes from her personal life. (Sharp listeners will also note her mention of her “friend, Glennon,” the aforementioned Glennon Doyle.)

Here, Shauna reinforces the pernicious “church is optional” and “I don’t have to go to church; I can worship God anywhere,” mindset ravaging Christianity today.

In this benediction she wrote for her church in June 2019, Shauna waxes panentheistic: “May we walk through these doors and through this city intimately aware of the divinity all around us and within us and within each person we encounter.”

And in her 2017 blog article, Expanding the Way We Experience God:

Shauna commends, “a wide vision for how people connect with God,” including “poetry, silence, sitting by the ocean…centering prayer, truth-telling with my closest friends…” (rather than studying your Bible, prayer, faithfully serving and being taught Scripture at your local church, etc.). “The tools [for connecting with God] that have been meaningful along the way for me have been books, poetry, counseling, friendship, spiritual direction, the Enneagram, centering prayer.”

She again promotes the “church is optional” idea when she states, “Some seasons [of spiritual growth] require poetry, and others preaching,” and “…in late high school and early college, I needed a little distance from church life. And so instead of going to church, I went to the ocean.”

Shauna also believes in extra-biblical revelation: “So I’d settle myself on a rock [at the beach] and I’d listen for God’s voice, or at least the sense of His spirit.”

Southern Baptists should note that LifeWay, which purports not to carry authors who affirm homosexuality, at this time, carries four of Shauna’s five books.

Researching Shauna saddened me at every turn. Most of the false teachers I warn against proudly and brashly twist and defy God’s Word in order to build up their own kingdoms on earth of fame, fortune, and influence. That’s not the impression I get from Shauna, but rather of someone who acutely craves peace, purpose, and contentment, and is casting about for it everywhere except in the Christ of Scripture.

Is Shauna deeply steeped in sin and false doctrine? Yes. Should you and your church avoid her teaching and materials? Definitely. But there’s a subtle thread of sorrow and despair running through her writing that makes me want to hug her, sit and cry with her, and help her to embrace the truth of the gospel that will give her the peace she so desperately seeks after, the love of Christ that she’s looking for in all the wrong places, and the rest for her soul that only comes from intimately knowing as Savior the Jesus who is a stranger to her.

False Teachers

Sharon Hodde Miller

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.

 

I get lots of questions about particular authors, pastors, and Bible teachers, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found above at my Popular False Teachers tab. The teacher below is someone I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on her.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

b) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers. This is a violation of Scripture.

c) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be teaching false doctrine.

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

If you’d like to check out some pastors and teachers I heartily recommend, click the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.


Sharon Hodde Miller
Not Recommended

Sharon Hodde Miller is the “teaching pastor” of Bright City Church in Durham, North Carolina, where she regularly preaches during the Sunday morning worship service.

Sharon also holds a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in “women and calling”. She has authored two books and is a regular contributor to Christine Caine’s Propel Women and Raechel Myers’ She Reads Truth. She has also contributed to Ann Voskamp’s blog.

As I researched Sharon, I noticed something about her biographical information that usually appears in articles in which she is quoted, on websites, etc. While nearly all of these bios proudly present her as pursuing or holding a Ph.D. right off the bat, I don’t recall having seen an article or website in the dozens I looked at that also proudly presents her as a “pastor.” One reason for that is that some of the articles I looked at were published before Sharon and her husband planted Bright City Church in September 2018, which I believe is the first place she has served as a “pastor,” so one would not expect to see her listed as a “pastor” in these bios. However, in the year since she started “pastoring,” as of today, her bio on her own website, at She Reads Truth, her Twitter profile, the cover of her second book (released August 2019), and recent articles refer to her as “leading” (not “pastoring”) BCC “with her husband.” Sharon’s Facebook profile and Baker Books (which, again, released Sharon’s second book last week) call her a “pastor’s wife.” Is it possible that things have just been busy over the last year and Sharon just hasn’t had time to update some of these bios? Of course. We all get busy and forget or don’t have time to tend to details like that. But it does seem curious that someone who is heralded as having a Ph.D. in “women and calling” isn’t equally heralded as a female “pastor.” Why not be up front about it somewhere besides BCC’s website?

Sharon is friends with, under the influence of, and endorsed by Beth Moore. The two frequently interact on Twitter.

In her early years of ministry, Sharon spent a year working for Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 Ministries, and considers that experience one way “God has equipped me on my journey.”

Sharon’s first book, Free of Me, was endorsed by false teachers Ann Voskamp, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst, and Jennie Allen, (also, disturbingly, by J.D. Greear, who is currently president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a personal friend of Sharon’s). Sharon’s second book, Nice, was endorsed by Lysa TerKeurst, Bianca Olthoff, and female “pastor” Andi Andrew.

Sharon considered Rachel Held Evans a friend and wrote a tribute to her after her death saying “the church lost a powerful voice,” “her convictions were rooted in a genuine love for people,” “She advocated for those on the margins,” “that is why so many of us loved her,” and “I learned so much from [Rachel].” Rachel also promoted Sharon three times on her own blog.

Sharon has shown sympathy for and alliance with “woke” racialist Kyle James Howard for publicly slandering doctrinally sound pastor, Josh Buice.

Sharon has had numerous friendly interactions on Twitter with advocate of homosexuality, Jonathan Merritt. He calls her a friend.

In a 2016 Washington Post article, The high cost of popular evangelical Jen Hatmaker’s gay marriage comments, Sharon comments positively on Jen Hatmaker, calling her a “trailblazer” and saying,

“[Miller] believes Hatmaker represents a wave of evangelical women ‘who are not content to silo their faith,’ or to publicly support only the things that every Christian agrees on. ‘I happen to think that’s a good thing.'”

Sharon maintains a friendship with Jen on Twitter, and also recommended Jen’s blog (as well as Ann Voskamp’s and feminist/”preacher” Sarah Bessey’s) in her article Why I Am Thankful for Bloggers, a list of bloggers she is “thankful for,” “blessed by,” “God is using them,” and that these are “writers who influence me.”

Sharing her thoughts about IF: Gathering’s emphasis on social justice, Sharon was quoted in the Sojourners article Evangelical Women Look Beyond Bible Study to New Causes:

This was about expanding our vision outside of ourselves,” said Sharon Hodde Miller, a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School who is studying women in seminary. “It could play out in a variety of different ways but encompassed social justice, racial reconciliation, poverty, or thinking about the neighbor next door who is a widow.”

Sharon also wrote a blog article endorsing IF: Gathering and encouraging her readers to attend, follow IF on social media, etc. About the leadership team of IF – which included Rebekah LyonsAnn VoskampJen HatmakerLauren ChandlerAngie SmithBianca Olthoff, and Christine Caine – Sharon wrote:

“This leadership team gives me the tingles–it’s like the Holy Spirit A-Team.”

The fact that Sharon is a female “pastor” ought to be more than enough evidence that those looking for a doctrinally sound teacher should steer clear of her and her materials, but the seemingly endless list of her ministry partnerships with false teachers belabors the point. Sharon is not someone Christians concerned about sound biblical doctrine should follow or receive teaching from.

False Teachers

Rebekah Lyons and Q-Conference/Q-Ideas

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.

 

I get lots of questions about particular authors, pastors, and Bible teachers, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found above at my Popular False Teachers tab. The teacher below is someone I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on her.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

b) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers. This is a violation of Scripture.

c) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be teaching false doctrine.

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

If you’d like to check out some pastors and teachers I heartily recommend, click the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.


Rebekah Lyons
Not Recommended

Rebekah and her husband Gabe (who previously helped co-found the Catalyst conference, which has featured false teachers such as Beth Moore and Christine Caine) are the founders of “Q,” an organization which attempts to join Christians with secular cultural and governmental leaders as well as other non-Christians, including Muslims, in order to make a Christian impact on culture through “The 7 Channels of Cultural Influence.” These “7 Channels” are identical to the seven mountains found in the Seven Mountain Mandate of the New Apostolic Reformation’s false teaching of Dominionism. Scripture does not tell us to partner with non-Christians to impact culture, in fact, it explicitly tells us not to. Furthermore, Q states “Our long-term goal is to see the Christian faith become increasingly attractive, credible and influential in the church, our communities and the next generation.” Although this goal might be realized by those who claim the name of Christ but whose hearts are far from Him, this line of thinking is patently unbiblical and therefore practically unattainable within biblical Christianity.

Since the first publication of this article in 2016, Rebekah and Q-ideas have scrubbed from their websites and social media platforms much of the material I originally linked to, including:

  • A link to a talk given by a Muslim at Q entitled “How Can Christians and Muslims Work Together?” original link
  • A video of Rebekah and IF:Gathering founder Jennie Allen at Q discussing and promoting unbiblical ideas regarding the role of women in the church. original link
    In the original article, I commented on this video: “You’ll notice that Gabe commends IF for not ‘getting into doctrine’ when it comes to women’s roles in the church, and virtually no Scripture is cited in the entire talk, only opinions.”
  • A link to a talk given at Q Denver 2016 entitled “My Struggle with Gender Dysphoria,”by Melinda Selmys, a Catholic blogger and author who “encourages faith communities to provide trans people with the social, emotional, and spiritual support that they need in order to heal.” original link
  • A link to the transcript of one of Rebekah’s speeches at IF:Gathering entitled “Confessions for the Church” original link
    In the original article, I commented on this speech: “[The speech] is Ann Voskamp-esque sloppy theology at best, emergent at worst.”

I would like to believe that these materials have been scrubbed because Rebekah and Gabe have repented of these unbiblical teachings and have begun to teach sound doctrine, but the evidence of their continued false teaching, ties to false teachers, and unequal yoking with unbelievers belies that notion.

Featured speakers at Q have included false teachers Bianca Olthoff, Lisa Bevere, Lysa Terkeurst, Ann Voskamp, and New Apostolic Reformation leader, Phyllis Tickle, all of whom were allowed to preach to Q’s co-ed audience. (And, of course, Rebekah herself always speaks at Q and consequently preaches to men.) If you look through the videos at this link, you will notice that nearly all of them are under two minutes long (many under one minute), making it impossible to properly critique the substance of what the speaker taught, and leaving one to wonder if these particular snippets were chosen because they were innocuous enough not to offend the majority of Christian viewers.

One video at the Q-ideas web site features Kadi Cole saying that what we believe about women leading in the church is moot, we just need to look at what they’re gifted to do, and that we need to stay culturally relevant by elevating women to unbiblical positions of leadership in the church. Q 2019 included a talk entitled “Can AI be Intimate?” and touched on the idea of sex with robots. Also included at various Q conferences have been talks on the Pope, gender dysphoria, race and “privilege” (including “Confessing America’s Sins of Racism,” “America’s Racist Origins,” and “Are You a White Supremacist?“), “Ending the Death Penalty,” a variety of social justice issues, and included at least one practicing homosexual, Miriam Ben-Shalom, who was “the first openly gay person to be re-instated to the military after being discharged under the policy excluding gay individuals from serving,” and who considers it part of her calling to “educate” Christians on how to relate to homosexuals. Again, most of these video clips are under two minutes long (unless you want to pay for a subscription to the website), so it is impossible to fairly critique the content of the teaching.

(Note: If you wish to further research Q, please be aware that if you Google “Q Conference” you might get some hits for a “gay Christian” conference. This is an entirely different organization from the Q Conference that Rebekah and Gabe run. Be sure you’re looking at the right organization.)

Rebekah has appeared at, and is heavily involved with, IF: Gathering. An endorsement by Jennie Allen, founder of IF, appears on the home page of Rebekah’s website.

Rebekah called called Rachel Held Evans death “a heartbreaking loss,” and said of her: “She was a gift to the church, a passionate advocate for so many.” If you’re at all familiar with RHE, you know that the people she “advocated” for were female preachers, pro-abortionists, “gay Christians,” mystics, false teachers and just about anyone else who stood diametrically opposed to Scripture and biblical Christianity, while attacking doctrinally sound Christians.

Rebekah also invited Rachel Held Evans and Shauna Niequist to a “Q Focus: Women & Calling” event and participated in a panel discussion with them.

Rebekah preached the Sunday morning sermon (co-ed audience) at Bethel’s Jesus Culture church“, and has appeared on the Jesus Culture podcast. An endorsement from Banning Liebscher, founder/”pastor” of Jesus Culture appears on the home page of Rebekah’s website. Rebekah has also preached the Sunday morning sermon at Bethel itself.

The few citations in this article only scratch the surface of Rebekah’s multiple relationships with false teachers and the false teaching that takes place at Q Conferences and on the Q-ideas website.

Rebekah does offer several free teaching series through her website which I would encourage you to vet if you need to critique her actual teaching. However, considering the way Q’s YouTube channel and website present only a snippet of their tamest teachings while the more in depth or controversial teachings are behind a paywall, take into account the possibility that Rebekah’s free teachings may be less theologically problematic than those you have to pay for.

But, with Rebekah so deeply saturated in ministry partnerships with some of the worst of the worst false teachers, yoking with unbelievers, promoting unbiblical teaching through Q, and preaching to men, do you really need to vet her materials to know that you and your church shouldn’t be associating with her in any way – especially using her teaching materials?

False Teachers

6 Thoughts on Responding to the Death of a False Teacher

Rachel Held Evans died a couple of weeks ago. Myles Munroe, Paul Crouch, Jan Crouch, Tammy Faye Bakker, and Oral Roberts within the last several years. Eventually, Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Bill Johnson, and Priscilla Shirer will die.

Death comes for us all, including false teachers and heretics.

And how do we find out, and express our feelings about, the deaths of evangelical celebrities? It used to be via the newspaper and around the water cooler. Now it’s on social media.

There are three typical social media responses when a false teacher dies: Her fans laud her and turn her into a virtual saint. A few who claim to be Christians dance on her grave in celebration. And doctrinally sound Christians are kind of left groping for how to respond, biblically. There’s a feeling of wanting to have compassion for the family who has lost a loved one while not appearing to endorse or approve of the deceased’s false teaching and sin merely because she has died.

So how can we respond biblically to the death of a false teacher?

1.
Distinguish the Biblical Response
from the Cultural Response

“Don’t speak ill of the dead.” Where is this idea taught in Scripture? I can’t find it anywhere, can you? Does that mean we should speak ill of the dead? Of course not, because we don’t find a command to do that in Scripture either. I’m just trying to point out that a lot of the notions we have about death and other issues in life don’t come from the Bible, they come from our culture, etiquette, tradition, etc. If we truly want to respond to a false teacher’s death – or do anything else, really – in a biblical way, we need to be able to separate what the Bible tells us to do from what culture and society tell us is the right thing to do. In all aspects of life, that ability has never been more crucial than it is now.

2.
To Respond or Not to Respond; That Is the Question

There’s absolutely no biblical requirement for anyone to proffer an unsolicited public comment on the death of a false teacher. Or anyone else for that matter. Other than mentioning her name in this article, I have not publicly commented on the death of Rachel Held Evans for several reasons, though I found out about her passing shortly after it happened. My friends Gabe and Elizabeth did decide to comment on her death, and, in my opinion, both did a lovely job. Commenting or deciding not to comment can both be perfectly biblical.

The only time it’s really incumbent upon a Christian to speak to the issue of a false teacher’s death is when someone you know asks you about it directly. And even then, if the person seems to be overwrought with emotion, it might be wisest to simply postpone your comment until after a “cooling off” period has taken place.

3.
How to Respond

Briefly. Because the longer your comment, the greater chance you will either slip into eulogizing the false teacher or, conversely, making unnecessarily inflammatory remarks that will only serve to stir the ire of her family and followers and will make you look like a jerk.

Gently. Because even the gentlest remark is going to pour salt into the wound of someone who’s grieving if you’re not outright praising the deceased. And though “Don’t speak ill of the dead” isn’t a biblical concept, if you’re addressing the followers of a false teacher, you’re probably not dealing with people who are going to split that biblical/cultural hair. If they were overly concerned about distinguishing biblical concepts from worldly concepts, they wouldn’t be following a false teacher in the first place. Be sensitive to their cultural mores of gentle speech in this instance or you surely won’t get a hearing.

Non-speculatively. Because you do not have God’s omniscience, and speculation can serve no helpful purpose. Is it possible God ended the false teacher’s life as judgment for her unbiblical teachings? Yes. It is also possible He ended her life for a completely different reason known only to Him. Is it likely she will be spending an eternity in Hell? Yes. But unless you were at her bedside listening to her blaspheme the name of the Lord with her final breath, you don’t know that for certain.

Evangelistically. Because the greatest thing that could come out of the false teacher’s death, or anyone’s really, is for someone whose ultimate hope was in the hopelessness of false doctrine to find her ultimate hope in Christ.

4.
Prepare for Backlash

One of the reasons I intentionally chose not to comment on Rachel Held Evans’ death is that I knew I would receive tons of vitriolic, possibly even threatening, backlash from her disciples if I said anything about Rachel that wasn’t pure praise of her. At that moment in my week, due to various things going on in my life, I had neither the time nor the spiritual strength to deal with an onslaught like that. It’s not that I was afraid or didn’t know how to answer the barbs I’m sure I would have received, it’s just that it would have been a distraction from other things that were a higher priority in my life than responding to strangers about the death of another stranger.

If you choose to make a non-laudatory statement about the death of a false teacher, even if it’s gentle, compassionate, completely biblical, and annotated with Scripture, you must be prepared to be attacked by her followers. No matter how much the teacher claimed to be a Christian or how much her followers claim she helped them grow in the Lord, the fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of people who steadfastly follow, love, and defend false teachers over a long period of time are very likely not saved and will respond to your biblical remarks in the angry, emotional, often abusive way that can be characteristic of lost people.

This, in fact, happened to a Facebook friend of mine who has a growing platform. She made just such a gentle, compassionate, completely biblical statement on Facebook about Rachel Held Evans’ death. I would link to it except that she had to delete the statement because some of Rachel’s followers found pictures my friend had posted of her child and proceeded to make vile remarks and threats against her child.

This is the kind of thing you can expect if you comment with anything but praise for the deceased, so keep it in mind when you’re deciding whether or not to say anything.

5.
Weep

Romans 12:15b tells us to “weep with those who weep.” It is absolutely good and kind to be compassionate toward someone – anyone – who has lost a loved one, whether it’s your brother or sister in Christ, the widow of your atheist nephew, or even the family of a false teacher. Take a look at what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-45:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Christians showing compassion to the “evil” and the “unjust” is part of God’s common grace to the world. It is an opportunity to reflect the kindness of God that led us to repentance.

But another reason to be grieved by the death of a false teacher is that she is most likely beginning her eternity of death in Hell. Because people who continually and unrepentantly harden their hearts against God’s Word and godly rebuke and correction are displaying the fruit of an unsaved soul. And that is no reason to celebrate. As Ezekiel tells us:

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
Ezekiel 18:23

God does not giddily damn people. His heart is for all to come to repentance and faith in Christ. And that should be our heart as well. Could it be that, in His infinite mercy and grace, God gave that false teacher a final opportunity to repent and trust Him moments before her death? It could, and that is what we should hope for, not only for the false teacher and her eternity, but for the glory it brings to God every time He washes a sinner in the blood of Christ.

6.
Rejoice

But while we demonstrate compassion for the family and grieve the likely condemnation of the false teacher, there is also a righteous, Kingdom-focused, and biblical reason to rejoice: one more voice of blasphemy, lies, and deception has been silenced. At least in the sphere of influence of that particular teacher, no one will be led astray from Christ any longer.

But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
Psalm 37:20

God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered;
and those who hate him shall flee before him!
Psalm 68:1

Will another false teacher step up to take her place? Almost certainly. Where there are those who clamor to have their itching ears scratched, a wicked confidence man will arise to peddle his ungodly snake oil. But for today, for a short time, perhaps, no wares will be sold to this crowd of customers. And that is reason enough to rejoice.

 

Commenting on the death of a false teacher can be a tricky needle to thread. When we choose to do so, let us exercise the common grace of compassion, reflect the kindness of a merciful God, and always be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within us with gentleness and respect.


Additional Resources

Can a False Teacher be a Christian?

False Teachers

Karen Kingsbury

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.

 

I get lots of questions about particular authors, pastors, and Bible teachers, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found above at my Popular False Teachers tab. The teacher below is someone I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on her.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

b) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers. This is a violation of Scripture.

c) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be teaching false doctrine.

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

If you’d like to check out some pastors and teachers I heartily recommend, click the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.


Karen Kingsbury
Not Recommended

Karen Kingsbury is in a bit of a different category when it comes to her works of fiction. I asked about her in a group of theologically sound women I’m a member of. Here’s what they said:

“Her books are very ‘evanjellyfish’. Lots of personal words from God. Jeremiah 29:11 is quoted and misapplied several times per book. Ask Jesus into your heart. All the usual stuff.”

“There are absolutely problems with KK’s theology. Her latest series is about angels sent by God to earth to direct the lives of four chosen people and keep them alive so that one of the couples can bear a child named Dallas Garner who will turn the hearts of people back to God.”

“I actually saw The Bridge Part 1 and 2 on Hallmark that is based on her books. I would no way look to her for theology, but the movies were decent for a Christmas feel good movie. But that’s as far as I’d ever go with her stuff.”

“I really enjoyed the Baxter family series. As fiction. Not for theology. I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes quite a bit at those parts. But – it’s fiction. I don’t hold fiction to the same standard that I would a theological book.”

“The angels series is way out there and could lead to very bad theology. If you read those books, you might want to compare it with a study of angels in Scripture.”

I would echo the respondent who said she does not hold fiction to the same level of doctrinal purity as non-fiction Bible studies, Christian living, or theology books. If you are a new Christian or not very knowledgeable of the Bible, it would probably be a good idea for to stay away from Karen Kingsbury books until you’re more mature in Christ and can spot and reject the theological problems in the books.

That being said, though Karen is mainly still a fiction author, she has been branching out a bit in recent years.

Karen has written several “Bible” studies, including The Family of Jesus and The Friends of JesusIn this promo article for The Family of Jesus Karen explains:

“The Family of Jesus allows me to take a fictitious look at Joseph, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Elizabeth, James, and Mary in stories anchored by Scripture and cultural relevance – but with storytelling between those points. These stories will make you feel for the precious family members of Jesus. They will make you feel connected to Him in a way you may not have felt before.

So, this is a “Bible” study in which you will be studying fictitious stories about Jesus’ family members. Because the Bible itself isn’t good enough to make you feel connected to Jesus. (Lots of emphasis on feelings, of course.)

Karen has also begun speaking at Christian conferences. If she were only speaking on topics such as how to be a good fiction writer, or finding a publisher, or things like that which have little to do with theology, it wouldn’t be much of an issue. However it appears that she is speaking on theological topics at least sometimes as well as speaking before co-ed audiences.

Karen is one of the main session speakers at the 2019 North Carolina Baptist Missions Conference. The topic of her talk is not listed, but missions is a biblical topic, and both the promo video and the conference brochure clearly indicate that she will be speaking to a co-ed audience.

Karen will be speaking at three different Women of Joy events in 2019. As I’ve noted in other articles, WoJ frequently employs false teachers such as Christine Caine, Sheila Walsh, and Jennie Allen at these events, and indeed, Karen will be speaking with Sheila at one of her WoJ events and Jennie at another.

Mixing fiction with Bible study and partnering with false teachers are both dangerous and unbiblical.