Movies, Apologetics

Movie Tuesday: How to Answer the Fool

Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Proverbs 26:5

Do you know the difference between evidentiary apologetics and presuppositional apologetics? They are two different viewpoints of defending the faith. Today, we’re taking a look at presuppositional apologetics via Sye Ten Bruggencate’s excellent film, How to Answer the FoolIt will provide you with a biblical approach to sharing the gospel with those who say they don’t believe in God or want you to prove God exists before they’ll listen to the gospel. For more resources and information, visit Sye’s website Proof that God Exists.

Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

Great balls of fire, the world has gone ya ya and we haven’t had a 4R since last July. Goodness. Well, we’ll fix that faster than a Costco shopper on a pallet of toilet paper.

Let’s jump into some Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources, shall we?

Photo Credit

M-m-m-my Corona(virus)

The other day I asked on Facebook if y’all wanted an article about Christians and the Coronavirus or something else. The overwhelming response was, “Something else! Anything else!” It seems many of us have reached out saturation point when it comes to hearing about the virus:
But there were a few hardy souls who wanted to hear a Christian perspective on how we and our churches should be reacting to all the ramifications of quarantines, social distancing, and church closures. So here are a few brief thoughts I had:

😷Wash your hands like your life depends on it, because it might. Instead of singing a song while you’re washing your hands, recite your memory verses. Or if you’re in a public restroom, share the gospel with the poor sap lady who’s washing her hands in the sink next to you. You know she’s going to be there a while- captive audience!

😷You shouldn’t have to be told to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. You should already be doing it. That is basic home training and basic loving and serving your neighbor.

😷Stay home if at all possible (I thought this was just called “being normal, but it turns out I’m an introvert. Or a hermit.). The sooner this thing stops spreading, the sooner we can all get back to church, work, and normal life (which, for me, is staying home if at all possible – it’s the circle of life. Or something.).

😷Christians are not hoarders. Christians are sharers. It’s one thing to lay in a reasonable supply. It’s a whole ‘nother animal to buy into the mindset that purchasing huge amounts of supplies will somehow magically ward off harm. It won’t. That’s superstition. It is failing to trust God to provide for you. Do business with God and discern whether or not you’ve been hoarding. If you have, repent, and make like Zacchaeus and give it away to people who need it. 

😷If you have a godly pastor, he has probably agonized over whether or not to cancel worship service or modify your church’s regular activities. It doesn’t matter what decision he makes, somebody is going to be unhappy about it and give him an earful. Don’t be that person. Give him some love and encouragement (from a safe social distance). He probably needs it now more than usual. And on that same note, whatever decision he makes, just roll with it for the time being, OK? We’re all playing this thing by ear right now, including your pastor. Don’t make me go all Hebrews 13:17 on y’all.

😷If you think nothing of skipping church for frivolous reasons, it’s hypocritical to complain now about your church’s services being canceled or modified for a much more important reason. (I’m not talking about First Amendment stuff here, I’m talking about your heart.)

😷”Online church” can be a blessing in an emergency situation like this, but this virus is going to pass and things are going to get back to normal. Do not fall into the fleshly mindset of, “Online church worked out just fine during the crisis, so I’ll just keep doing that instead of physically going back to church.” Uh uh. That’s spiritually lazy, and it’s sinfully forsaking the assembly. For Christians, Church is Not Optional, and that’s Non-Negotiable.

😷Have you ever stopped to think that this whole quarantine and limiting of meeting sizes thing could be God giving us a dry run of what it’s going to be like when real persecution comes, our church buildings are shuttered for good, and we have to meet in small groups in secret? That’s already real life for many of our brothers and sisters across the world. Maybe we should quit complaining and use this as a drill.

😷Where are Benny Hinn, Todd White, Bethel, and the rest of the faith healing crowd in all this? Time to put up or shut up.

😷Take reasonable precautions, but look for opportunities to help others and to share the gospel. Let your faith in God be greater than your fear of illness.

That’s pretty much my take on the whole shebang. If you haven’t had enough of all things Coronavirus, here are some more good resources:

Coronavirus Articles at The Cripplegate

Coronavirus and the Christian Faith on The Sword and the Trowel Podcast

The Coronavirus Pandemic – Bringing Hope to Those in Fear on Voice of Reason Radio

Q&A Corona Virus, Saturday Podcast, the Bible Project? at When We Understand the Text

Wisdom, Not Worry on Relatable with Allie Beth Stuckey

Kudos to one of my followers, Camille, who has been hard at work curating the best Coronavirus memes on the web, part 1 and part 2. (This is meant to be lighthearted and funny. If you only do serious, please don’t click.)

Get Your Worship On

This kind of goes along with my TBT article from yesterday, God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship. (Also meant to be lighthearted and funny, so please don’t click if that’s not your bag.). And some of you youngsters wonder why us old codgers like hymns so much!

The Real Deal, or the Fake Heal?

I was reading Acts 3, the story of Peter and John healing the lame beggar, and it struck me how starkly different this account is from the chicanery of New Apostolic Reformation “faith healers” today…

💥Peter and John didn’t have a “healing ministry”, they had a “preaching the gospel ministry.”

💥The lame beggar didn’t show up at “church” (i.e. the temple) to be healed, and didn’t seek Peter and John out for healing.

💥The lame beggar asked them for money rather than them asking him for money.

💥Peter and John had no silver, no gold, no Rolexes, no mansions, no private jets…

💥Peter said, “…what I have, I give to you.” The beggar was not asked to “sow a seed” into Peter and John’s ministry.

💥Faith isn’t mentioned once prior to the healing. Peter didn’t tell the beggar that if he just had enough faith, God would heal him.

💥No faith or money was required. The beggar played no part in “earning” his healing with his own good works. God healed him for His own glory.

💥The beggar was healed from a lifelong, obvious, eyewitnessed disability, and his healing was immediate and permanent.

💥Peter downplays both himself and the miracle and points to the Miracle Worker, Jesus.

💥Peter uses the opportunity of the gathered crowd to preach the gospel.

💥The gospel Peter preached was not, “Come to Jesus for miracles,” but “Jesus came to you, and you killed Him. Repent.”

💥Peter didn’t make crazy prophecies that didn’t come true. He pointed to the prophets of Scripture, and their prophecies fulfilled in Christ.

NAR preachers and faith healers want us to think they’re just like the apostles – even calling themselves “apostles” – but their words and actions don’t match up with what the apostles said and did.

They Aren’t Heretics Because You Disagree with Them

Of course not. So I’m not going to call Jared Wilson – who I have no reason to believe is anything other than a good, solid brother in Christ – a heretic because I disagree with the thrust of his article, They Aren’t Heretics Because You Disagree with Them. But, with genuine respect, I am going to call him “perhaps under educated” and “possibly somewhat lacking in experience” when it comes to the depth of the seemingly bottomless pit of false teaching and heresy out there.

Or perhaps our experiences are just different. Perhaps, in his world, there are throngs of people running around calling Presbyterians heretics because they believe in paedo-baptism. Or who cry “Heretic!” on anyone with a different eschatalogical view from their own.

That’s not the world I – and I would guess, most Christians – live in. In my world, the people who get called heretics and false teachers have generally earned the label by their biblically demonstrable false teaching and sinful behavior. There might be a few Baptists calling Presbyterians heretics and vice versa, but in my experience they are the rare exception, not the rule Jared’s article – putting the best possible construction on it – seems to be trying to address. And I get the feeling I swim in these particular waters much more frequently than he does.

I would certainly agree with Jared that the aforementioned types of issues are not matters of heresy, they are secondary issues on which Christians in good standing can disagree. But he lumps in some other issues (the role of women, extra-biblical revelation, yoking in ministry with “people who teach wacky things”) we cannot “agree to disagree” on because they are sin or false teaching that undermine the authority of Scripture, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the spiritual health of the church.

Jared has made the same categorization error regarding “secondary issues” that I believe Al Mohler made in his article on “theological triage” (which Jared links to in his article) – namely, that issues of sin (disobedience to clear Scripture) are not the same thing as secondary theological issues. Sin belongs all in its own category: sin. (I discussed this categorization error at length in my article Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue.)

Jared uses no Scripture used to back up his opinions, making them no more valid than the “opinions” he critiques. He cites the Baptist Faith and Message (the statement of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention), but the BFM is not Scripture, and we are Christians first, Baptists second. We are Bible first, BFM second. So anywhere the BFM might contradict Scripture, go beyond Scripture, or not rise to the level of Scripture (and it does not rise to the level of Scripture regarding the role of women in the church, restricting only the office of pastor, but not the function of preaching), it is moot and useless.

Does Jared not recall that Scripture says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”? And that we are to “cleanse out the old leaven…and celebrate with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth“? Yet the thrust of his article seems to be akin to saying, “Don’t worry about that little misshapen mole on your arm. It’s just your arm having a ‘different view’ of skin. Only rampant, stage 4 cancer should be called cancer and treated.” That is not a biblical approach to false teaching.

How would Jared have advised Old Testament people who had a “different view” of worshiping household gods alongside God? Or offering strange fire in worship? Or syncretism and idol worship taking place inside the house of God? Or marrying and divorcing foreign wives? Or, in the New Testament, Ananias and Saphira? Or those who forbid marriage and certain foods? None of these are soteriological heresies, and yet look how strenuously God dealt with each situation. Most involved the death of the perpetrators.

As much as many Christians would like us all to get along and play nice with anyone and everyone who names the name of Christ, we cannot do that and still be faithful and obedient to the Word of God that tells us to contend for for the faith and silence false teachers. False teaching, even non-soteriological false teaching, is a big deal to God, and it should be to us, too.

Southern Baptist/SBC

The 11th Commandment: 6 Principles for Boldly and Biblically Breaking It

Every organization has them. Those unwritten rules that everybody seems to know. That newcomers learn through whispered admonitions or perhaps by inadvertently breaking them. The Southern Baptist Convention – and probably a lot of other denominations and parachurch ministries – has them too, and one that more and more people are learning about has, tongue in cheek, been dubbed “The 11th Commandment”:

Thou shalt not publicly criticize
other Southern Baptist leaders.

It seems to apply mostly to the upper echelons of SBC leadership: entity heads, celebrity pastors and authors, seminary leaders, the SBC president, the head of LifeWay. Basically anybody with power, position, or name recognition.

And we’re not talking about slandering or lying about someone. Naturally, that would be sinful and worthy of reproof. We’re talking about anything negative or critical even if it’s biblically correct and necessary.

I don’t know anyone personally¹ who has told me he’s/she’s been in this situation, but I’ve heard several stories from reliable sources over the past few years of pastors, people who work for LifeWay, SBC seminary employees, etc., who would like to speak publicly, biblically, and truthfully about sinful situations or unbiblical decisions in the SBC, but are reluctant to do so for fear of losing their jobs or positions. (On a smaller scale, I have heard from plenty of women who have been spiritually abused and bullied into silence, or out of their own churches, by church leadership for daring to speak out against LifeWay-endorsed false teachers.)

Think about that for a minute. This is a purportedly Bible-believing Christian organization in which doctrinally sound Christians are afraid to publicly stand for biblical truth for fear of retaliation from other Christians. Hush up. Cover up. Don’t shine the light of Scripture into the dark corners of the SBC.

This is an organization which, not so many years ago, battled to preserve the concepts of the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible. A Bible which says:

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is
good and right and true)

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Ephesians 5:8b-9,11

If we truly believe these words are breathed out by God (inspiration), completely trustworthy (infallible), and without error (inerrant), how can there be a culture of back room intimidation in the SBC?

Why isn’t the Scripture we say we believe being obeyed?

Sin. People are sinning and it’s negatively impacting fellow Believers. Just like when I sin it negatively impacts fellow Believers. Just like when you sin it negatively impacts fellow Believers.

Anyone¹ who is helping to create a culture of intimidation against fellow Believers for speaking out in accordance with Scripture is in sin and needs to repent and be forgiven by the grace and mercy of Christ.

But, often, when we’re sinned against, even by brothers and sisters in Christ, the person sinning against us doesn’t repent right away (or sometimes, ever). She continues in her sin against us. Although we might be able to talk to the person and encourage her with Scripture to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, we can’t change her heart. Only the Holy Spirit can convict someone of sin and give her the gift of repentance.

So, as leaders continue to attempt to enforce the “11th Commandment,” the only remaining decision to be made by those feeling pressured into silence is, “How do I respond to this? Do I speak out and risk my job, my reputation, my church, and a peaceful life for my family, or do I remain silent?”. I would encourage these folks to prayerfully consider the following biblical principles about this issue.

1.
Be Wise

As Ecclesiastes tells us,

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

Don’t just let your default response be to keep your head down and your mouth shut regardless of the issue that comes your way. There are times when it is biblically valid to remain silent, but there are also times when we are required by Scripture to speak up, regardless of the personal cost. You must ask God for wisdom to discern how to respond biblically to each situation, and then you must act accordingly, trusting God with the outcome.


2.
Know the Issues

You’ve got to know your Bible and know where Scripture lands on various issues. That goes hand in hand with making a wise decision about whether to speak out or remain silent. Using wine versus grape juice for the Lord’s Supper isn’t a make or break New Testament issue for the church, so you probably won’t want to risk your job over something at that level of adiaphora, but false teachers who are wreaking spiritual havoc on your denomination and the church when you have the power and the platform to biblically denounce it? Speaking out on that issue is all over the Old and New Testament, and you’ll want to be sure you follow Scripture appropriately in your particular situation.


3.

Count the Cost

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26-33

Have you counted the cost of being Jesus’ disciple? It’s high. Jesus says you “cannot be My disciple” if you aren’t willing to sacrifice relationships with your closest loved ones in favor of Christ and His Word. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice your physical life. If you aren’t willing to bear your own cross and follow after Him. If you don’t renounce all that you have. That includes your job, your reputation, comfort, ease, and security for your family, your church, your friends, book deals, speaking engagements, and sitting at the cool kids’ lunch table with evangelical celebrities. Jesus was despised and rejected by men. Are you, His servant, greater than your Master?


4.
Don’t Miss Your Calling

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

Go back and read the entire book of Esther. One of the main ideas of this little book is this:

Any position, power or platform you have is given to you by God,
and you are not merely to preserve and protect it, but to steward it for His purposes.

Just like God didn’t make Esther queen as an end in itself, God didn’t give you that job at LifeWay or that position at a seminary for you to protect it at any cost. He gave it to you as a means to an end – His glory, and the furthering of His Kingdom. Esther was willing to risk death, divorce, even banishment to speak up because she realized God had put her in the position of queen as a means of bringing about His purpose of delivering God’s people. Is it possible that’s why God put you in the position you’re in – to give you the voice and platform to speak out so others could be informed and inspired to stand up for biblical truth? Don’t let fear of the consequences rob you of the joy and honor of being used by God to bring about His purposes.


5.
In His Steps

Jesus. John the Baptist. Peter. Paul. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Samuel. Gideon. The Minor Prophets. All of these men (and more) spoke out against ungodliness among the people of God, and all of them paid dearly for it. Maybe some of them were afraid. Maybe some of them were concerned about their families and livelihoods. But all of them put God’s Kingdom and His people ahead of personal concerns and trusted that if they did what was right in God’s eyes, He would take care of them. And the same God who never failed them will never fail you.

Let the boldness and bravery of these men inspire you to be unwaveringly courageous. Let their unflagging resolve inspire you to forge ahead with no turning back. Let the depth of their faith inspire you to take God at His Word and believe Him for everything. We still need heroes of the faith today. Be the next one by following in the footsteps of the heroes of Scripture.


6.
Share in Suffering

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:3

Suffering for the name of Christ and the truth of His Word is such a major theme of the New Testament I couldn’t begin to list all the passages that address it. When you’re a servant of Christ, suffering the same reproach He suffered from the same kind of people for the same reasons isn’t an option. It goes with the territory.

Second Timothy 3:12-13 says:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

And not only is suffering the reproaches of Christ guaranteed, we need to grasp the fact that this kind of suffering is an honor for the Believer.

And when they had brought [Peter and the apostles], they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men…and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Acts 5:27-29, 40-41

Read the whole account in Acts 5:17-42. Men of God were threatened, imprisoned, and subsequently beaten, by their “denominational leadership” for boldly proclaiming the Word of God to the people of God in the house of God. And those men of God got back up, dusted themselves off, and rejoiced because God Himself had seen fit to bless them with this honor.

We’ve got to radically transform our perspective on suffering for the name and Word of Christ:

  • We need to internalize and embrace the prospect of suffering rather than fearfully kicking against it and avoiding it.
  • We’ve got to fully wrap our minds around the fact that we won’t just suffer at the hands of unbelievers outside the church, we’ll also be persecuted by unbelievers (and sometimes even Believers) inside the church.
  • And finally, we not only desperately need to see suffering the reproaches of Christ as an honor rather than an embarrassment, we need to support, encourage, and stand with fellow Believers who are being persecuted rather than being ashamed to be counted with them.

When you face an “11th Commandment” issue there are some hard questions you need to ask yourself: Am I embracing the prospect of suffering for Christ, or avoiding it? Am I grasping the fact that the attempt by other Christians to silence me on a biblical issue is persecution? Am I ashamed of God’s Word and ashamed of being counted with those who are standing for it? Am I choosing to stay silent because that is the biblically wise decision regarding an inconsequential matter or am I just being a coward? Am I fearing God or fearing earthly consequences? Those are questions only you can answer through prayer and by rightly dividing and applying God’s Word.


Sometimes it is biblically wise to remain silent, but in the times when Scripture requires us to boldly take a stand for Christ and for His Word, we dare not seek to avoid suffering by caving in to the pressure of the 11th Commandment.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. Ezekiel 33:6


¹I am not personally privy to specific examples of specific people intimidating others or being intimidated by someone, so this article is not aimed at any specific person/people. This article is about the principles surrounding the “11th Commandment”.
Discernment

6 Ways Your Credibility is Crushed When You Defend a False Teacher

It’s so predictable it would be almost comical if it weren’t so wearisome and worrisome. Every time I write an article about a false teacher or mention on social media that someone is a false teacher, her disciples come out of the woodwork to defend her.

And every time, their arguments and defenses are formulaic. In fact, I wrote my article Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections primarily because I was getting the same comments again and again and it was getting cumbersome to keep repeating the same answers again and again.

Not only are the same arguments raised repeatedly, but they’re raised in the same ways, ways which leave the person who’s making the argument without a shred of credibility. And if you want your argument to be believed, the first thing you’ve got to be is credible.

Lawyers know this. That’s why, when they select witnesses to testify in their cases, they prefer to choose people who are morally credible and/or factually credible. A morally credible witness is someone who’s likely to be believed based mainly on her reputation as an honest, upstanding person. A nun. A judge. A sweet little church-going grandma. A factually credible witness’ personal reputation might not even be at issue. She’s someone who’s believable because of the airtight factual information she’s able to present. Maybe she’s an expert in the field in question, or she’s in possession of receipts or videos or some other form of tangible irrefutable evidence.

When it comes to biblical doctrine and apologetics, there is only one witness who is morally and factually credible: God. You and I don’t have a moral leg to stand on because we’re sinners, so we can’t expect others to take our word for it in doctrinal debates simply because we’re such swell gals. And as far as the facts and truths of Christianity go, God is the ultimate expert witness, because He is the Author of those facts and truths.

So when we’re engaged in a discussion about what is Christian and what is not, our only feasible and credible position is to put God’s written Word – His testimony – center stage, stand off to the side, point a finger at it, and declare, “Thus saith the Lord.” It’s an open and shut case.

But people who defend false teachers can’t do that because if they did, they would be agreeing with God that the person they’re defending is a false teacher. So they offer their own testimony in other ways. And that’s where the wheels fall off – of their arguments and their credibility. Here are six ways your credibility can be crushed when you’re defending a false teacher.

1.
Rejecting the Authority of Scripture

This is a very real, serious, and pervasive problem among many professing Christians today. You’re fine with obeying Scripture – right up to the point where it disagrees with you or interferes with something you want to do. That’s not obedience, and that’s not Christianity. That’s the religion of you: you being your supreme authority, the lord of your life, the arbiter of what’s right and wrong.

Christianity is about surrendering everything about yourself to Christ and doing what He says to do in every circumstance. If He says, “Go,” you go. If He says, “Don’t,” you don’t. If He says, “Jump,” you say, “How high?”, and then you jump. You don’t call the shots. He does. You don’t get to have opinions and preferences that differ from His.

It’s clear that you’re not submitting to the authority of Scripture when you’re presented with, for example, 1 Timothy 2:12, and video evidence of your favorite teacher violating that Scripture, and your retort is, “But that’s the only place the Bible says that!”. (It’s not, but even if it were, how many times do you demand that God must say something before you’ll believe or obey it? Two? Seventeen? Ninety-three?) Or you attempt brush that Scripture aside as, “That was only an instruction for that particular time and culture,” when verses 13-14 make clear that it’s not.

Once again, you are in the driver’s seat, not God and His Word. You have no moral or factual credibility of your own. Why should someone believe you over God?

2.
Failing to Argue from Scripture

When someone says to you, “Scripture says X. Your favorite teacher says Y on page 252 of her book,” you can’t defend her by saying, “You’re just a mean old doody head!” or “But she’s so nice and she’s had such a positive influence on my life!”. It would be just as effective to say, “But she’s from Montana!” or “She flosses her teeth so nicely!” So what?

Maybe I am a mean old doody head. Maybe I’m not. Maybe she has had some positive influence on your life, or maybe you only think she has because your definition of “positive influence” is your definition, not God’s. That’s not the issue. The only issue is whether or not she is walking blamelessly and teaching what accords with sound doctrine as measured by rightly handled, in context Scripture. And to argue that she is, you have to get into your Bible, study it, and present your case from God’s written Word. In other words, the fact that you like her or she’s nice doesn’t prove that what she’s teaching is biblical. And arguing those things as though they do shows that you either don’t know or don’t care what the issue is; what you care most about is your personal feelings and preferences – not a strong argument for believing anything you have to say about her being a good teacher.

3.
Mishandling Scripture

I appreciate it when people at least try to defend a teacher or doctrine by using Scripture. I really do. If nothing else, it shows you know that teachers and doctrine are supposed to be in alignment with Scripture and that Scripture is our authority as Christians. And those are two very important biblical concepts.

But when you attempt to defend a teacher with Scripture and it’s obvious you don’t understand the passage, have taken it out of context, or are twisting it, you’re making my argument for me that you should not be sitting under that teacher. Because if she were as great of a Bible teacher as you say, and you’ve learned so much from her, you wouldn’t be mangling God’s Word. She would have taught you how to handle it properly.

It’s hard for me to believe your argument when you’re making mine for me.

4.
Lying, or Denying Reality

I’m not sure which one is worse when it comes to defending false teachers. Increasingly, I will mention that, for example, Priscilla Shirer is a false teacher, and one of her followers will pipe up and demand that I provide evidence to back up this assertion. I provide this article, which contains copious amounts of both Scripture and video, audio, and text evidence of how Priscilla violates these Scriptures. The person then comes back and brazenly says I have provided no evidence and no Scripture. Not that she disagrees with the Scripture and the evidence I’ve presented, but that it isn’t there.

I guess I shouldn’t be so dumbfounded that this keeps happening, but I am. Because when you make a statement like that, there are only two possibilities: a) you’re lying – saying you’ve read the article when you haven’t, or b) you are denying the existence of something that’s in black and white in front of your own eyes. I’m not really sure how to handle that in Christian apologetics. If you’re clearly lying, you’re not believable, and there’s no common ground for reasoning and discussion. And if you’re denying reality – well, when I was getting my degree in psychology, we were taught that you needed to be medicated. All I can say is that neither speaks in favor of your credibility.

5.
Displaying the Fruit of the Flesh

We all know what the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. But frequently, people (who profess to be Christians) do not present their defense of a false teacher with an accompanying display of that fruit. Quite the opposite, in fact. Their argument is presented in hatred, anger, bitterness, fear, unkindness, impatience, harshness, and with wanton abandon. We’re not talking a polite disagreement, here. We’re talking name-calling, profanity, threats, and verbal evisceration. From people who claim to be Christians. In defense of someone they don’t even know personally.

When you act that way, I’m hard put to even believe you’re a Christian, much less that you have a valid, biblical argument, or that this teacher is doing a bang up job of teaching you the Bible so you can be conformed to the image of Christ.

6.
The Bible Doesn’t Back You Up

This is the most significant reason people who claim to be Christians yet defend false teachers lack credibility. The Bible doesn’t find them credible either.

Take a moment and read John 9:1-10:31 (I know it’s long, but you need the context.) This passage is about knowing and following Christ (not, as so many false teachers like to claim, that if you’re a Christian you’ll be able to hear God speaking to you audibly). “Thieves”, “robbers” (10:1), “strangers” (10:5), and “wolves” (10:12) are all false teachers who do not enter the sheepfold by the door (Jesus – 10:1,7) but sneak in some other way. Jesus is very clear in this passage that if you’re truly His sheep, you will follow only Him, not a false teacher:

A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (10:5) … All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. (10:8) … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, (10:14) … but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (10:26-27)

First Corinthians 2:14 says that if you’re not saved, you won’t be able to understand the true, biblical things of God. The will seem like foolishness to you and you will reject them:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

In other words, Jesus says that following and defending false teachers doesn’t match your claim to be one of His sheep (a Christian). And rejecting incontrovertible biblical truth because you consider it to be foolishness is a symptom of someone who isn’t saved. Either you’re a genuinely born again Christian who embraces biblical teaching and rejects false teachers or you embrace false teachers and reject biblical teaching because you’ve never truly been born again. The Bible says you can’t do both at the same time.

 

God has made things pretty simple for us. He has given us His written Word as the standard for our beliefs and practices. All we have to do is hold it up, like a yardstick, next to every doctrine and teacher who comes our way and throw out anyone and anything that doesn’t measure up. It’s when professing Christians try to use another standard or fudge the measurements that problems arise. Credibility lies with those who believe and hold high the standard of God’s written Word – not because of anything within themselves, but because they stand behind and glorify the Author of truth.

Discernment

Throwback Thursday ~ Still Be Discerning about Discerners Discerning Discernment Ministries

discerners discerning discernment

Recently, one of my favorite blogs, ParkingSpace23 (a fantastic, doctrinally sound blog I’d encourage everyone to subscribe to), published an excellent article by John Chester called Still Be Discerning about Discernment Ministries. It’s all about John’s thoughts on discernment blogs and podcasts and why he has chosen to swear off of them.

John seems like a thoughtful guy and he handled what can be a touchy subject evenly, calmly, scripturally, and with grace. As someone who frequently writes on discernment topics, it gave me some good food for thought and an opportunity to biblically examine both my writing and reading/listening habits. It’s a great article, I was thankful for it, and I agree with a lot of his points.

But while John has decided not to partake of discernment blogs and podcasts, I still find discernment ministry to be an important aspect of this blog as well as my personal spiritual “diet”. Does that mean I think John, or any other Christian, is wrong for not wanting to regularly read or listen to discernment material? Absolutely not! But I’d like to present a bit of a different perspective regarding the value of discernment ministry.

In the first few paragraphs of his article, John draws a distinction between two different types of discernment ministries- a disctinction which I think is both astute and important. John differentiates between what I would call “propositional” discernment sites like CARM, and, if I’m understanding him correctly, mine – which generally post single, position paper-type articles on a given false teacher or false doctrine – and what I would call “daily news” discernment ministries such as Berean Research and Fighting for the Faith – which report on the shenanigans du jour of false teachers and apostate churches.

John’s position is that the propositional discernment ministries [PDM] can be helpful when needed, but he is not fond of the daily news discernment ministries [DNDM]. I think both can be beneficial, assuming they’re done biblically. Take a look at John’s points and my counterpoints, and then you can prayerfully decide whether or not it would be profitable for your sanctification to include discernment media as part of your spiritual fare.

John’s point: “[DNDMs] often spend much time dissecting sermons or blog posts that someone with even a rudimentary sense of discernment would have stopped listening to or reading within the first few phrases.”

Michelle’s counterpoint: “Someone with even a rudimentary sense of discernment” is the crucial phrase here. Perhaps John is blessed to pastor a body of believers who are good bereans and most of the Christians he knows are discerning. I hope that’s the case. It should be the case that every believer has “a rudimentary sense of discernment” and immediately rejects false doctrine when she hears it. Nothing would bring me more joy.

But, sadly, that’s not the case. In fact, in my experience, the exact opposite is true, especially among Christian women. The vast majority of Christians are very undiscerning when it comes to false teachers and false doctrine. Often, people lack discernment because they’re false converts. But because most churches don’t proactively teach discernment, there are also plenty of genuninely born again believers who take at face value that anything which wears the label of “Christian,” is sold at a Christian retailer, or is proclaimed by a Christian celebrity is biblical and trustworthy.

I know, because I used to be one of those undiscerning Christians who hadn’t been taught any better by my church. Sure, I could pick out charlatans like Benny Hinn or Todd Bentley, and I probably would have described people like Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis as “wrong” or “that’s not what Baptists believe” without really knowing why. But the Beth Moore Bible studies that every church I’ve ever been a member of has pushed on its female membership? I had no idea she was teaching false doctrine, especially since my own church was endorsing her books.

It wasn’t until I Providentially “stumbled across” Todd Friel’s TV program, Wretched, one night several years ago that I began to understand what false doctrine was, why it was wrong, biblically, and how it could hurt me and the church. And it wasn’t until I discovered Chris Rosebrough’s Fighting for the Faith that I learned how to compare everything to Scripture – to listen to sermons with a discerning ear and read Christian books with a discerning mind. Todd and Chris taught me the discernment no church ever bothered to mention to me. And from the myriad of discerning Christians I’ve known, heard from, and read about, people like me are the rule, not the exception.

It’s not right that the church isn’t teaching Christians how to be discerning. I think every biblically responsible discernment ministry would agree that it is the church’s job, not a discernment ministry’s, to teach Christians to be bereans. But that’s not happening. And I thank God for those ministries who are standing in the gap- who have helped thousands of Christians like me.

John’s point: “[DNDMs] are unbiblical. What I mean is that there seems to me to be no biblical model or mandate for this kind of ‘ministry’.”

Michelle’s counterpoint: John may hold more closely to the regulative principle than I do, which would, understandably, account for my difference in perspective from this point. We do a lot of things, both in church and in parachurch ministry, that there’s no specific biblical model or mandate for. There’s no biblical model or mandate for vacation Bible school or crisis pregnancy ministry or handing out gospel tracts or even writing for a Christian blog. Yet these, and many other ministries, can carry the gospel to the lost (I’ve heard of many people who have read/listened to DNDMs, realized they were false converts, and have become believers.) and edify the saved – just like discernment ministries can. And there’s certainly a biblical mandate for that.

John’s point: “Did Jesus ever engage in a point by point take down of a particular Pharisee’s teaching that is recorded in Scripture? How much do we know about the Nicolaitans…in Revelation 2:15?… Or… the Colossian heresy…in Colossians 2:8?”

Michelle’s counterpoint: Jesus didn’t do sermon reviews (that we know of) the same way Chris Rosebrough does. But He did publicly enumerate and correct many of the Pharisees’ false teachings in Matthew 23. He publicly clarified Scripture and corrected unbiblical beliefs and false teachings – “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” – in the Sermon on the Mount. He publicly warned people against the false teaching of the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. And every time those scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees confronted Him with questions or after a miracle, He set them straight for the whole crowd to hear.

As to the Nicolaitan and Colossian heresies, Colossians and Revelation 2 were addressed to particular churches. Just because we may not know much about these heresies doesn’t mean the Ephesian and Colossian churches weren’t thoroughly familiar with them. Perhaps that’s why John and Paul didn’t elaborate- because their intended audiences were already knowledgeable about those heresies. And perhaps the reason they might have been familiar with those heresies is that they were constantly being warned about them. Every book in the New Testament (except Philemon) warns against false teaching or false teachers.

Not so with the church today. Christians are not only not being warned about the heresies and false teachers running rampant in evangelicalism, undiscerning pastors are actually embracing false teachers, inviting them to speak at their churches, simulcasting their conferences, sharing their social media posts, and ordering their materials for the church’s small groups. And the church at large is so biblically illiterate that Christians have no idea they’re being fed false doctrine.

John’s point: “Curiously many discernment mavens will quote 1 Peter 3:15 as a text that supports what they do. But to be blunt, it doesn’t, not by a long shot…. This is about being ready to proclaim Christ to those who would persecute you.”

Michelle’s agreement: I could not agree with this point more. This verse isn’t about discernment. (I usually hear this verse more frequently in support of apologetics ministries, and it isn’t about apologetics, either.) It’s about evangelism.

One of the main features of today’s false doctrine is the twisting of Scripture and ripping it out of context. How can we who do discernment work rebuke false teachers for taking Scripture out of context and then turn right around and do the same to justify our own ministries? We know better. Specks and logs, anyone?

There are plenty of other passages of Scripture (such as the ones I’ve cited above and others) that speak of the importance of warning against false teachers and removing false doctrine from the church. We should not be using a verse that has nothing to do with discernment to justify discernment ministry.

John’s point: “Don’t get me started on the lack of gentleness and respect [from 1 Peter 3:15] that permeates many of these blogs and podcasts.”

Michelle’s agreement/counterpoint: John is right, here. Some of the discernment ministries that (incorrectly) claim the first part of 1 Peter 3:15 as justification for their ministry are not following the second part of the verse which says to “do so with gentleness and respect”. There are discernment ministries whose articles I absolutely will not share or link to because their snideness and name calling are so over the top it overshadows the valid point they’re trying to make, sometimes even damaging their own credibility.

At the same time, we do see instances of Jesus using harsh language and calling false teachers names, and Paul, Elijah, and others couldn’t always be characterized as gentle or respectful.

The thing is, their cultural context was a little different from ours, and these are descriptive passages, not prescriptive. Sometimes different cultures call for different approaches. Additionally, one woman’s “gentle and respectful” is another woman’s “harsh and unkind.” I’ve written discernment articles that were characterized as hateful by some Christians and too nice toward the false teacher by others- both about the same article!

Although I fail miserably at it – often – I try to use 2 Timothy 2:24-26 as my guideline when I write:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

It not only reminds me of how to contend for the faith (not quarrelsome, kind, patient, gentle), it reminds me who I’m contending for (those being held captive by Satan’s snare of false doctrine), and why I’m contending (that they might repent, know the truth, come to their senses, and escape captivity).

John’s point: “[DNDMs] are unhealthy…’you are what you eat’…A diet of constant critical speech and reading is naturally going to produce a critical spirit.”

Michelle’s agreement: This is absolutely true. I don’t know whether it makes me over-critical or not, but when I OD on discernment media it certainly makes me feel angry, frustrated, depressed, and that there’s no hope for the church. It takes my eyes off Christ and the very real salvific and sanctifying work He is still doing in churches across across the globe, and causes me to focus on the monster of false doctrine instead.

It’s exceedingly important that we not go overboard on discernment or any other single aspect of theology or or spiritual life. In order to be spiritually healthy, we must have a balance of all the good things: discernment, Bible study, prayer, evangelism, fellowship, worship, service, etc. When I find myself spending too much time in Discernment Land, I know it’s time to step back and readjust my focus.

John’s point: “They are not very helpful…I don’t think very many Christians, especially the kind who read theological blogs, are going to be taken in by [blatantly obvious false teachers].”

Michelle’s agreement/counterpoint: I’ve already shared my thoughts on the helpfulness of discernment ministries for Christians who are not discerning, but, if I’m understanding him correctly, I think what John is saying here is that Christians who are already discerning aren’t going to be taken in by false teachers, and, therefore, have little need for regular consumption of discernment media. I generally agree with that. I still subscribe to a few DNDMs and peruse their daily headlines, not because I need to learn discernment, but because I like to know what’s going on in the church, just like people skim section A of the newspaper because they like to know what’s going on in the world.

I might add, though, that just because someone is the type of person who reads theological blogs doesn’t mean he’s on top of things, discernment-wise. Thom Rainer writes a theological blog (and books, and has a seminary Ph.D), yet persists in allowing false doctrine onto the shelves of LifeWay despite the many rebukes he has received from pastors, seminarians, lay people, and, yes, discernment media. Not long ago, I took a class via video from a conservative Southern Baptist seminary president who positively (albeit in passing) cited Beth Moore and Rick Warren in one of the sessions. And these are just two isolated examples. There are many more.

John’s point: “[DNDMs] often have significant blindspots…In their rush to expose the errors of others, often discernment bloggers/podcasters can overlook real problems with themselves or with their theological allies, especially in the areas of tone and conduct.”

Michelle’s agreement: This is so true. There’s no way I could disagree with this, because I have been guilty of it myself far too often. I would only add that this is not a problem specific to discernment ministry. Every ministry has blind spots because every Christian has blind spots. We’re all guilty of hypocrisy, myopia, failure, and sin. And, because we’re believers, when a brother or sister points out our sin, we repent, we receive God’s wonderful, cleansing, restorative grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and we move forward in obedience to Him and His word.

John closes out his insightful article with this thought:

I am not saying that you must swear off “discernment” blogs and podcasts, but I am saying I did, for the reasons above along with others, and I think I am better off for it. I would challenge you to consider what I have written and to think deeply about your spiritual diet. I am exhorting you to be discerning about discernment ministries.

I am not saying you must partake of discernment blogs and podcasts. But I am saying I do, for the reasons above along with others, and I think I am better off for it. I would challenge you to consider what John and I have written and to think deeply about your spiritual diet. I am exhorting you to think about it, study about it, pray about it, and discern what God would have you do about consuming discernment media.