Answering a Fool, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Answering a Fool #4

 

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

There’s a lot of foolishness masquerading as Christianity these days. Occasionally, I get e-mails and messages showcasing this type of foolishness. It needs to be biblically corrected so these folks can stop “being wise in their own eyes,” repent, and believe and practice the truth of Scripture. From time to time, I share those e-mails in The Mailbag with a biblical corrective, not only so the e-mail writer can be admonished by Scripture, but to provide you with Scriptures and reasoning you can use if you’re ever confronted with this kind of foolishness.

To answer a fool according to his folly (or in the case of most of the foolishness addressed to me – a professing Christian acting the fool by spouting unbiblical folly) is to stand toe to toe with him and firmly and biblically address his unbiblical foolishness without backing down or letting him run roughshod over you – sometimes even mirroring his own words back to him to help him see his hypocrisy. Some Christians think holding your ground, refusing to compromise on biblical truth, and offering correction in this way is unkind or unloving. It is not. Not if you’re going by the Bible’s definition of love rather than the world’s definition (“be nice” “accept everything” “don’t confront”), and not when you’re dealing with a pridefully stubborn person. One of the most unloving things a Christian can do is to see a professing brother or sister in biblical error and ignore it rather than trying to help that person see the truth of God’s Word. Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, John, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many others, did this plenty of times in Scripture, and, often, much more stringently that I and other 21st century Christians do. Sometimes love – real, biblical love – has to be tough in order to reach someone’s heart.


(This reader’s blog comment {in blue},
responding to this article, is reprinted in full.)

Kay Arthur is a servant of the Lord and those of us who are Christians and love God and do her Bible studies can discern for ourselves. Who are you to bring up such things? Go study the Word of God yourself and take the log out of your own eye. Maybe you can go find somewhere to serve and stop trying to bring dissension among believers. I’m sure you can find better things to do then [sic] pick apart a woman who has devoted her entire life to teaching the Word of God. The woman is 86 yrs old, let’s all try to leave a legacy as she is doing.

All right, let’s break this down, shall we?

Kay Arthur is a servant of the Lord…

I never said she wasn’t. I’ve clearly stated on many occasions, including twice in the article you commented on (which I’m assuming you read) that I do not regard her as a false teacher, and I have never questioned her salvation, nor (unless she apostatizes) do I plan to.

By the way, did it ever cross your mind that I might be a servant of the Lord? Just because someone is serving in a way you don’t personally like, doesn’t mean she’s not serving the Lord. A lot of people didn’t care for…say…John the Baptist’s methods, or Jeremiah’s messages, or Paul’s teaching, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t servants of the Lord. When determining whether or not someone is a servant of the Lord, the question is not, “Do I like what this person has to say and the way in which she says it?” the question is, “Does this person’s teaching and behavior line up with Scripture? Is she bearing fruit in keeping with repentance? Is she teaching what is good? Is she following the principle of teaching sound doctrine and rebuking those who contradict it?”.

…and those of us who are Christians and love God and do her Bible studies can discern for ourselves.

So why haven’t you discerned for yourself the things I’ve mentioned in the article? Why are you arguing against the issues I’ve brought up instead of agreeing with them? And why are you accusing and slandering me for exercising biblical discernment? It doesn’t appear from your comment that you are “discerning for yourself” or you would have already noticed these issues and you’d agree with the biblical passages I’ve cited that these things conflict with Scripture.

But you’re right, some Christians who love God and do her Bible studies can discern for themselves. Which, in several cases, is what has led them to write to me and ask about the issues with Kay that I’ve cited in the article. They’ve been discerning. They’ve noticed that some of the things Kay teaches and does conflict with Scripture.

Who are you to bring up such things?

I am a Christian being obedient to the clear teaching of Scripture to contend for the faith.

What’s the problem with bringing up such things? You want to hide the fact that a Christian teacher is deviating from Scripture in certain areas? Can you cite any rightly handled, in context Scripture which supports that idea? Because the Bible never suggests we should hide sin or unbiblical teaching:

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

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1

(I’m not suggesting, via these verses, that Kay is demonic or a false teacher or anything like that. But anything that you or I or Kay or anyone does that is sinful and/or contradicts Scripture is a work of darkness, and the Bible does not even hint that these things should be covered over, swept under the rug, or hidden. In fact, it says the opposite. God’s desire is always that sin and unbiblical teaching be dealt with and corrected in a biblical manner for His glory and our good.)

And what’s the problem with me or anyone else bringing up such things? In fact, why aren’t you bringing up such things? You’re a discerning Christian who loves God, and does Kay’s Bible studies – why haven’t you brought up the issues with Kay? The Bible clearly instructs us to hold to rightly handled Scripture and reject whatever contradicts it. Why aren’t you doing that? And why are you attacking me for following the Bible’s instructions? That’s not the fruit of a discerning Christian who loves God.

Either Kay is actually being obedient to Scripture in the issues I’ve cited in the article and you can prove that with evidence and Scripture (in which case, it’s actually to your advantage that I’ve brought these things up so you can publicly disprove what I’ve said and exonerate Kay), or she is being disobedient to Scripture in these issues (in which case, it’s also to your advantage, spiritually, that I’ve brought these things up so you can be aware and take Scripture’s side on these things rather than taking Kay’s side).

Go study the Word of God yourself and take the log out of your own eye.

What log? You’re wielding Scripture like a weapon and an insult against a sister in Christ who is obeying God’s Word, and you don’t even seem to understand what it means in context. (And neither of those things, if you’re a student of Kay’s, speaks very well of her teaching). And the reason I know that is because I’ve studied Scripture, as you’ve probably surmised from the copious amounts of it which I’ve cited in that article and this one.

If you’ll read the entirety of Matthew 7, you’ll notice that, in context, verses 1-5 (from which you’ve drawn your remark above) warn against judging others hypocritically. In other words, we’re not to judge a brother or sister for a slight fault (speck) when we’re guilty of that same fault to a much greater degree (log). Can you please explain precisely how I have done that in the article about Kay? Where have I taught unbiblically about spiritual warfare or endorsed someone else who does? When have I ever shared a stage with the likes of Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer, much less co-authored books with them? When have I ever invited men to a conference I’m speaking at? How am I judging Kay hypocritically rather than judging her with right, biblical judgment?

Further along in Matthew 7, Jesus Himself not only judges false teachers (and, again, I’m not saying Kay is a false teacher) and false doctrine, but tells us to recognize them by their fruits (i.e. make judgments about what is and isn’t biblical). Obviously Jesus is not guilty of hypocritical judgment by warning against false teachers and telling us to do the same, and neither are those of us who obey His instructions.

What is hypocritical judgment is you casting aspersions at me  – like: I haven’t studied the Word, and I’m hypocritically judging someone – with no evidence or biblical support. You have no evidence or grounds for saying that I don’t study the Word. In fact, I think that the twelve years’ worth of material on this blog is sufficient evidence to refute that claim. You have also provided no evidence or biblical support to your claim that I have a “log in my eye.”

But the biggest hypocritical judgment you’re committing? You’re accusing me of being unbiblical based solely on your own personal opinions, not based on Scripture. You have cited no rightly handled Scripture whatsoever. You’re accusing me of judging while you’re judging me. Who’s got the log in her eye?

Maybe you can go find somewhere to serve…

Another unsubstantiated, unbiblically judgmental accusation. You know nothing about me. You have no idea whether I’m “serving” somewhere or not. I am a faithful, active as I’m able to be member of a local church and I serve it in any way I’m permitted to. Furthermore, I am serving the Lord with this ministry. At the moment, I’m doing so by rebuking your unbiblical judgments and ideas.

…and stop trying to bring dissension among believers.

And another Scripture you seem not to understand, which you’re wielding against a sister in Christ like a weapon and an insult. (And, again, your lack of understanding of the Scriptures does not speak well for Kay’s teaching. Jesus said we will know whether teachers are good or bad by the fruit of their ministry. You’re part of the fruit of Kay’s ministry. How do you think your misunderstanding and misusing Scripture reflects on her?)

I’m guessing (since you didn’t quote or reference it) the verse you’re alluding to is Romans 16:17. Let’s look at what it actually says:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

Where have I said anything contrary to sound biblical doctrine as taught in Scripture? This verse teaches that the people who cause divisions and create obstacles (“bring dissension”) among Believers are the people who teach things and act in ways that are contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught by Scripture. For example, the things Kay has taught and done (ex: teaching men, yoking with false teachers, etc.) that are contrary to Scripture. Had she not taught and done these things, there would be no “dissension” because I would have been able to happily and wholeheartedly recommend her and you wouldn’t have had anything to complain about. When there is dissension among Believers it is the fault of those who are contradicting Scripture, not those who are standing for Scripture.

I’m sure you can find better things to do then [sic] pick apart a woman who has devoted her entire life to teaching the Word of God.

Log, meet speck. Pot, meet kettle. Do you not see the hypocrisy of you saying this to me? My life is devoted to teaching the Word of God as well, even the parts you don’t personally like. And yet here you are picking me apart. I’m sure you can find better things to do.

And, again, twelve years’ worth of material on this blog. One article about Kay that was written four years ago. Over 1600 on other topics including Bible study, discipleship, encouragement, evangelism, apologetics, recommended Bible teachers, Biblical Counseling resources, and resources for helping people find solid churches all over the world, among a plethora of other topics. Although there’s nothing wrong with the article I wrote on Kay – so I don’t need to “find better things to do” – I’m sure any objective person would see a 1600+:1 ratio as evidence that I’ve certainly found other things to do.

Furthermore, writing a carefully annotated discernment article addressing and explaining multiple issues with a teacher is not “picking someone apart”. It’s called being ethical, biblical, and thorough. (And by the way, one of the reasons I have to be so thorough is because if I only briefly cited one or two issues, I would get critics like you saying, “That’s all you’ve got? That’s nothing!”. It’s a lot harder to dismiss multiple and well-documented incidents.) While some people may choose to write a paragraph casting unfounded aspersions and making unsubstantiated accusations against sisters in Christ (log), I prefer to be as fair, biblical, and extending of grace to the person I’m critiquing as I possibly (speck) can.

The woman is 86 yrs old, let’s all try to leave a legacy as she is doing.

I’m sorry, is there some sort of age limit beyond which we’re allowed to sin and teach unbiblical doctrine with impunity? I don’t recall seeing that in the Bible anywhere. Solomon was elderly when he started worshiping false gods, and yet God doesn’t shy away from pointing this out publicly. In writing. Unconcerned about how doing so might impact Solomon’s legacy. Age is no excuse for sin or unbiblical teaching. In fact, God specifically says quite the opposite:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3-5

The truth is, we’re each responsible for our own legacy. If Kay wants to leave a more godly legacy, the areas I addressed need to be biblically corrected. I am doing my best to leave a legacy of pointing women to Christ and His Word, teaching them to be discerning, and encouraging them to be faithful to their local churches. There are many areas in my life in which I need to be more obedient to God’s Word so that I can leave a more godly legacy.

Misunderstanding and misusing Scripture. Falsely accusing, slandering, and hypocritically judging a sister in Christ. How’s your legacy looking? It’s something to think about, because, as you rightly pointed out, we should all look to the legacy we’re leaving. And we should strive to make it a godly one.


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

Answering a Fool, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Answering a Fool #3

 

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

There’s a lot of foolishness masquerading as Christianity these days. Occasionally, I get e-mails and messages showcasing this type of foolishness. It needs to be biblically corrected so these folks can stop “being wise in their own eyes,” repent, and believe and practice the truth of Scripture. From time to time, I’ll be sharing those e-mails in The Mailbag with a biblical corrective, not only so the e-mail writer can be admonished by Scripture, but to provide you with Scriptures and reasoning you can use if you’re ever confronted with this kind of foolishness.


(This reader’s blog comment {in blue},
responding to this article, is reprinted in full.)

You are a liar and devils tool. There is no role for corporate discernment. God doesn’t need you to defend His flock from false teachers, when did God become powerless or when did His flock become unintelligent or indiscernible? How come it’s OKY you who can discern? And just remember the same standard which you use to judge others, God will use to judge you.

Allllllllllrighty then. Let’s break this down.

You are a liar and devils [sic] tool. 

A liar is someone who intentionally deceives other people or says something she knows is not true. I have done neither. If there is something in my article that is incorrect, I assure you it was an innocent and unintentional mistake. If you could kindly specify exactly what you think I have gotten wrong with the evidence or rightly handled Scripture to back up your assertion, I will gladly correct my mistake.

As for being the “devil’s tool,” could you please explain how someone who points out biblical error and points people to the truth of Scripture is being used by the devil? The devil is the one who twists and misuses Scripture in order to lead people into error. Was Jesus the “devil’s tool” when He publicly pointed out and biblically corrected the unscriptural teachings of the scribes and Pharisees? How about PeterPaulJohnJude, and others whom God the Holy Spirit inspired to write the Scriptures that rebuke false teachers and false doctrine? Were these men the “devil’s tool” too?

When you accuse the brethren (me) without biblical cause or evidence, and in the face of Scripture that proves your accusations to be unfounded, what you’re doing is called slander and unbiblical judgment, and you are the one who is being used as a tool of the devil.

There is no role for corporate discernment.

I honestly have no idea what this means. “Corporate” means “a large company or group.” In Christian circles, when we use the term “corporate,” we usually mean the gathering of the church body. I’m an individual, not a group, so I really don’t have a clue as to how this statement applies to me.

Furthermore where does the Bible say or teach this? If you’re going to make a biblical assertion, you need to back it up with rightly handled, in context Scripture. There’s tons of New Testament evidence that God does want the church as a body and individual Christians to practice discernment, but I don’t know which verses to provide you with to refute your point, because I don’t know what your point is.

God doesn’t need you to defend His flock from false teachers,

God doesn’t “need” anybody. He doesn’t “need” you to rebuke me either. Did you consider that before you wrote your comment? Why didn’t you just remain silent and trust Him to convict me of whatever sin you think I’ve committed? Or is it that it’s OK for you to call someone on the carpet for what you perceive to be violations of Scripture, but it’s not OK for me to do so? Hypocrisy, much?

As I clearly stated in the very first paragraph of the article (which I’m assuming you read since you commented on it), people have written to me asking whether or not certain teachers are doctrinally sound. The articles I’ve written are answers to these readers’ questions.

Titus 2:3 says:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,

Teaching women the truth of God’s Word about false teachers, discernment, or any other biblical issue is good. Some other passages you might want to consider:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
Romans 16:17-18

Here’s Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, warning fellow Christians to “watch out for” and “avoid” false teachers. You know what else Paul said? “Imitate me.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…save others by snatching them out of the fire;
Jude 3-4,23a

Jude, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, exhorts the church to fight for the purity of biblical doctrine and to save those who are vulnerable to false doctrine, “snatching them out of the fire.”

“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
Ezekiel 33:7-9

God commands Ezekiel to warn people away from their sin and says He will hold Ezekiel responsible if he fails to warn them.

But I guess God didn’t “need” Paul or Jude or Ezekiel or any of the people in the congregations they were writing or speaking to or, by extension, Christians today, “to defend His flock from false teachers,” right?

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James 4:17

It’s clear from Scripture that warning people away from sin and false doctrine is “the right thing to do.” You’re asking me to stop doing the right thing. It would be a sin for me to stop, and it’s a sin for you to demand that I stop. And now that you know that warning people away from false teachers is the right thing to do, that means if you fail to do so, that’s sin for you.

So the real question here is not, “Why am I warning others about false teachers,” but “Why aren’t you?”.

when did God become powerless or when did His flock become unintelligent or indiscernible?

OK, so following your logic, why does every single book of the New Testament (except Philemon) address the issue of false doctrine or false teachers? Why did God have so many of the Old Testament prophets rebuke the false prophets of their day – false prophets who, much like today’s false teachers, would say “thus saith the Lord” and then tell the people things God had not said, or things that were in direct contradiction to what God had said? Was He so powerless that these New Testament writers had to write books and letters (“blog articles,” if you will) warning against false doctrine and false teachers and these Old Testament prophets had to publicly denounce the false prophets?

When did His flock become unintelligent or undiscerning? Let’s dispense with “unintelligent” because that has nothing to do with being discerning. Some of the most intelligent people in evangelicalism with strings of academic letters behind their names are some of the most undiscerning Christians out there – seminary presidents and professors, denominational heads, CEOs of Christian retail outlets. And there are people who have very little in the way of intelligence or education who are very discerning.

When did God’s people become undiscerning? In Genesis 3, when a serpentine false teacher, “a liar and a tool of the devil,” walked up to Eve, twisted God’s Word and said, “Did God really say…?”. And lack of discernment has been a pervasive problem ever since.

How come it’s OKY [sic] you who can discern? (I think you mean “only”?)

It’s NOT only I who can discern. Praise God, there are lots of Christians out there who are discerning. The people who have written asking me about these false teachers are discerning (because they want help understanding whether or not they’re being taught sound doctrine). There are other writers and teachers doing the good and hard work of teaching discernment. Pastors, elders, deacons, Bible teachers, church members, podcasters, authors, parachurch ministries. They are out there warning fellow Christians against false teachers in their venues just like I am in my venue, and I thank God that they are! I wish every pastor and local church were so diligent about teaching discernment that I wouldn’t have to write discernment articles any more.

But the vast majority of them aren’t. In fact, the vast majority are throwing the doors of the sheep pen wide open to the wolves in sheep’s clothing and welcoming them in. And until that changes, somebody has to warn those vulnerable sheep. Like I said before, why aren’t you helping to warn them?

And just remember the same standard which you use to judge others, God will use to judge you.

The standard I use to biblically judge the observable behavior and teaching of evangelical teachers is Scripture, and that’s the standard God will judge me (and everyone else) by. I am totally OK with that because I am doing my best to be obedient to Scripture, and when I’m disobedient to Scripture I repent.

Can you say the same? What standard do you use for judging me and others? Let’s just put the opening and closing lines of your comment together:

You are a liar and devils tool.
And just remember the same standard which you use to judge others, God will use to judge you.

What standard are you using?

I’d like to leave you with a few passages of Scripture to consider:

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:36-37

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:1-5

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15


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

Podcast Appearances

Echo Zoe Radio Guest Appearance: Potpourri

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I recently, once again had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with my friend Andy Olson as his guest on the Echo Zoe Radio podcast.

Click here to listen in

or watch the video!

Andy and I had a great time talking about all kinds of things from social justice to complementarianism, discernment ministries, leggings, and more!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and follow Echo Zoe on Facebook and Twitter!


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

Discernment

Throwback Thursday ~ Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Originally published January 22, 2016

discernment love

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…
Ephesians 4:14-15

Christians who know what discernment is have a variety of perspectives about how it should be practiced. Should we teach about false doctrine at all or just make sure our church is teaching sound doctrine? Should we name the names of false teachers or speak about them anonymously? Should we warn people away from false teachers or just pray for them privately? What’s the biblical precedent for using a stringent tone when speaking of those who teach false doctrine?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “speaking the truth in love” from Ephesians 4:15 as it pertains to speaking and writing about false doctrine and false teachers.

Many Christian women have the mistaken idea that “speaking the truth in love” equates to being “nice.” We’re always smilingly sweet and never say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings or could rock the boat at church.

Are we to be kind? Yes. Are we to do our best not to hurt others? Of course. Should we be making waves over every little thing that rubs us the wrong way? Absolutely not. We are to deny ourselves, setting aside our personal preferences and, in many cases, even our own rights, to the point of laying down our lives for others.

But we need to understand the distinction between personal preferences and biblical doctrine. And that’s where I think a lot of people get confused. We die to personal preferences. We die for the purity of biblical doctrine. The enemy is stealthily infiltrating and conquering church after church with false doctrine. We are at war. And that’s going to mean ruffling feathers, rocking the boat, and hurting feelings sometimes. Because the full armor of God doesn’t come with a white flag or a pen for signing peace treaties.

But how do we war for the truth “in love”?

Well, think about the concept and practice of “love.” Love always has an object. We don’t just say, “I love.” We say, “I love my children,” or “I love peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.” Speaking the truth “in love” is not as much about our demeanor or tone of voice as it is about the object of our love. It’s our love for others that compels us to speak biblical truth. And it’s that same love for others that should drive the manner in which we speak the truth.

So when it comes to speaking the truth about false doctrine, how should we be motivated by love? And love for whom?

We love Christ– As Christians, our love for Christ should motivate everything we do. If we’re speaking truth from fleshly motives such as pride, the desire to make a name for ourselves, or the competitive drive to win an argument, everything we say can be 100% factually right and we can still be spiritually in the wrong because the motive of our heart is wrong. God isn’t a debate judge awarding us points for compelling arguments. God weighs the heart.

We love God’s word– To love Christ is to love the Bible because Scripture is literally God Himself speaking to us. Besides the cleansing of the temple, the passage in which we see Jesus’ righteous anger displayed most clearly is Matthew 23. Here, Jesus delivers a scorching rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees for twisting God’s word and, in doing so, leading people away from the truth of Scripture. It is only natural for those of us who have the mind of Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit to have that same love for God’s word and feel righteous anger over the maligning of it.

We love the church– To love Christ is also to love His bride, the church. Christ gave his life to cleanse the church “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Seeing Christ’s bride blemished and corrupted by false doctrine should grieve us deeply and motivate us to call the church to be cleansed “by the washing of water with the word.”

We love the captives– Paul speaks of false teachers “who creep into households and capture weak women.” Often, the women who follow false teachers simply don’t know any better. They are casualties and prisoners of war held hostage by the enemy. We are to love them enough to show them the truth of God’s word so that “they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

We love the enemyEvery Christian was at one time an enemy of the cross. Every last one of us. Until someone loved us enough to intervene with the truth of the gospel. False teachers – those who, despite biblical correction, unrepentantly teach doctrine which is plainly refuted by Scripture – have made themselves enemies of the cross, even if they call themselves “Christian,” even if they wear the title of “pastor,” even if they’re holding a Bible in their hands and refer to it occasionally as they “teach” us.

In the same way a loving sister would not turn a blind eye and hope for the best if her sibling began using drugs and became increasingly addicted, it is not loving to stand idly by and allow false teachers to continue to sink deeper and deeper into Satan’s clutches by doing his bidding without making every effort to stop them in order to rescue them.

Sometimes – just as with the drug abuser – this can be accomplished early on with a private word of correction. And sometimes – as with the addict – more extreme measures of “tough love” and intervention must be employed. But we always love them enough to desire that they come to repentance and embrace the truth.

 

Our love for these also drives the manner in which we speak truth to them. A good soldier would never deal with a civilian casualty in the same way he would fight off an enemy bent on waging war. Likewise, part of discernment is knowing who the enemy is (and is not) and dealing with people in a biblically appropriate way. This requires humility, wisdom, thorough proficiency with our tools and weapons, unceasing prayer, and complete dependence on and self-crucifying love for our King. We trust in Him and His word to guide us in the wise and loving way to humbly speak His truth.

Discernment. Speaking truth. What’s love got to do with it?

Everything.

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.