False Teachers

6 Thoughts on Responding to the Death of a False Teacher

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

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

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

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

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

1.
Distinguish the Biblical Response
from the Cultural Response

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

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

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

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

3.
How to Respond

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

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

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

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

4.
Prepare for Backlash

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

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

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

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

5.
Weep

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.
Rejoice

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

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

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

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

 

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


Additional Resources

Can a False Teacher be a Christian?

Mailbag, Sin

The Mailbag: If someone follows false teachers or teaches false doctrine for a long time, is she saved?

 

I have heard pastors say that believers can sin for a ‘season’ without repentance. In regards to professing believers who follow false teachers, what is a ‘season’? Can they continue following them for months? Years?

Is it possible that someone who is a false teacher is actually saved? Could she truly believe the biblical gospel even though, for decades, she has been terribly mishandling God’s Word, and has been on an increasing trajectory of sin and false doctrine?

I’ve combined two questions for this edition of The Mailbag because they are very closely related, if not, in fact, the same basic question.

I’m glad you asked. This is such an important issue to think through because, unfortunately, we are surrounded by professing Christians walking down these paths.

When I hear people use the the term “season” when referring to the Christian life, it’s been my experience that they usually mean “an indeterminate period of time”. In my mind, a “season” is longer than a couple of weeks, but shorter than several decades. That really narrows it down, doesn’t it? :0) But if you asked a hundred Christians what a season is, you’d probably get a hundred different answers.

When Christians say that someone can sin “for a season” they are likely alluding to the King James translation of Hebrews 11:25:

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Hebrews 11:24-25

You might want to take a look at some other reliable translations alongside the King James. The primary emphasis of the end of verse 25 is that the pleasure our flesh gets from sinning is fleeting, transitory, temporary. But the KJV looks at another petal on the same rosebud and helpfully explains that because that pleasure is temporary, the time spent happily wallowing in that sin should, consequently, also be temporary. The prodigal son is a good example of this. Once he found himself in the pigpen, sin wasn’t much fun any more, and that’s when his thoughts turned to repentance.¹

The next issues we need to tackle are sin and salvation. Here’s what we know:

🕇 Anybody who has a basic grasp of the biblical definition of sin knows that even the most Christlike Christians still sin and that sinless perfectionism is a bunch of hooey and hubris.

🕇 We also know that someone whom God has reached down and genuinely saved cannot lose her salvation due to sin. So the issue we’re grappling with in this particular instance is not whether or not a genuine Christian can lose her salvation by sinning, but whether or not a person who lives in sin for a long period of time is actually saved as she professes to be.

🕇 Finally, we know that there are false converts among us, who appear to be Christians for a “season,” and then walk away from the faith never to return, proving that they were never truly saved in the first place.

So how can we tell the difference between a genuine Christian who is temporarily walking in sin and a false convert who’s on her way out the door?

Most of the time, if she’s still claiming to be a Christian, we can’t know with certainty.

Often, the only way to know for sure that a person who seemed to be a Christian isn’t saved is if she either a) unequivocally renounces Christianity (i.e. “I no longer believe in God,” “I used to be a Christian,” etc.) or b) picks up a new belief system that clearly puts her outside the camp of Christianity, (i.e. “I don’t believe in the Trinity,” “I don’t believe Jesus was God,” “I’m now a Mormon,” etc.). In other words, if a person tells you she’s not a Christian, you can believe her.

But for the person who is sinning, following false teachers, or teaching false doctrine (that doesn’t conflict with biblical soteriology), and claims to be a Christian, it can be harder to tell. Why? Because we aren’t God.

When Samuel was trying to figure out which one of Jesse’s sons to anoint as the next king of Israel, God told him something that’s very instructive to this issue:

When they came, [Samuel] looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:6-7

Regardless of what someone appears or claims to be on the outside, only God knows the heart of each person. And that’s really good news for us, because it relieves us of the burden of having to read another person’s heart. That’s God’s job, not ours.

God judges hearts, we judge behavior.

God has given the church – Believers – the responsibility of seeing to the spiritual welfare of our fellow church members who are sinning. We handle the tangible, visible “action” part of the situation, and God works through our words and actions to handle the invisible, spiritual part of the situation in whatever way He may choose to handle it. And God has given us very clear instructions in Scripture about how to regard, evaluate, and handle these kinds of situations.

🕇 God clearly explains to us throughout Scripture exactly what constitutes sin and false doctrine. We compare what someone is teaching, believing, or doing with the applicable, rightly handled, in context Scriptures. If the person’s teaching, beliefs, or behavior isn’t in compliance with those Scriptures, the person is sinning.

🕇 God vests Christians with the responsibility of lovingly confronting sin in our brothers and sisters and urging them to repent and be reconciled to God, and He explains to us, in Scripture, how to do this.

🕇 God makes clear in John 10 that people He has genuinely saved – His sheep – will not listen to the voice of a stranger (false teacher). I have experienced the truth of this statement myself and seen it play out in the lives of dozens of women over the years: “I went to a women’s Bible study when I was a young Christian where they were using materials by [a false teacher]. I was really uncomfortable because I knew something was wrong, even though I wasn’t sure what it was. Years later, looking back and having learned my Bible, I now see I felt that way because I was being taught false doctrine.”

🕇 The overwhelming majority of the Scriptures dealing with false teachers seem to indicate that unrepentant false teachers are not saved. (I discussed these Scriptures in my article Can a False Teacher Be a Christian?.) But, again, with those who profess to believe the biblical gospel, we cannot know their hearts with certainty, and we do not have to. We evaluate their visible teaching and behavior according to Scripture and carry out the procedures for dealing with sin in the Body that God has prescribed in His Word.

How long of a “season” can someone walk in sin, follow a false teacher, or teach (non-soteriological) false doctrine before we know for certain she’s not saved? The farthest I will go is to say that the longer a person walks in increasing rebellion against God and His Word, the less likely it is that that person is genuinely saved. Saved people hate their sin. Saved people respond humbly and obediently to biblical correction. Saved people repent. But how long that takes varies from individual to individual. It’s impossible to put a number of days, weeks, months or years on it, and with many people who profess to be Christians while doing these things, we may never know this side of Glory.


¹THERE IS DISAGREEMENT AMONG SOME CHRISTIANS AS TO WHETHER THE PRODIGAL SON REPRESENTS A LOST PERSON WHO SUBSEQUENTLY GOT SAVED, OR WHETHER HE REPRESENTS SOMEONE WHO WAS SAVED, FELL INTO SIN FOR A SEASON, THEN CAME TO HIS SENSES AND REPENTED. I TEND TO BELIEVE THE FORMER DUE TO CONTEXT (SEE LUKE 15:1-2). JESUS WAS ADDRESSING PHARISEES (REPRESENTED BY THE OLDER SON) WHO WERE CRITICIZING HIM FOR RECEIVING AND EATING WITH SINNERS (GENTILES; THE LOST). AT ANY RATE, I’M ONLY USING THE PRODIGAL SON HERE TO DEMONSTRATE THE TRANSITORY NATURE OF THE PLEASURE OF SIN.

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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I cut ties with a friend who follows false teachers?

I have a friend who follows Todd White* and some other false teachers. I’ve talked to him about it and shown him why I’m concerned. He appreciated my concern, but didn’t think Todd White’s heretical beliefs were a big deal. What do I do with this friendship? Am I supposed to cut ties with him for his beliefs?

You have been very loving and caring to share the dangers of false teachers with your friend. Indeed, you would not have been a good friend to him if you hadn’t.

Just to clarify, to me the phrase “cut ties with” means to that you will no longer be in contact with this person in any way. Generally speaking, unless your friend has become obsessed with White and the others to the point that he can’t talk about anything else and is pushing them on you, my counsel would be no, you don’t need to cut ties with him based solely on the fact that he follows false teachers. Your continued friendship could be God’s grace to him, wooing your friend to Himself through your love and godly example.

One thing you will want to keep in mind is that your friend may not be truly saved and needs a clear explanation of the gospel rather than discernment information (which he won’t be able to understand or accept if he’s not saved). John 10 explicitly says that Christ’s sheep will not follow the voice of a stranger (false teacher).

(Now, readers, hear me clearly – sometimes genuine sheep wander for a minute. And sometimes a genuine sheep who’s been following around a wolf in sheep’s clothing recently will temporarily resist the idea that her new favorite teacher is actually a wolf rather than a sheep. Be a good friend like this reader was and lovingly explain to your friend what the Bible says. Then, be patient as your friend processes what you’ve said, and the Holy Spirit works – on His timetable.)

Take a page out of 1 Peter 3:1-6‘s book. You have explained the false doctrine. You have let your friend know that you are open to discussing it further in the future if he has any questions. If the Holy Spirit drops one of those “too amazing to be ignored” opportunities in your lap to put an appropriate word into a conversation with him, you can take advantage of that opportunity. Aside from that, just like the wife of the unsaved husband in this passage, you do not need to constantly bring up the issue. Be faithful in prayer for your friend, occasionally invite him to Bible studies and other events at your doctrinally sound church, love, serve and help him, and trust the Holy Spirit to do His good work in His good time.

What will the Holy Spirit’s “good work” look like?

• Your friend will get genuinely saved and leave the false teachers behind.

• Your friend is already saved, and he’ll repent of straying after false teachers and will turn back to obeying God’s Word.

• Your friend is not saved, rejects the gospel you share with him, and God gives him over to a hardened heart that “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) At this point, he will probably cut ties with you. It can be heartbreaking to watch, but judgment is also a good work of the Holy Spirit.

But since you can’t know what the future holds for your friend, keep praying and let him know you’re always there for him if he ever has questions about the Bible or needs to talk. Until he draws his last breath, there’s always hope that the Prodigal will come to his senses and come home.


*I have added a section of resources on Todd White to the Popular False Teachers tab at the top of this page.


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.

Discernment

Discernment: A Spiritual Battle, Not a Logical One

The way people think, the way we react to environmental stimuli, the way we relate to one another, the way our backgrounds and experiences shape the way we view and interact with the world absolutely fascinates me. It’s probably what led me to pursue degrees in psychology and counseling as well as every sociology, anthropology, criminology, and every other social science -ology elective I could get my hands on when I was in college. What makes people tick? Why does the human mind perceive things the way it does? Why is it that two people can witness the exact same event and come away with two completely different interpretations of it?

Those human-centered constructs and sciences can be helpful when it comes to studying observable behavior, but that’s exactly where their helpfulness ends – at the line of observable human behavior. Statistical psychology can perform a longitudinal study on people who were abused as children and show us that those people are much more likely to become abusers themselves. But, try as they might, none of those -ologies can accurately explain why they don’t all turn out to be abusers, or why some become abusers and then, for no earthly reason, suddenly stop and are seemingly magically transformed into healthy parents or spouses.

It’s because all of the -ologies lack a major operating component in their schemata – the spiritual realm. They’re like a football team with an adequate defensive team but no offensive team. You can’t play the game of football that way, and you can’t begin to understand people without acknowledging and understanding the spiritual.

Humans are more than just brains transported around by a bag of bones and muscles. People have spirits, and there are only two kinds: a spirit that has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, or a spirit that is in rebellion against Christ. And even among those who have been redeemed, there’s a broad spectrum of maturity, both overall and in specific areas of sanctification. You can generalize someone as a “baby Christian” or a “mature Christian”, but even among mature Christians, you’ll find that Christian A isn’t as mature in trusting God as Christian B, that Christian B isn’t as mature in generosity as Christian C, that Christian C isn’t as mature in patience as Christian D, and so on.

People are wonderfully and weirdly spiritually complex and unique.

As Christians, I think most of us realize all of this on some level. We know that the Bible says that when we’re born again, we become completely new creatures in Christ. Out with the old man, in with the new. It’s a redeemed spirit that causes us to do things – in varying levels of maturity – like: love Christ, hate our sin, enjoy worship, and weep over the lost. Conversely, not having a redeemed spirit will cause those things to be absent in someone’s life. The words, attitudes, and behaviors we see on the outside are driven by what’s on the inside – the state of our spirits. Or, as Jesus put it:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

We know this in our heads – when we’re dealing with someone’s sinful or otherwise inappropriate or aberrant actions, the words and behavior we’re observing are an outflow of the person’s spiritual state.

Sometimes, it’s easy to apply that knowledge. You observe someone murdering someone else, and it seems pretty clear-cut to say that the murderer is almost certainly not a genuinely regenerated Christian. Which is why he’s murdering someone.

The waters get a bit murkier when it comes to discernment issues in the church and among professing Christians, but the same spiritual principle applies. We’re ultimately dealing with someone’s spiritual state, not their external behavior.

“I don’t understand why my friend can’t see that _____ is a false teacher!”, I frequently hear from frustrated Christians (and myself!). “I’ve shown her video evidence, print evidence, and audio evidence of this teacher twisting Scripture, teaching false doctrine, and blatantly sinning, and she dismisses it all, telling me I’m being hateful and legalistic or that what the teacher is saying and doing is no big deal!”

That’s because what we’re dealing with is a spiritual issue, not a logical one. No amount of biblical evidence in the world is going to convince that friend of false doctrine until the Holy Spirit opens her eyes to it. My job is not to argue my friend into believing that Joel Osteen or Beth Moore or Benny Hinn or Christine Caine is a false teacher. My job is to lovingly present what Scripture says, demonstrate how the teacher is in conflict with it, leave it on the table, walk away, and continue to pray for my friend. My job is done. It is now the Holy Spirit’s job to open my friend’s eyes and change her heart.

Still not sure about all this? Let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say:

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers…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. John 10:3b-5, 26-27

You really need to read all of John 9-10 to get the fullest picture of what’s going on here. Jesus has, once again, proved His divinity and Messiahship – this time, by healing a man who was born blind. That’s all the proof the formerly blind man needs. He is all in. “He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” (John 9:38) and that’s all she wrote.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, despite having just witnessed a miracle only God can do, and despite the very words coming out of the mouth of God Himself in 9:39-10:30 – overwhelming, irrefutable, biblical video and audio evidence, you might say – refuse to believe. Instead, they do the first century equivalent of calling Jesus a legalistic-Pharisee-hater: “Many of them said, ‘He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?’…The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.” (10:20,31)

Jesus gave them evidence. He gave them Scripture. And He did it perfectly because He was God. But they still chose to believe false doctrine over sound doctrine because they were not regenerate: Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” (10:25-26)

Sometimes that’s what’s going on, spiritually, with our friends who follow false teachers. Despite what they say, how many times they’ve walked the aisle, prayed a prayer, or been baptized, or how intense an encounter with the Lord they think they’ve had, they’ve never been genuinely saved.

Jesus definitively says that His sheep – genuinely regenerated Christians – know His voice. They either instinctively know, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, when what they’re being taught is biblical (Jesus’ voice) and when it’s not (the voice of strangers), or they’re willing to learn as someone else teaches them God’s Word. Whether it’s an instant spiritual aversion to false teachers, or a gradual opening of their eyes through the teaching of Scripture, they will not follow the voice of strangers.

I can’t tell you how many women have told me (and I’ve personally experienced the same thing myself), “I was attending this women’s Bible study where they were using a book by _____. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but I knew something was wrong, so I stopped going. Later, as I learned more and matured in my faith, I realized I had felt uneasy because the author teaches false doctrine.”

If a friend is following the voice of strangers, it could be that she doesn’t know the voice of the Shepherd and needs you to share the gospel with her.

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. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

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. 1 Corinthians 2:14

People who aren’t saved, even if they appear to be and say that they are, aren’t going to “get it” when it comes to rejecting false teachers and false doctrine in favor of sound biblical doctrine. That’s something that only comes with a regenerated heart.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:12-14

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:6-7

Being unregenerate isn’t always the reason people follow false teachers. Sometimes the reason a friend follows a false teacher is that she has recently become a Christian, is immature in the faith, doesn’t know her Bible well, or is weak in the area of discernment.

When someone is genuinely saved, her life is on a trajectory toward holiness. But that doesn’t mean that God grows every aspect of her spiritual life at the same time or at the same rate. God may be growing your friend in kindness, or purity of speech, or self-control right now, and the “constant practice” of discernment might take a little longer, or not come as easily to her as it did to you. All Christians grow in the same direction, but we don’t all grow in the same time frame or in the same way. And that’s a good thing, because that way there’s always somebody strong to help me in my areas of weakness, and I can help others who are weak in the areas I’m strong in.

Something interesting I’ve discovered as I’ve studied and taught through the Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles is a recurrence of some variation of this statement: “Nevertheless, the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.” (2 Chronicles 33:17)

Often, a righteous king came to power on the heels of an evil king. The evil king had introduced all sorts of idolatry into the nation, including building temples for idols and altars on the “high places” where the people sacrificed to false gods. As the righteous king settled into office and began painstakingly ridding the land of all the vestiges and accoutrements of idol worship, the people sometimes continued worshiping on the high places, but would worship God instead of idols. Was this pleasing to God? No. Not only was the place they were worshiping God defiled because it had been used for idol worship, but God had been very clear that the temple was the proper place for worship and sacrifice. However, the fact that the king had not yet been able to remove the high places did not make him an evil king or negate the fact that he was hard at work removing other, sometimes larger, icons of idol worship.

There are “high places” – areas of spiritual weakness – in all of our lives. I’ve got them, and you do too. Are they pleasing to God? No, and we should be working toward finding out what they are and tearing them down. But their existence doesn’t negate the fact that we love the Lord and are striving toward holiness, nor that God is hard at work conforming us to the image of Christ. Just because your friend’s “high place” is following a false teacher doesn’t necessarily mean she doesn’t love the Lord or that He isn’t at work in her life.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

We’re not at war with friends who follow false teachers, so we shouldn’t be fighting with them, trying to “win.” Our enemy is the Enemy – the one who holds lost sinners captive. The deceiver. The tempter. The father of lies.

The next time you get frustrated with a friend who’s following a false teacher…don’t.

Remember that this is a spiritual battle. Lovingly lay out biblical truth as long as she’ll let you. Then, stand down, keep praying, and trust the Holy Spirit to do His good work through His Word.

Discernment, False Doctrine, False Teachers, Mailbag

The Mailbag: What did you think of Beth Moore’s “A Letter to My Brothers”?

Readers- Before commenting on this article, please familiarize yourself with my comments/e-mail/social media policies and my responses to objections about warning against false teachers. I will not be publishing any comments or responding to any e-mails that are covered by said policies or article.

 

Did you see Beth Moore’s recent blog post “A Letter to My Brothers“? What do you think about what she said?

The first thing you need to know about Beth Moore, if you don’t already, is that she is a false teacher who is living in current, unrepentant sin. She teaches false doctrine and twists Scripture to scratch the itching ears of her followers. She sinfully and rebelliously preaches to men, and she yokes in “ministry” with false teachers. These are not my personal opinions, these are verifiable facts. (See my article Five Reasons It’s Time to Exercise Moore Discernment for the evidence. You don’t have to take my word for it. Compare the things she says and does with Scripture (rightly handled and in context) and it will quickly become crystal clear.)

For years, I have repeatedly heard people try to brush these things aside as “everybody makes mistakes” or “no big deal.” These are not mistakes. These are sins that she not only has not repented of and stopped, she actually tries to justify. Sin is a big deal. It’s such a big deal to God that He sent His Son to be tortured to death for it.

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Isaiah 5:20

We would not say, “It’s no big deal,” if we knew a pastor who was proudly open about his serial adultery or joyfully endorsed homosexuality. Beth Moore’s open, proud, and unrepentant sin is just as inherently sinful. Why Christians continue to support her is both grievous and a mystery to me.

The reason it’s important you understand, for the purposes of this article, that Beth is a false teacher, is that you should view any theological statements she makes with a high degree of suspicion and discernment. Whatever theology Beth espouses is a house built on a foundation of sand because she is not hearing and obeying the (written) Word of Christ. Yes, she may, at times, say things that are perfectly biblical. That is by design. But you cannot have a sound structure when your foundation is faulty.

It brings me absolutely no joy to have to say such things. I would much rather joyfully point my readers to Beth as a doctrinally sound resource as I have done on many other occasions with many other doctrinally sound teachers. But in order to be obedient to Scripture, these things must be said in loving warning to Beth herself and to her followers.

Now, on to her article…

First, I’d like to give my overall impressions, and then move on to a few particular statements.

If I had to sum up this article in one word, it would be “vague.” I have more questions than answers after reading it. How, exactly, does Beth Moore define misogyny? Who is this large swath of men committing this misogyny? What, precisely, are they doing that constitutes misogyny? What sector of women are they performing these misogynistic acts against? What does she want these men to do instead of whatever it is they are doing? What, specifically, is the church supposed to do in response to this nebulous accusation of misogyny?

How is anyone supposed to agree with or refute the facts of what Beth is saying unless she gives clear explanations and details? What Beth has done in her blog post is to throw out unsubstantiated, generalized accusations against a wide swath of nameless Christian men and churches and she expects us to take her word for it that there’s some epidemic of misogyny across the board in the church.

There’s no there there. And I think there are several reasons for that.

Certainly, there are individual Christian men, even pastors, of every theological stripe who have had moments, like the ones Beth cites from her personal experience, in which they’ve acted like pigs toward women, or might even have a chauvinistic attitude toward women in general. Let me be clear- that’s sin, and they absolutely need to be rebuked individually for those sins and repent.

But among Bible believing, doctrinally sound churches and genuinely regenerated Christian men, there isn’t this widespread, large scale, general attitude of condescension toward and disdain for Christian women (that’s my guess as to what she means by “misogyny”, since she didn’t define it) who are obedient to the roles God lays out for us in Scripture and who don’t teach false doctrine. There just isn’t. (This general attitude might be more pervasive among men who claim to be Christians and/or subscribe to false doctrine, but Beth Moore herself has helped build that category of “Christians” with her false doctrine and unbiblical behavior. You can’t build a shoddy wall and then complain when it falls on you.)

Get LifeWay on the phone and commission them to survey a thousand genuinely regenerated, doctrinally sound women who aren’t preaching to men or partnering with false teachers, and who attend generally doctrinally sound churches, and ask them if they normally feel oppressed, patronized, or diminished by their churches or Christian men as a whole. I can practically guarantee that the answer will be a resounding “no.”

I believe that’s one of the reasons Beth’s article is so vague. She thinks her personal experience is common to all Christian women. But it’s not, because she and her poor theology and behavior don’t represent all Christian women, or even most of us.

I think another reason her article is so vague is that she can’t clearly state what she really means because she knows it’s unbiblical. Over the last few years, more and more people – high profile pastors, “regular Joe” pastors, average Christian men and women – have begun to realize and to speak out about the fact that Beth is a false teacher, preaches to men, and yokes with other false teachers. And though some small segment of those folks might qualify as “hyper-fundamentalists” (whatever that means – another vague, undefined, and, this time, intentionally pejorative term), all the ones I’m familiar with who have warned against Beth are reasonable, humble, credible, doctrinally sound Christians, not a tiny bunch of wild-eyed crazies with pitchforks at a Beth Moore book burning.

And, interestingly, while the rebukes that have actually reached Beth’s ears have probably come mostly from men (because men are pastors and have larger platforms and a louder voice), at the grassroots, non-celebrity, average person in the pew level, the vast majority of people warning against Beth are women. Generally speaking, most pastors and Christian husbands have no clue about the problems with Beth Moore. They assume that because she claims to be a Christian and a Southern Baptist, and because LifeWay endorses her and has helped build her empire, she must be doctrinally sound. I know because I hear from women all the time asking how to approach their pastors about the fact that their church is using Beth Moore “Bible” studies. Does Beth consider the discerning women who warn against her to be misogynistic?

I would suggest that the majority of any “misogyny” Beth has received or thinks is pervasive in evangelicalism is largely the result of Christians who know their Bibles speaking and acting upon that knowledge. Men ignored her in elevators and at “team meetings”? She’s “the elephant in the room with a skirt on”? The Bible says:

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 2 John 9-11

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

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:10-11

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12

And in this day when the “Pence rule” is ridiculed and men’s lives are being destroyed with accusations of sexual harassment right and left for the most minor of real or imagined infractions, is it any wonder that any Christian man might keep his distance from any woman who’s not his wife?

I suspect Beth has been feeling the pressure – both in her “ministry” and financially – as more people become aware of the theological problems with her, and the sentiment behind her veiled accusations of misogyny is along the lines of, “I don’t like discerning Christians speaking out about my false doctrine, preaching to men, and yoking with false teachers. It hurts my feelings and is detrimental to my career. I want them to be quiet and let me continue to do these things in peace.” But she can’t come right out and say those things clearly because she knows what she’s doing is unbiblical, she’d be publicly admitting to it, and she’d lose even more followers and support.

Finally, I think a significant factor at play in the posting of her article is the popularity factor. Beth is riding the ebbing wave of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements and using that platform to gain more supporters to replace the ones she’s lost. Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched her do the same thing with the issue of racism on Twitter and by being a last minute addition to the MLK50 Conference. Racism and abuse/misogyny are both hot-topic, trending issues right now. Getting on board that train as a celebrity is a cheap and easy way to get your name in the headlines, your face in the spotlight, boost your social media analytics, gain more followers, and, thus, more customers to buy your materials and attend your conferences.

Want to know how I know this? Because even someone with as small a platform as I have has experienced it. I know what topics to write about that will get me the most clicks and re-tweets (and I usually avoid those topics for that very reason – it’s too tempting). I know the kinds of things you have to do to market yourself and your books successfully to Christian women (which is why I don’t have any books on the market or a larger following – I’m not willing to do some of those things). Beth Moore is a savvy businesswoman with plenty of smart people to advise her. She knows about these things, too. With Christians waking up in droves to the fact that she’s a false teacher, and with the fact that Beth is getting older and a fresh new generation of young female “Bible” teachers is gaining traction and a share of her audience, she’s got to do something to build her following. Everybody with even the smallest parachurch ministry knows how the game is played.

In closing I’d like to interact with a few particular statements Beth made.

I had no personal aspirations to preach nor was it my aim to teach men. If men showed up in my class, I did not throw them out. I taught.

I had no personal aspirations, nor was it my aim to snap at my husband the other day or tell a lie last month. That doesn’t change the fact that I did those things and that they are sins Christ calls me to repent of and stop. Beth acts like teaching men is something that was thrust upon her and that she had no control over so it wasn’t her fault. She also suggests that the only way to handle men showing up in a women’s class is to rudely “throw them out”, implying that if a female teacher restricts her class to women, she must be acting horribly rudely to any man who shows up. Baloney. I’ve explained in this article (#10) how women can kindly and graciously prevent men from coming to their women’s class in the first place and keep them from staying if they do show up. If men rebelliously decide to show up and stay in a women’s class or at a women’s conference, Beth or any other woman can certainly sit down and refuse to teach until they leave. That’s not even resisting sin to the point of shedding blood, it’s just calmly refusing to participate in it. Frankly, doing so would teach both the men and women in the room an extremely important lesson.

The fact of the matter is that Beth is just fine with preaching to men in defiance of Scripture. If she were really trying to obey Scripture she wouldn’t attempt to justify her sin, accept numerous speaking engagements to preach at conferences and churches whose audiences she knows ahead of time will contain men, or preach to pastors.

male leaders/fellow leaders…serve alongside them 

Once again, these are very vague terms. What does Beth mean by “serve alongside” these male “leaders”? Is she talking about preaching alongside them at a conference or that she ought to be able to “serve” in the same capacities men can biblically serve in? Does she consider pastors to be “fellow” leaders because she views herself as equal to pastors?

Anyone out in the public eye gets pelted with criticism.

Anyone who becomes a Christian preacher or teacher gets biblically judged – by God and by people – with a stricter judgment, and Christians are called to reject false doctrine.

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

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

He can put us out there and pull us back as He pleases.

Yes, He can, and the fact that He “puts Beth out there” and has allowed her to have a large following in no way indicates that He approves of her behavior or her doctrine. The size of a person’s platform or the number of followers she has doesn’t mean God is blessing her because she’s biblical. In fact, it can mean exactly the opposite.

Ours is to keep our heads down and seek Him earnestly and serve Him humbly

If Beth Moore were keeping her head down and seeking God earnestly and serving Him humbly, she would almost certainly not be the celebrity she is, just like the myriad of Christian women who are doing those things and aren’t celebrities. Her article is indicative of the fact that she’s not “keeping her head down” – she’s making a big splashy statement and reprimanding good churches and Christian men and women to elevate herself. She’s doing what she can to keep the wheels of her celebrity turning. And if she were “earnestly” and “humbly” seeking and serving God, the very first thing she would do is repent of her sin and stop it.

opposition and difficulties are norms for servants of Christ

Especially when you’re not serving Christ because you’re intentionally disobeying Him. Of course people who stand on the truth of God’s Word will oppose you. You should expect that. And if you’re truly a servant of Christ, you should also expect God to discipline you when you sin. These are basic biblical principles a Bible teacher should know.

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
2 Timothy 2:5

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then
you are illegitimate children and not sons. Hebrews 12:7-8

Even criticism, as much as we all hate it, is used by God to bring correction, endurance and humility and to curb our deadly addictions to the approval of man.

This is true! So may I suggest, Beth, that you humble yourself, and be corrected from your addictions to the approval of man? Step down, repent, take a seat under some good biblical instruction from a doctrinally sound pastor, and learn and obey the truth of God’s Word.

Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these [key Christian leaders]. It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason. Ungodliness.

Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 1 Timothy 5:19

What leaders? Where are your witnesses? What, specifically, were their sins? How were they being ungodly? This is just one more example of vagueness and unsubstantiated accusations.

The dignity with which Christ treated women in the Gospels is fiercely beautiful and it was not conditional upon their understanding their place.

This is a fallacious argument that, as a Bible teacher, Beth should know is fallacious, because we don’t see Christ interacting in the gospels with any women who “don’t understand their place.” Every woman we see that Christ interacts with in the gospels is either already living in obedience to God’s Word, or is at the point of repentance, or Christ instructs her to “go and sin no more.” We never see Him interacting with a woman who is in-your-face defiantly, continually, and unrepentantly persisting in disobedience to Scripture. If we had seen Him interact with a woman like that, I’m sure He would have treated her with the same “dignity” He treated the “brood of vipers, blind guides, whitewashed tombs” false teaching Pharisees who acted like that.

Furthermore, this sounds uncomfortably close to the popular erroneous argument, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, so it must have been OK with Him.” All Scripture is breathed out by God. That means when 1 Timothy 2:12 explains and commands women’s “place” in the church, that’s just as much the words of Jesus as the ones He speaks in the gospels.

I am…deeply committed to the authority of the Word of God and to the imitation of Christ.

Then imitate Him by obeying His written Word. Be under the authority of the Word of God by humbling yourself and submitting to it.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:4-6

 

Beth Moore may have experienced some terrible personal treatment at the hands of individual men. I hope all of them were rebuked for their sin and repented of it. But the truth of the matter is that any generalized opposition or difficulty Beth is experiencing is not because she’s a woman, or because Christian men and complementarian churches are misogynistic, or because she doesn’t have a seminary degree. It’s because she’s in sin.

And I dearly wish she would repent. I spent quite a bit of time in prayer for Beth, weeping over her situation before writing this article. Beth is a beautiful, kind-hearted woman made in God’s image who is in angst because she’s persisting in sin and resisting the discipline of the Lord. My heart breaks to see her or any other professing Christian go through something like that. The answer to all her difficulties is so close, yet she pushes away the hands that lovingly hold it out to her, reaching instead for something that will never satisfy.

Beth, I love you and I long to see you truly flourish in Christ. Consider that the pressure and anxiety you’re calling “misogyny” might actually be the grace of God disciplining you, calling you lovingly to repentance. Today, if you hear His voice, please do not harden your heart. Won’t you repent and be reconciled to Him in obedience today?


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.


Before commenting, please familiarize yourself with my comments/e-mail/social media policies and my responses to objections about warning against false teachers. I will not be publishing any comments or responding to any e-mails that are covered by said policies or article.