Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Doreen’s vision, Bible apps, ESV Women’s Study Bible, Women teaching on Zoom)

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

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


Just a brief note to all of my readers to kick off this edition of The Mailbag. I really love and appreciate y’all. I don’t say that enough but I do – deeply. One of the things (among many) I appreciate is that upwards of 99.99999999% of you have read my e-mail/messages policy (linked in the first paragraph above) and the information at the Contact & Social Media tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page), and you have been extremely understanding and gracious when it comes to my limitations regarding answering individual e-mails/messages. Thank you!

But for the handful of folks out there who haven’t read and followed the directions at those links, may I just gently and lovingly say this: demanding that I answer your e-mail/message immediately, or sending me multiple copies of the same e-mail/message over the course of a few days isn’t going to work for me, or for you. If you have an emergency situation or one that needs an immediate answer, you need to contact your pastor or a mature brother or sister at your church for help.  That’s one of the functions of the local church.

I wish I could answer everyone’s questions right away, but as I’ve explained at the aforementioned links (which everyone seeking my e-mail address is asked to read before they e-mail me), I can’t. I get too much mail to be able to do that and have time to properly care for my family, home, and other responsibilities.

Thanks again for your understanding and grace, and keep sending me those e-mails/messages! I love hearing from y’all even if I’m not able to answer you personally.


I have some concerns about Doreen Virtue and the “vision” of Jesus she had that supposedly led her to Christ. I came out of the New Age movement and something just doesn’t “sit right” with me as a discerning Christian about that. And now, you and other Christians have endorsed her book? I’m just seeking the truth as I do with every other subject I research.

Seeking the truth and doing your research is awesome! That’s just the kind of thing I love to hear from my readers!

The thing about doing research is that you have to consider the source and make sure the sources you go to are reliable, trustworthy, and handle Scripture correctly. I’m sorry to say that many of the online “discernment” resources out there (including the ones you mentioned in your e-mail, but others as well) are not. Many of them exhibit zeal without knowledge, and some exhibit knowledge without love. (I know I have crossed these lines at times, myself, which I am sorry for. God is still working on me and growing me in that area.)

You and other discerning readers have surely noted the signs of these types of “ministries”: attacking doctrinally sound pastors and teachers, speaking/writing in a vicious, enraged, or biting tone, failing to provide in context and rightly handled evidence to support their assertions, reporting their opinions as fact, exaggerating or extrapolating from something a teacher said or did in order to make their case, and so on. It is just as much a part of discernment to examine “discernment” ministries as it is to examine the teachers they are critiquing.

Having never heard of her before, I first “met” Doreen Virtue when she and her co-host Melissa asked me to appear on their YouTube podcast to discuss the role of women in the church. Doreen and I kept in touch afterwards and have become good friends.

Doreen has thoroughly explained the issue you mentioned in her videos, her book, and to me and many others personally. As Doreen was coming out of the New Age movement and turning toward Christ, she had some sort of experience which she believed at the time was a vision of Jesus. She said at the time that this vision turned her further toward Christ.

As Doreen has continued to grow  she has progressively come to a biblical understanding of her experience, and now believes the vision was demonic activity that happened before she actually got saved. She does not believe she was saved by this vision, but by the preaching, teaching, and reading of the Word. Doreen hasn’t had any more experiences like this since she’s been saved, and she certainly doesn’t encourage this type of experience – quite the opposite, in fact. She speaks against it. As I’ve listened to Doreen’s videos, read her personal testimony in her book, and chatted with her privately, I can see how God has grown her in holiness and sound doctrine in the short time she’s been saved, as evidenced by the fruit she displays.

Have we forgotten how far God has brought us in holiness and the knowledge of the Word since we have been saved? Haven’t we all repented over dumb or unbiblical things we used to believe when we were unsaved or new Christians that we now look back on in shame? Why wouldn’t God do the same thing for Doreen? I mean, let’s remember that she was totally immersed in a demonic system her entire life until Christ saved her in her 50’s, and she has only been saved less than three years now. It’s completely understandable that God would have to undo all of that as He grows her. Where is our mercy, grace, and patience for babes in Christ?

If you feel confused regarding conflicting information about Doreen, I would encourage you not to listen to what others are saying about her (even me) and go straight to the horse’s mouth: watch Doreen’s videos – including her most recent concerning the “vision”: Unpacking Doreen’s vision with Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith – read her wonderful book, Deceived No More (which I was honored to write an endorsement for and highly recommend, and which she has already edited to clarify the part about the vision), follow her on Instagram or Facebook, and let her speak for herself. And if you make a good faith effort to do all of that and you still have a question, message her and ask.

If you’re honest, objective, and compare what Doreen says and does with rightly handled Scripture, I think you’ll find your answers.


I am a new Christian and am wondering if you know of a good Bible app? I have been using YouVersion, but today’s video featured Joyce Meyer, and I am unsure how I feel about it. 

Great question – and welcome to the family!

Readers, this is one of the reasons I recommend against YouVersion. You may recall from a previous Mailbag article that I explained that YouVersion was developed, and is maintained, by Craig Groeschel’s Life.Church. He has preached at Joyce Meyer’s women’s conference and is immersed in relationships and ministry partnerships with numerous other false teachers.

For Bible app recommendations, check out my article My Favorite Christian Apps. Since I wrote that article, another Bible app has come along that a lot of people seem to like, the Literal Word app. (Some of you may know that Pastor Gabriel Hughes is in the midst of recording the audio version of the NASB for that app. We’ll be hearing his dulcet tones before long!)


Would you recommend the ESV Women’s Study Bible? Some of the contributors are Jen Wilkin, Lauren Chandler, Ann Voskamp, Trillia Newbell, and Kristyn Getty.

I’m so glad you asked and brought this to my attention. I have been seeing the ads for that Bible, but I didn’t realize all of those people were contributors. I attempted to find a list of all of the contributors, but was unable to do so. So just going on these, I would say, no, I can’t recommend the ESV Women’s Study Bible.

In addition to the problems with Lauren Chandler, there are issues with Jen Wilkin, and Ann Voskamp is flat out a mystical false teacher.

I haven’t thoroughly researched Trillia Newbell, but just from seeing a few of her tweets from time to time on Twitter, I’m concerned that she might be leaning toward the woke/social justice movement. She’s also friendly with and supportive of Beth Moore (once tweeting “I thank God for you, too!” to Beth), Priscilla Shirer (here, here), and possibly other biblically problematic teachers, so, at the very least, there are a few red flags.

I’d recommend you invest in a much better study Bible, like the MacArthur Study Bible. You can also get the Faithlife Study Bible app for free. I use both of those regularly and they’re both very good.


Love the clarity of your writing! I am curious how you apply commands against women holding authority and teaching to online situations. Is it also sinful for a woman to teach Scripture over YouTube or Zoom? This seems to be a huge issue right now. Thanks! 

Super question, and thanks!

The reason this is a huge issue right now is that many churches have temporarily begun moving many of their regular “in person” activities to livestream, YouTube, Zoom, Skype, etc., due to COVID restrictions that prevent members from gathering together easily. Likewise, many Christian conferences have had to move to video because of gathering restrictions and difficulties.

All of that being the case, we need to follow the biblical principles we would be following if we were meeting face to face. A woman should not be preaching the Sunday sermon for your church just because it’s going to be on Facebook Live instead of people gathering face to face in the sanctuary. I’m not going to teach my co-ed Sunday School class just because we’re “meeting” together on Zoom instead of in our Sunday School room. A Christian conference should not have women preaching the main sessions if those sessions would be co-ed if the attendees were all in the room together.

If it is not something that would normally be a violation of Scripture, in the face to face gathering of the church – for example: a woman speaking at a women’s conference that had to be moved online, or a woman teaching a children’s Bible class on Zoom – then it’s perfectly fine to do it online.

Readers, in case we’re tempted, let’s be sure we all keep in mind here that the goal in Christianity is not to see how close to the line of sin we can get without accidentally putting a toe over, or to find some loophole in God’s Word that lets us do what we want. The goal is to get as far away from the line of sin as possible, and to look – not for loopholes – but for ways we can better obey Christ.


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

The Enneagram

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

 

This article is what I call a “clearinghouse article”. It is a collection of articles written by others on the teacher, ministry, or unbiblical trend named below. Either I have not had the time to write a full blown article on it myself, or I felt that the articles listed did a fine job of explaining the biblical issues and there was no need to reinvent the wheel.

Disclaimer: I did not write most of the articles below, and I am not thoroughly familiar with all of the websites used in my clearinghouse articles. I do not endorse anything on these sites that deviates from Scripture or conflicts with my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome” or “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

Here are the  biblical criteria I use when deciding whether or not to recommend a teacher, ministry, etc.:

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

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

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

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

I recommend against any teacher or ministry who violates one or more of these biblical tenets.

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


The Enneagram
Not Recommended

 

Primary issues with the Enneagram: Occultic/mystical origins, false doctrine, undermines the sufficiency of Scripture by teaching adherents to rely on its analysis of their personality rather than the Bible’s assessment of their character and standing in Christ

Top 7 Reasons the Enneagram is Unbiblical at A Word Fitly Spoken

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Todd Friel on Rick Warren, Enneagram, Should I stay or should I go?…)

Girl, What’s Your Number- The Enneagram Episode at Sheologians

The New Age & Quack Spirituality Origins of the Enneagram at Fighting for the Faith

Enneagram Articles at Berean Research

Why the Enneagram is a dangerous new age tool with Doreen Virtue, Don Veinot, and Marcia Montenegro

Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret by Don & Joy Veinot and Marcia Montenegro

The Origins of the Enneagram by Marcia Montenegro

The Fictions and Facts of the Enneagram at Christian Answers for the New Age

Discernment, False Teachers

Shauna Niequist

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shauna Niequist
Not Recommended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here’s Shauna recently affirming homosexuality herself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mailbag

The Mailbag: MLM-ing Essential Oils at Church

Originally published March 26, 2018

 

Our church has recently had a visitor come who is now promoting essential oils to the women who are flocking to a class she is having in one of their homes. This makes me very uncomfortable as it appears (to me) that she has visited to increase her MLM [multi-level marketing] customer base while touting medicinal cures via essential oils. Do you have any research on this?

Sounds like a multi-level mess! There are several different issues going on here, so let’s dig in…

Cold-calling at church
Um, no. I mean… OK, I’m just going to go there. Have you no shame? Have you no home training? I don’t care how much of a go-getter saleswoman you are, there are some lines you just don’t cross. And I can’t believe I’m actually having to explain to grown up, adult people that you don’t go church hopping to make sales and recruit people to work for you. What’s next, showing up at funerals to sell Avon? Pampered Chef demonstrations at wedding receptions?

Church is the place where a local body of Believers gathers to worship the almighty God of the universe. How dare anyone sully the Bride of Christ it by making it something as low and common as a networking site for her business! If you are visiting a church, you should be doing so to worship, not for any other reason. Jesus made that really clear.

Depending on how blatant, intrusive, and disruptive the visitor’s behavior at your church is, someone – preferably one of the women in the class that the visitor is close to, but if not, possibly an elder or the pastor – may need to pull her aside and firmly, yet lovingly, explain that she is welcome to come to church to worship, but not to hustle.

Multi-Level Members
The reader who sent in the question asked about someone who’s visiting her church, but I want to take a moment to speak to you ladies who are MLM-ing your own church.

Your fellow church members might be uncomfortable telling you this, so I’m going to do so on their behalf: Some of you are going too far and being too pushy with your businesses. And you’re putting your brothers and sisters in the no-win situation of either having to acquiesce to the pressure you’re putting on them or hurt your feelings by telling you no.

It’s certainly fine to tell people at church what your job is when they ask, but leave the ball in their court:

“What do you do?”

“I’m an independent sales consultant for Fancy Widgets.”

“Oh? That sounds great!”

“Yeah, it’s an awesome company. I love it! If you’d ever be interested in working with us or adding to your widget collection, just let me know. Want some coffee?”

And don’t bring it up again. She knows you’re her Fancy Widgets connection. If she wants something, she’ll find you.

If you leave it at that and you end up having a few people at church who want to order from you, it’s certainly OK to discreetly take orders from them or bring their products to them at church after services are over. It’s fine for people to approach you about your business, but don’t repeatedly ask people at church to host parties, invite people from church to parties others are hosting for you, attempt to recruit people, or push products. That’s a distraction from worship and fellowship, it gets on people’s nerves, and it will eventually end up alienating your church family.

Scientifically proven?
I don’t have much experience with essential oils, but it’s my understanding that some essential oils can help alleviate the symptoms of some ailments in some people. In other words, peppermint oil may work wonders on your migraine, but do nothing for mine. As long as the limits of the powers of the essential oils are made clear along with the potential benefits, there’s no problem. If the visitor is making snake oil-type promises that the essential oils don’t deliver on, that’s lying and she needs to be confronted about it. If it gets to that point, you need to let your pastor or elders know what’s going on in case she doesn’t stop and one of them ends up having to deal with her.

Essential Oils and New Age Spirituality
Some (not all) essential oils companies claim that their oils will bring about spiritual benefits in addition to (or instead of) physiological benefits. While it’s fine to say that a little lavender oil in your bath will help relax you, saying that it will balance your chakras or yin your yang or bring you inner peace and confidence or whatever is crossing the line into unbiblical (usually New Age) spirituality. No Christian should have anything to do with buying or selling such essential oils. If there’s someone in your church who’s promoting a company like that at church, that’s a church discipline issue, because she’s introducing false doctrine into the church.

Marcia Montenegro over at Christian Answers for the New Age has published numerous posts on the problems with New Age spirituality and essential oils, as has Sola Sisters.


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: Potpourri (Todd Friel on Rick Warren, Enneagram, Should I stay or should I go?…)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My friend Samuel had a great question on Twitter recently:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enneagram at Berean Research

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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