Naming Names New Years Resolution

There is probably not a week that goes by that I don’t receive an email or note contending that it is wrong to name names when dealing with false teaching. A recent email began:

It took me a few minutes to realize that I was on a website operated by a group that claims to be Christian. How could you claim to be a Christian and write the things you do?”

Most often statements like this are followed up with claim that “Jesus never named names and we shouldn’t do anything that Jesus wouldn’t do.” As we begin the New Year it seemed very appropriate to make a resolution on this issue. In thinking it through it occurred to me that in order to take agree with this position I would have to begin by only accepting the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as inspired. How do I come to that conclusion you ask? The litmus test as given assumes that Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, only spoke in the gospels. This is further affirmed when I point out that we find the Apostle Paul naming names and I am told, “But that was Paul. Jesus wouldn’t didn’t do that and we want to live like Jesus.” In this view, at least for all practical purposes, the gospels are the only books that carry any authority, The Old Testament and balance of the New Testament may be interesting but are not on a par with Matthew, Mark, Luke or John since they don’t contain the words of Jesus. No, this view, Jesus was kind and never called out false teachers in public. After all niceness is the closest thing to godliness and publicly pointing out false teachers would not be nice and therefore ungodly and Jesus would never do something ungodly. But wait! We read in the gospels Jesus saying in public:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. (Matthew 23:27)

Hypocrites? Whitewashed tombs? These are pretty unkind words. And Jesus said them public where others in His religious community would know who he was talking about? What about this one:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:15)

Again with the hypocrites. Twice as much a son of hell? Definitely not nice and in public too! What was He thinking? However could He act in such an ungodly way?

Clearly Jesus was concerned about exposing false teachers within the community of faith. We can see by His own red letter words and actions that He did it during His earthly ministry and taught His followers to do likewise. One can hardly read Matthew 7:15-23 and not recognize His concern about guarding the flock from false predatory teachers. At times that requires giving their names. Why is that? In order to answer that we need to be reminded that God refers to His people as sheep. That is not really a term of endearment. Sheep are not careful and not overly bright. Mostly they just graze, graze, graze and unless watched and protected, fall into a ravine or wander into the path of a predator and pretty soon, zap, no more sheep. But, back to the question of inspiration and how this bears on my resolution.

I would hold that the 66 books we have in the Bible are all inspired or God breathed. In addition, I believe that Jesus is fully God as well as fully human. Why is this important you ask? Because Jesus as God continued to speak after His resurrection and ascension through the apostolic writers. Everything that was penned was directed and overseen by God. So, when Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit named names that was God naming names. It was done at God’s direction and under His supervision. Paul’s letters were publicly read and passed around from church to church and copied to be sent to yet other churches. Not quite the Internet or modern print media but the first century equivalent.

As we read the Old Testament we see God using satire as in the case of Elijah and the prophets of Baal:

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. (1 Kings 18:27)

More examples could be given but are only important if we believe the Old and New Testaments are inspired and that God spoke to and through the various writers. If only the red letter words in the four gospels carry any weight we are talking with someone who is functionally a liberal as far as their view of Scripture goes. Even so, that doesn’t really help their case since Jesus publicly pointed out false teachers and called them names. All we do is state their names. I wonder why Jesus acted in what they must regard as such an ungodly and unchristian way. I believe I will follow the biblical practices and stay resolved to warn the flock of false teachers and let them know to whom I am referring.


Comments

Naming Names New Years Resolution — 3 Comments

  1. I just wanted to say thank you for looking out for the “sheep”. And I want to thank you for naming names! My husband and I have been in 2 different churches where we ended up in the position where we had to choose whether or not to expose false teaching in our church (either by the leadership or by others the leaders promoted).

    We came to the same conclusion you stated in this article. Jesus was very clear how he felt about false teachers. And for that matter, so was Paul.

    You were running the race nobly. Who has interfered in your heeding and following the Truth? This [evil] persuasion is not from Him Who called you [Who invited you to freedom in Christ]. I wish those who unsettle and confuse you would [go all the way and] cut themselves off! (other translations say immasculate themselves)

    I am amazed how quickly people will protect those who are leading others into bondage and despair and forget about the ones who are hurting. How exactly is that “what Jesus does”?

    Thanks again and keep up the good work!
    April

  2. One of my biggest frustrations with the Church today is the fear of naming names of false teachers and calling them what they are. As you pointed out, Jesus was not nice about them, but even Paul said they should be eternally condemned (Gal. 1). The New Testament is replete with warnings against false teachings. Paul indeed named Peter as problematic in Galatians, but he also named Demas as one who loved the world and Alexander who was doing harm and for who they were to watch out. If more shepherds of the church were to name names (and on my blog I do not hesitate to do so), the Joel Osteens of the world would not be making millions of dollars and the “Christian” book stores would have to quit carrying their false teachings. Keep up the good work!

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