It is with great regularity that I receive emails, letters and occasionally phone calls from folks who want to tell me how mean, divisive, negative and generally a troubler of the brethren I am. Others contact me to ask how they can be discerning without being viewed as mean, divisive, negative and generally a troubler of the brethren? In a church culture that has seemingly gone mad and is embracing all manner of false teaching solely on the basis that it is “spiritual,” the name calling of those who attempt to follow the biblical mandate to be discerning will increase from the current howls to shrieks akin to the creatures in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But is that any reason to stop? After all it seems that the false teachers are being more honest with their views than Evangelical leaders are. For example, in our article Thus Saith Rome we pointed out that Rick Warren had said:
And you know, growing up as a Protestant boy, I knew nothing about Catholics, but I started watching ETWN, the Catholic channel, and I said, “Well, I’m not as far apart from these guys as I thought I was, you know?”
In addition, according to Pastor Brett Schrock, Purpose Driven’s director of strategic relationships “… we’re seeing God unify His churches.” In our article we pointed out a number of areas that seemed to contradict their claims including their view that salvation is organizational and comes solely through the Roman Catholic Church. Of course we were called to task by a number of folks for being mean and divisive. My initial response is “You may be right. I may also be short and fat but the big question to answer is, am I wrong? We can certainly talk about all of my personal defiencies later but for the moment you need to demonstrate where I have been wrong in my analysis.” Then on Wednesday, July 11, we find the Rome affirming what we have written in Pope, Restating 2000 Document, Cites ‘Defects’ of Other Faiths. It is the age old “only true church on the face of the earth” claim that is made by so many groups. Reading this got me to thinking, “I have heard the refrain of “troubler” somewhere before. The word came from King Ahab, of whom the Scriptures say:
And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him. (1 Kings 16:30)
Ahab spent a great deal of time and resources trying to track down Elijah the prophet and Elijah arranged a meeting with him and when Ahab arrived Ahab walked in mouth first:
”Is this you, you troubler of Israel?”(1 Kings 18:17)
Elijah’s response is very instructive:
”I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and you have followed the Baals (I Kings 18:18).
Those who choose to neglect sound biblical teaching often have to resort to name calling against those who point it out. Elijah didn’t succumb to the emotional pressure that comes of this sort of tactic. He remained steadfast on what God had clearly said in essential teachings. A few chapters earlier we meet the prophet Ahijah. Jeroboam, the leader of Israel who was leading them to false worship and false teaching had his wife go to see the prophet and she did so with the intent to deceive. She was met with a very divisive statement from the prophet:
”Come in, wife of Jeroboam, why do you pretend to be another woman For I am sent to you with a harsh message.” (1 Kings 14:6)
Sent with a harsh message. Who sent him? God. Was it divisive? Most certainly. However, as Dr. Norman Geisler has pointed out, being divisive isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When he got married he promised to divide from all other women and no one seemed opposed to that. We often make it a practice to divide child molesters from children and all agree (except the child molester) that this is good and right.
We also read in the book of Hebrews about a number of other troublers of the brethren who:
… experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:36-38).
It is difficult for me to read this without weeping. “Men of whom the world was not worthy.” Who were they trying to please? God. They were unwilling to sacrifice the core teachings from God on the altar of popularity. If they were told, “We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” they would have likely responded, “There isn’t a baby there all you have is rancid bathwater. Quit trying to make soup out of it.”
It seems to me that Christianity is being redefined as, “Niceness is the closest thing to godliness and saying someone is wrong is not nice.” We may need more Peters and Johns who said to the religious leadership who were sell outs in exchange for position:
”Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
I have been so naive!
On one Christian forum in particular, in pointing out the false doctrine and absolutely NON-Christian conduct of specific individuals, I have been accused of calling them “bad men.” I’ve stated in response that I refer only to their doctrinal error and behavior, and that outside of Christ we are all “bad men.” My critics and accusers do not respond to this but continue to call me a slanderer and a gossip, Jezebel, etc… Especially when referencing the questionable deeds of very public ministers, most people interpret this as gossip and state that it is only appropriate to discuss teachings. They then state that we should be tolerant of their teachings and question the reliability of the information I presented.
In “The Universe Next Door,” Sire states that existentialists take offense to any criticism of their beliefs because the beliefs are inextricably bound to the knower. Sire does identify a catagory of Christian existentialist (that which strives against dead orthodoxy), but I don’t recall if he makes the same statement of this group. Of the patriarchs such as Doug Phillips, I believe that their aggressive response to critics demonstrates that they are what Sire calls Christian existentialists (vs. Biblical theists). Stated another way, man displaces God as the measure of all things in the church. Value derives from human esteem and not from God so that when Christians question one another, they are not IN CHRIST. There is this sense of personal rejection rather than a seeking of truth in a spirit of love and mutual respect IN CHRIST.
Could this “say only nice things” and “speak only blessings” be a reflection of what Sire describes as Christian existentialism?
I am reminded of this comment from Tricia Tillin concerning the famed Kansas City Prophets many years ago:
“To accept the above arguments as true would put the Apostle Paul in jeopardy of being accused of having a fault-finding demon. In Galatians 2:11-20, Peter (a Christian brother and Apostle, not a heretic) was teaching false doctrine. Paul knew Peter was incorrect and challenged him publicly on the subject. Until that controversy was resolved, the Judaizers no doubt wondered who that upstart Paul was that was causing division in the church. In II Timothy 2:15-18 Paul again mentions false teachers by name so that believers would not fall prey to their teachings and again in Acts 20:29. Paul kept on warning the church to beware of false doctrine for “three years.”
The simple truth is that the New Testament is full of examples of public correction of false teachings both inside and outside the church. The key word in the process set forth in I Thessalonians 5:21 is “test” (from the Greek dokimazo — to test, examine, prove, scrutinize). This test applies to men, messages, and ministries. The basis of the test is the sure objective Word of God, not the unreliable word of today’s prophets.
It is true that there are minor points of doctrine (whether the Rapture is Pre, Mid or Post; whether you do or don’t have instrumental music in the church; or even how many angels can dance on the head of a pin) that we will never agree on. With these we should agree to disagree agreeably.”
If indeed we ever had the ability to disagree agreeably (as this was often not the case with Paul), we certainly do not demonstrate this trait very often. Tillin concludes with this:
“However, when it comes to such watershed doctrines as the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the accuracy and absolute authority of the Bible, we can and must challenge each other when our teachings denigrate either. This should be done with a spirit of grace and love. The motive of such a challenge should be to seek restoration and repentance — for both sides if necessary). The time has come for Christians to stop being browbeaten into silence by those who have set themselves up as modern day apostles and prophets.”
I pray that we can rise to this challenge without compromising the gospel and without alienating or wrongfully condemning our fellow brethren.