Is naming names a New Year resolution for us? We don’t really make New Year resolutions like losing weight, or any other of a number of things around here. 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 or false teachers. Perhaps we can’t even be Christians if we engage in such a thing. 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 a claim like “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 reaffirm a resolution we have made on this issue. In thinking it through it occurred to me that in order to agree with the above 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 didn’t do that and we should 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 red letter words of Jesus. No, in 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, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.(Matthew 23:27)
Hypocrites? Whitewashed tombs? These are pretty unkind words. And Jesus said them publicly where others in His religious community would know who he was talking about? What about this one:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell[a] as yourselves. (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 respond 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 spoke in the Hebrew Scriptures before he incarnated and 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 at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”(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.Ω
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Thank you, Don! Joe and I have gotten flak for naming names and even approaching people. We even lost a board member. Keep it up. You’re doing fine.
Happy New Year!
All the Bible is “red letter!”
Don – This is an excellent, well thought out article. I’m guessing that almost all of us who are in the apologetics/discernment field will have encountered disapproval from our Christian peers for having the temerity and sheer lack of love for not only ‘calling out’ wrong teaching but also saying “who dunnit”.
I am always (tongue in cheek) confessing that I am continually guilty of breaking the “11th commandment of evangelicalism”. For those who haven’t come across the latter it is: “Thou shalt not be critical of anybody’s beliefs, teachings or practices in the wider church by, e.g. comparing them to what the Bible says”. Unofficially at least, the punishment for disobedience is doubled if the perpetrators are named.
Of course there is a codicil to the 11th commandment of evangelicalism – it IS OK to criticise and name people if they appear to hold what are considered as “conservative” or “fundamentalist” or “non-PC” positions on issues. It’s also ok to criticise and name people in the USA who, shall we say, ride an elephant when they head for the polling station come election time…..** 😉
** Donkey riding voters are totally fine…
Kudos. The pastor who refuses to name names shepherds a defenseless flock which is inevitably plagued with lost discernment.
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!
Good stuff! As a Bible teacher I am encouraged by your courage, insight, accuracy, and balance in your presentation regarding false teachers. You are truly a “watchman on the wall”. May your tribe increase.
Thank you for your steadfast commitment to standing in, standing for, and proclaiming God’s Word and warning the church of societal infiltration / falling away.
I wonder if you are ready to be called out as well…???
Sure, and it happens from time to time.
I am calling you out because of this phrase –
“the second person of the Godhead”
Please find one single bible verse that use the phrase “the second person”.
Please also find a Bible verse – that uses a Greek word that meaningfully corresponds to “Godhead”, e.g. θεοαρχη, etc.
The question is built on a false premise. The following syllogism may help:
If teaching “A” is true
Then word “B” would be in the Bible
Word “B” is not in the Bible
Therefore, teaching “A” is false
It does not necessarily follow that because a particular word or phrase doesn’t appear in Scripture the teaching isn’t in Scripture. For example, God is “immutable” but the word “immutable” doesn’t occur in the sacred text. It is theological shorthand for the implicit and explicit teaching that God’s nature is unchanging. The word “omniscient” isn’t in the Bible but it does tell us that God is all knowing. The same is true of His “omnipresence” (He is everywhere present) and “omnipotence” (he is all powerful).
The phrase “the second person of the Godhead,” which encompasses both points you have called me out on, is theological shorthand on the nature of God. You may argue that the concept is not found in Scripture and is therefore false but the absence of a particular word or phrase doesn’t disprove it as a biblical teaching. For others who may be reading, the view is that there is one true God. Within the being of the one true God exist three co-equal, co-eternal persons who share the nature of the one true God.
Not long ago I had an acquaintance who is part of one of the sacred name groups, of which there are many, who posed a question which he thought exposed trinitarian belief as causing irreconcilable differences in Scripture. He asked:
“That proposed, my first question would be, from a trinitarian perspective, how do you reconcile passages like Isaiah 44:6 and 46:9?”
It is a fair question. You quote Isaiah 44:
“Thus says YHVH, the King of Israel and his (Jacob’s) Redeemer, YHVH of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.”
As a side note, “Jacob’s” is not in the text and I suspect you are aware of that. If that was inserted for clarification it probably should have been Israel since this is pointing to the previous statement “King of Israel.” The passage is using Hebrew parallelism and the text goes on to say “and its Redeemer” pointing back to Israel of which YHVH is King. As my friend, Wave Nunnelly who teaches Hebrew (among other things) at Evangel University noted:
The “His” is referring to “Israel.” It is a type of A-B, B1-A1 structure, so it would be mapped out like this:
B: the King of Israel
B1:the Redeemer of him (lower case “h” referring to Israel, not God)
A1:Yahweh of Hosts.
Note the parallelisms of the two appearances of the name Yahweh, the synonymity of “King” and “Redeemer”, and the synonymity of “Israel” and “him”.
The other passage you quoted, Isaiah 46:9:
“Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,”
Both passages clearly teach only one God exists which is YHVH. Implicitly that would mean YHVH is the only true God and all others are false. Trinitarian theology is monotheistic and point to passages such as these two in support of monotheism.
In chapter 44 YHVH goes on to ridicule the nation in verses 9-20 for their worship of false gods. Although this passage identifies God as YHVH, tells the nation that YHVH is the first and the last, it does not address other aspects if YHVH’s nature. For example, it doesn’t tell us that He is infinite and eternal. It does not comment on His omniscience or omnipotence. This is important. From a trinitarian perspective there is one true God, one being which is by nature God and within that one being (God) exists three persons who share that nature. Isaiah 44 identifies God here as YHVH BUT does not identity YHVH here as the Father but only as YHVH. However, this description (the first and I am the last) is stated and/or alluded to in Revelation and applied to the Son in Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 21:6 and 22:13.
We have an interesting situation in Zechariah where we have two Who share the Name, YHVH, one being sent and one sending. Beginning in Zechariah 2:7:
Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
Verse 8 opens with the prophet announcing Who is going to speak:
For thus saith YHVH of hosts;
As with all good quotes (thus saith YHVH) the words that follow would be the words of YHVH. It is the same as we read in Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says YHVH, the King of Israel and his (Jacob’s) Redeemer, YHVH of hosts” The words which followed that were the words of YHVH. In Zechariah 2:8 the words which follow are:
After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
Who ever (he) “sent” YHVH anywhere? It doesn’t say here but will. Suffice for the moment that YHVH is speaking and says He was sent to the nations, etc.
In verse 9 YHVH continues:
For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants:
YHVH, Who was sent to the nations, is going to plunder the nations and make them plunder for Israel which was at that time their servants. YHVH then identifies Who sent Him in verse 9:
and ye shall know that YHVH of hosts hath sent me.
YHVH of hosts was sent and was sent by YHVH of hosts. YHVH Who was sent continues in verse 10:
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith YHVH.
Who is coming? YHVH. Who will dwell in the midst of the people? YHVH. Who sent Him? YHVH. Verse 11 continues to explain the result of YHVH’s coming:
And many nations shall be joined to YHVH in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee,
After His coming and plundering the nations, many of those nations will be joined to YHVH and also be His people. Again, He tells them He will dwell in their midst AND He goes on again to declare Who sent Him:
and thou shalt know that YHVH of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
And YHVH shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. Be silent, O all flesh, before YHVH: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.
It is a very majestic ending to the passage. YHVH, as it says in the ESV “has roused himself from his holy dwelling”
YHVH, Who was sent, has roused Himself from His holy dwelling, to punish and plunder the nations which had enslaved Israel. Some of those nations will join YHVH and He will dwell in the midst of the people which YHVH had sent Him to do.
In Isaiah 44 (to stay with that chapter) YHVH states something about creation which is also very important. He is pointing back to Genesis in in 44:24 says:
Thus saith YHVH, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am YHVH that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;
The Apostle John, addressing proto-gnosticsm in the First Century, also points his readers back to Genesis 1 and writes of the Son (the Word) in verse 3:
All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.
If we take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the center, on the top left write “Creator” and on the top right write, “Created” which side of the line does the Son go on? If we want to put Him on the right that would mean He would have had to not exist (in order to be created) and exist (in order to create Himself) at the same time. Since we are dealing with the inspired inerrant word of God I would suggest that YHVH is correct in Isaiah 44:24 and He created all things “alone” and laid out the earth “by myself” and John is correct that the Son created everything and if He didn’t create it, it isn’t created. In addition, the Son holds all of the creation together by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). That leads us to understand that the Son is YHVH.
What we tend to find in Scripture is that whatever YHVH does the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are present and engaged corporately doing as YHVH.
The problem for most anti or non-Trinitarians is that they tend to think of God as a really big human type being like they are, but He isn’t. We really have nothing in the creation with which we can compare Him. He is eternal and self-existing. All of creation came into being at a point in time from nothing ex-nihilo. How to we understand that? He is everywhere present and is outside of time and yet imminent and cares about you and I personally.
The Isaiah passage poses no conflict with Trinitarian Monotheism but support it. The phrase “the second person of the Godhead” points to the person who is sometimes called, “Word,” sometimes called, “Son,” sometimes called “YHVH” (a Name He shares with the Father as we saw in Zechariah). He exists as one of three persons within the nature of the being of the One true God.
Please note – I wasn’t addressing the veracity of any particular content – I was addressing the phrasing.
Please provide a text that uses the phrasing that you used.
If you cannot, why is the word of God inadequate for you to describe your theology?
Just so I am clear on the heresy you are calling me out on is the heresy of using other that Bible words in referring to the content of biblical teaching. My question would be, where is the text that states only Bible “phrasing” may be used in expressing Bible teaching? Where does the phrase “describe your theology” occur in either the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures as in only words from the Bible may be used to describe your theology. In fact, why did you violate the premise you have set up by using the word “theology”?
I am not calling you out on a “heresy” (whatever that means) per se.
I am asking you a question – it seems odd that a Bible believers most fundamental terminology is not Biblical…. well, that is kind of odd…. that the Word of God is inadequate –
Maybe your heresy is that you make the Word of God inadequate – and you lift yourself up in its place – because “you know”. The height of hubris??
Something seems deeply and desperately wrong when one grovels before the traditions of men – rather than exalting the Word of God.
It is unfortunate that you do not know what “a “heresy” (whatever that means)” is. That may have been my fault. I didn’t use the actual biblical word, αἵρεσις, but instead acted with both hubris and temerity by going to translations of learned scholars of the ancient languages who translated perfectly adequate words which God caused the inspired writers to use. I did that not because the Koine Greek is “inadequate” but rather because most who read our material do not know the ancient languages.
As it happens, there was a context in our article as to who was being “called out” and for what which relates to αἵρεσις. The context is about calling “false teachers in public,” “exposing false teachers within the community of faith.” So, naturally I was under the impression when you asked about calling me out it was regarding heresy or false teaching. This also happens to be a theme (I know, I know, “theme” not a biblical word or phrase) throughout the Hebrew and Greek Scripture. Most of the epistles were written to refute false teaching and bad behavior and instruct in sound teaching and proper behavior. The Hebrew scriptures are filled with God raising up His prophets to stand against false prophets, false teaching and bad behavior. It is unfortunate you are unaware of this.
I am unclear how I have groveled “before the traditions of men – rather than exalting the Word of God” or lifted myself up in the place of the Word of God. I could have just as easily written, “YHVH of hosts who was sent by YHVH of hosts” but the phrase “the second person of the Godhead” communicates the same information. The new Testament was written in Koine Greek, the language of the common people, in order to communicate the truth of God’s word in an understandable form to the average person. Sometimes the writers quoted a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture and explained it, sometimes they communicated the truth of God’s word without using a biblical word but instead conveying the essence of the teaching. Now, my question to you remains the same. Where is the text that states only Bible “phrasing” may be used in expressing Bible teaching? Where does the phrase “describe your theology” occur in either the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures as in only words from the Bible may be used to describe your theology. In fact, why did you violate the premise you have set up by using the word “theology”?
So now you are claiming there are TWO Yahweh’s….???
Now THAT is heresy!
I am okay with you believing that – but I would not consider you a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Actually, I never claimed there are “two Yahweh’s.” However, to be aware of that would mean actually reading what I have previously written. My first response was fairly lengthy. One of my statements was “Within the being of the one true God exist three co-equal, co-eternal persons who share the nature of the one true God.”
I address Isaiah 44:6 and 46:9, I address YHVH being the only creator and show that Jesus is the only creator (John 1:3). I lead into a bit a discussion on Zachariah 2 with this statement:
It would seem your difficulty isn’t with me but with the prophet Zachariah. If his work is the inspired inerrant word of God we have YHVH sending YHVH and YHVH going because YHVH sent Him and YHVH going to dwell in the midst of the people, which, as it happens is what the Son did. There is more. Zachariah describes YHVH being sold for 30 pieces of silver which as it happens, is what happened to the Son. In addition to reading my first response you may want to read:
Who Sent Jehovah? and perhaps Should You Believe in the Watchtower or Is Jesus Christ Almighty God?. As we read through Romans 10:9-13 Paul makes the case that the very thing we must believe to be saved is that Jesus is YHVH.
I like the verse that says “all flesh will be silent…”
I like the verse “thinking yourself to be wise, you have become a fool”
If you believe in two Gods – as you describe – two Yahwehs – despite scripture only teaching a single Yahweh, you are a heretic – and no doubt bound for eternal torment (as I expect you believe).
I am sorry to say that but that is what this page is all about “telling you the truth”.