I’ve been watching the Christian field with perplexity and dismay lately. It seems that the organizations an individuals we rely on suddenly take a left turn and drive pell mell off the road. They had been doctrinally steady for years and decades, and then suddenly they are doing strange practices or recommending heretics.
It makes me scratch my head, for sure. Why do mature leaders of our faith suddenly go wacky in the doctrine department? How does this happen? That is what this blog entry will seek to discover.
It stands to reason that babes in Christ lack some discernment because discernment is a skill. It comes with testing, with age, with study, with prayer, and by the Holy Spirit. It is why there are pastors and elders who are given instruction on how to behave with and teach the younger ones. Not that younger Christians can’t have discernment, but it is a skill that is refined with practice.
However the perplexity comes when the mature ones who should know better suddenly start displaying a lack of discernment. Let me offer a few recent examples:
–Focus on the Family has been a strongly mature and reliable biblical resource for families 35 years, but there are some with influence at the organization who have fallen hook, line, and sinker for Roma Downey and her Bible miniseries crowd. They have endorsed, even backed the series, and hosted a function to match up Downey and Burnett with gaming folks to create The Bible miniseries computer game, a game like “Where’s Waldo”.
—Answers in Genesis is an organization founded 35 years ago by Ken Ham. It is dedicated to bible apologetics with a particular focus on supporting young Earth creationism and a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. They have been strongly biblical for decades. Yet at least one reviewer on staff deemed the bible miniseries fairly acceptable, mostly because it played to their bias and presented Noah and the flood as historical. They stated,
“Nevertheless, even as a stand-alone production, The Bible will likely lead many to Christ. Why? Because it presents the Bible’s history as real history—instead of eroding trust in God’s Word from the very first verse…”
I believe the series has shown itself undeniably to have eroded the word of God. As a matter of fact, it has eroded it so much that AIG says the following in the same review, prior to the above statement:
“It unfortunately lacks a clear presentation of the gospel message like that included at the end of the 1979 Jesus Film AIG also notes because the miniseries has about 4,100 years of history to cover in just 10 hours, many of the events are compressed and shuffled, resulting in “a few things out of order and even a few outright discrepancies with biblical history.”
“Obviously, if you or your children are troubled by the presence of some factual errors, then you should consider not watching the film,” AIG notes.
We don’t come to faith because we believe the bible is historical fact. We don’t say, ‘hey it was pretty good, despite being unclear on that whole Gospel thing’. We don’t say, “gee, despite getting some things flat out wrong, the bible miniseries was acceptable!” We don’t say, “If you’re overly sensitive to our inerrant bible having error polluted by pagans with an antichrist agenda, maybe it’s not a good idea to watch it, but for the rest of us who don’t mind our blood-bought word presented corruptedly, it’ll be a comfy evening with the telly!” Except…they did say it.
–John Piper has been a pastor for 30 years and has authored 50 books. He is well regarded as a pastor, having just retired this month. Yet of late has participated in a Lectio Divina, a Catholic mystical practice involving prayer, endorsed it and offered resources on his website on how to perform it, and hobnobs with heretics, all at this late date in his career. (He retired this week).
If you don’t know what Lectio Divina is or contemplative prayer (or centering prayer) know that it is a method of prayer that does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied but a is mystical exercise of substituting for study an intuitive experience of having emptied the mind to receive a special revelation from God directly. The following bloggers have explained why Contemplative prayer and lectio divina are bad.
Sola Sisters: Piper encouraging Lectio Divina
Do Not Be Surprised: Biblical silence vs. mystical silence.
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: Centering prayer
Wretched Radio explains contemplative prayer and discusses Piper’s promotion of Lectio Divina at the Passion 2012 conference.
–Ravi Zacharias is a Canadian-American evangelical Christian apologist. Zacharias is the author of numerous Christian books, including Gold Medallion Book Award winner Can Man Live Without God? and bestsellers Light in the Shadow of Jihad and The Grand Weaver. He is the founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and host of the radio program Let My People Think. He is a high-end intellectual, brilliant and wise, gentle and profound. He has stood on the bible and its doctrines as the only truth for decades.
That is why I was stunned when he appeared on heretic Joyce Meyer’s show and worse, said she was “a great bible teacher” and that “God was using her”. I can understand if he wanted to appear on her program to reach her lost followers, John MacArthur was asked to speak at the Mormon temple and they still invited him after he stated he was going to present the Gospel and say what he had planned to say. But this wasn’t that. It was Ravi endorsing Meyer as a bible teacher and announcing that God was using her. I went totally off my rocker when I saw that.
If it is news to you that Joyce Meyer is a heretic, go to CARM to read why. Also in Justin Peters’ updated bible teaching titled A Call For Discernment, he uses Meyer’s material to show why and where it is false.
We are all scratching our heads, saying WHAAAAT is going on? It is a fact that these strange and unsettling things are happening. My question is, why?
The number one issue related to the church, pastors answer when asked, is that its people lack discernment. As John MacArthur says
“Today’s church is like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, who could tell the difference between superficial things like pleasant and stormy weather, but not between truth and error (Matt. 16:1-3). So many churches have relinquished biblical ethics and doctrine, a deep reverence and worship of God, repentance over sin, humility toward God and fellow believers, and a profound understanding of God’s character and work. All that has resulted in a low-level commitment to holy living.”
However, the men I’ve quoted are individuals or are with credible organizations. It does not seem to me that Ravi Zacharias has made a low-level commitment to holy living. Nor John Piper. So what’s the deal?
Tim Challies wrote a book on discernment. He says that lack of discernment leads to backsliding. That is a good thought. Personally, I think that backsliding, or unaddressed sin, also leads to a lack of discernment. I do know that the bible says we cannot be mature without discernment, but the perplexing lack of discernment we are seeing is from many mature, elder pastors and men of the faith who have demonstrated steadily mature discernment for decades. Could it be they have had a failure to repent of some unaddressed sin which is causing dullness of hearing? Perhaps. Hebrews 5:11-14 says–
Warning Against Apostasy— About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 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.
The writer of Hebrews here is talking of a regression. They should be more advanced than they were but the writer despaired of even going forward with what he originally wanted to say because they had become ‘dull of hearing’ and it would be pointless. What causes dullness of hearing? I think anyone can make a mistake, and anyone can have an unaddressed sin in their life. But if one does not repent of it, compounds the tendency to regress back to milk, and the refusal/inability to hear leads to more drifting. This is a deadly trajectory. Again we go to Hebrews, this time chapter 2.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Hebrews 2:1-4)
At The Expository Files we read, “The first reason for this exhortation is that there is a real danger of “drifting.” It is actually possible for us to “drift away” from our salvation. In 2:3 we learn that we can “neglect” our salvation. Later in 3:12-14 we are told that we can “depart” from God. In 6:4-6 we are told that we can so “fall away” that it becomes impossible to renew us again to repentance. And then in 10:26:27 we are told that we can reach a point where the sacrifice of Christ is no longer available for our sins. So the danger of “drifting” is very real!
(Go here to see how the Hebrews verse is NOT talking about a solid Christian losing their salvation)
The verse does not say we plunge. It doesn’t say we plummet out of faith. It seems to happen slowly. We drift. It happens when we neglect, and we fail to pay attention.
In the novel “Watership Down” a fictional story of rabbits searching for a new field to create a warren in, they would entertain each other with tales and myths. They had sayings. One of them was about the weather, and the onset of bad news, “One cloud feels lonely.” Let’s change that to my own motto, “One sin feels lonely”.
If there is a sin, and it’s not addressed, it hardens us a little bit. It makes us a little bit sluggish in the spiritual department. We get wax in our ears. Jeremiah 7:11 says “But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear.” You refuse to pay attention, and your ears get dull. More sins come. Just look at what happened in the Garden, and pretty quickly, too. Genesis 3. They disobeyed, they blamed, they hid. By the next generation, there was murder. It doesn’t take long for sin to pile on!
Matthew 13:15 also speaks of the hard hear and dull ears. In all three cases, (Hebrews, Jeremiah, Matthew) it was the person’s refusal to hear. They did it deliberately either through neglect or through rebellion.
This drifting, this regressing, is a process. It’s spoken of in 2 Timothy 3:13 “while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Once the trajectory is begun, they go from bad to worse.
It is really important for a mature person who deviates from the solid food of doctrine, if not caught early, will fall away and it will be impossible to restore them to repentance. Hebrews goes on in chapter 6 thus:
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
So you see the danger. When we see mature elders suddenly veer off, it is either they were false all along and their true colors are coming out (something I hesitate to believe in the above cases) or they have some unrepented-of sin, have become dull, neglected some aspect of their faith walk, and are sliding and drifting away. In the latter case, perhaps when we see a perplexing behavior or doctrine come out of them that makes us scratch our heads, that is the first signal. The check engine light just came on, and it better get checked, because one sin feels lonely.
It always strikes us at the heart when a person is uncovered who suddenly seems to be lacking in the discernment department, and disheartening too. However, we have the privilege of praying for them and others that we may know who seem to suddenly be coming up with unorthodox behavior or doctrines. We can ask for discernment (wisdom). The glory is that Jesus promised to deliver it to us if we ask. (James 1:5).