It’s not easy to determine if someone is a false teacher or is fairly solid but teaching false things temporarily. At what point does one decide not to follow a certain teacher anymore? I’ve written about this in the past. For each person the tipping point might be different.
One reason people have different tipping points could be because people have certain non-negotiables which are deal-breakers for them. For example, some who have been false converts for many years and were graciously awakened to their lost state have a low tolerance for easy believism. Some who were in a Charismatic church and have been graciously delivered have a low tolerance for healing crusades and charlatans. Others simply recognize they do not yet possess as much discernment as they need in order to continue following a certain teacher, so they go away from him or her to be on the safe side.
Nor should it be easy to cast someone’s name into the fire of falsity. Making such a determination requires humility, discernment, patience, and wisdom. Making a hasty judgment would mean we’ve impugned a brother or sister, and God takes a dim view of that. (Romans 14:19).
However the alternate should also stand. If we should manifest discerning patience in watching a bible teacher or preacher’s trajectory, when that tipping point is reached and enough biblical evidence is accumulated, we should not be hesitant to declare for Jesus and point this person out as a destroying enemy. (Romans 16:17).
For me, Rick Warren praying to the false god Isa, promoting corporate growth strategies for church, man-centered theology, consistently failing to give the Gospel to audiences he was invited to speak to, not to mention ecumenism with Islam and Catholicism, is enough for me to say “false.”
Beth Moore’s bible twisting, her shallow and emotional storytelling narcissistic approach, pop psychology, automatic/occult writing, and puffed up visions showed me that I can say “false” with confidence and biblical integrity.
Billy Graham’s lifelong compromises with Catholicism and his universalism make it clear to me that he, sadly, is also false.
And Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Mark Driscoll’s many sins against Jesus are the equivalent of training wheels on the discernment bike for baby Christians to spot as false. Or should be.
At some point in time, all of the above began to show their aberrant doctrines. And at some point one discerning person saw them while others less discerning didn’t see them yet. Especially when it’s early, we should not jump to conclusions, but watch.
|Be serious students of the word, as the Bereans were
I’d like to raise a huge red flag regarding Jack Kelley of GraceThruFaith.com. There are enough things taught at his website that cause me to fear for the less discerning. He promotes:
Old Earth is OK
And a while back, he heartily refuted anything and everything about Calvinism (AKA Doctrines of Grace). I have not been able to re-discover those essays on the newly designed website in order to link to them.
I caught the opening to a Bible Study recently published on the site recently and I’d like to use it as a discernment lesson. Though Mr Kelley does use the Bible and seems to treat it with proper respect, the above and this below is a flag. Personal revelation is one of my deal-breakers. Let’s unpack this opening statement to a recent Bible study and think it through.
Please note the black underline. The title is “Bible” study. Good enough. I like those.
The first sentence declares that the message he is about to teach was given to the author directly by the Lord. Ergo, it was not derived by the “Bible” through study. There’s an immediate contradiction and an immediate problem.
This is a red flag. No messages are ever given personally by the Lord. Understanding of His word, His will, His plan for us are given in the Bible. This is the Doctrine of Illumination and it’s one of the Spirit’s ministries. (Ephesians 1:17-18).
We turn to the red underline. Excited, the half-asleep author hastily scribbled down the thoughts and went back to sleep. I’ve done this. Every writer of secular material does. However, note the method by which he claimed to have tested whether the Spirit had just knit together an understanding of scripture. It made sense to him, so he decided. Yet Acts 17:11 called the Bereans noble because they tested what they were being taught against scripture (note, being taught in real life, not personally receiving a message while half-asleep).
Let’s look at the Acts 17:11 verse closely. We want to be called noble.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
–they received the word with eagerness. Their eagerness bespeaks a diligence. They sought it out. (Strong’s on the word eagerness, prothumias, “who is already being willing, i.e. an eager disposition which is pre-inclined, already “ready and willing”). In other words, they were not lying in bed half asleep startled that the Lord personally plopped wisdom and understanding of the verses to their mind.
–they examined the scriptures. What they heard, they tested against what was written. They allowed scripture to be the benchmark of whether it passed the test. They did not say ‘Oh! It makes sense to me, it must be true.’
–they did so daily. This bespeaks a constancy in their attempts to both study and grow. It also bespeaks a maturity in that they didn’t relax their guard on a favored teacher nor did they relax their diligence on their own selves in the fleshly mind. Pride wants to say “Oh, yah, I’ve been doing this for years, I can tell when something makes sense”, laziness wants to say “Aw, you know it is probably true, no need to test.” Yet Humility and Obedience says “I will always use the Bible to test what I hear because the Lord is worth it and the devil is prowling.”
|After receiving the word, the Bereans checked.
Now sometimes we say things in shorthand. I hear people say “The Lord told me” when I know they actually mean “I’ve studied this for a week and the Spirit illuminated its eternal wisdom to my mind.” ‘Lord told me’ is shorter. So maybe in this example case that is what happened. However…
In writing though we want to be clear. There is room on a web page for a few more words stating the method by which we arrived at an interpretation. Failing to do so and instead putting out a notion that it was gained half-asleep by revelatory means is misleading and dangerous. At the least, it perpetuates slang we should strive heartily to rid ourselves of. If a person is mature enough in the faith to have derived an interpretation studiously by the Spirit, they are mature enough to say the lesson is founded on normal means of interpretation.
And really, does it inspire confidence in your teacher when he reveals the lesson is founded on scribbled notes gained while half-asleep? Does such a statement do justice to the stricken and risen Lord?
No matter how solid the ensuing Bible study seems to a person, its opening is immediately corrupted by stories of half-asleep revelatory interpretations and testings that make sense apart from having tested against the only standard there is: the Bible. After all, this IS a Bible study. If there is a problem at the outset with the method arrived at or the foundation on which it rests, no matter how good the rest of the lesson seems to be, it’s an interpretation standing on sifting sand. And we all know what happens when the tide comes in.
|And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be
like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. Mt 7:26. (EPrata photo)
The upshot of this discernment lesson is two fold:
Let’s dispense with Christianese shorthand like “The Lord told me”. This confuses the less discerning into thinking that unique interpretations delivered by revelatory means are standard, when they aren’t.
Let’s watch the language and methods of the teachers under whom we choose to sit, in real life or online. What they say is often a first indicator of a growing problem. There are buzz words satan likes to use and be alert for those.
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:19)
Evil thoughts here is the Greek word dialogismos, and it means
“reasoning that is self-based and therefore confused – especially as it contributes to reinforcing others in discussion to remain in their initial prejudice”.
So watch out for those buzz words and any teaching that includes even a bit of “The Lord gave me a message and I’m going to teach it to you now.” Once you attune your mind to be alert for it, you’ll be surprised at how dismayingly often you hear it. Instead, stick to the pure word and people who interpret it purely (as possible)
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5)