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What does it mean to teach by allegorizing the scriptures?

Twisted scriptures

In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter wrote,

as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

First, please note that he said that those who twist the scriptures do so to their own destruction. So often when I write about false teachers, false doctrine, and actually name the false teachers of doctrine, the ignorant and unstable become upset with it. They fire angry emails and comments asking what have I done lately for the Lord. They charge me with failing to pray for these misguided souls. They claim the false teachers are just making a temporary mistake and all will come out right in the end if we but have patience and love.

Not so.

Scripture twisters to be destroyed

They twist the scriptures to their own destruction. Here is MacArthur commentary on that part of the verse:

By distorting the scriptures, the false teachers were simultaneously securing their own destruction, (cf. 2:2, 3-12, 3:7; Jude 10, 13; Rev 22:18-19) as well as the spiritual demise of their followers. That’s why Peter warns his beloved readers beforehand,  so that they might be on their guard against the error of such unprincipled men (Phil 3:2; 1 Tim 4:1-7, 6:20-21; 2 Tim 2:15-19; Titus 1:16, 3:10).

Distorting the scriptures is a serious business. The many warnings not to do so should be taken seriously, not the least reason is that there are so many ways to distort the scriptures. This essay discusses two of them, spiritualization and allegorization, which are very similar.

Allegorization: A Twisted Practice

Here is John MacArthur defining spiritualization/allegorization:

What do you mean spiritualize or allegorize? Well, you use Scripture like some kind of story and make it mean whatever you want.

Here is Rev. Matt Slick defining allegorization:

To allegorize means to use a symbol as representing a more complex idea.

An example of this erroneous method of interpreting the Bible is recounted by John MacArthur, when he did just that in his very first sermon:

John MacArthur on “Don’t Spiritualize

Third, don’t spiritualize the straightforward meaning of a Bible verse. The first sermon I ever preached was a horrible sermon. My text was “An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone” (Matthew 28:2). My sermon was “Rolling Away Stones in Your Life.” I talked about the stone of doubt, the stone of fear, and the stone of anger. That is not what that verse is talking about; it’s talking about a real stone. I made it into a terrific allegory at the expense of its plain meaning.

On another occasion I heard a sermon on “they cast four anchors…and wished for the day” (Acts 27:29 KJV); the anchor of hope, the anchor of faith, and so on. Those Acts 27 anchors were not anchors of anything but metal. … Don’t spiritualize the Bible; study it to gain the right meaning.

It’s not just men who allegorize. This wrong method of interpretation appeals to many false women teachers, too. It seems like a good method for the women who are emotionally driven and spiritually lazy. Like Beth Moore.

Exegetical Errors – If Mrs. Moore is exercising the position of a Bible teacher, then she should be able to properly exegete Scripture. Unfortunately, she is guilty of frequent allegorization where she misapplies Scripture. To allegorize means to use a symbol as representing a more complex idea. The problem is that with allegorizing, Scripture can be made to say almost anything. Let’s take a look at a few of the many examples of Beth Moore’s improper biblical interpretive practices.

Quote: Speaking of the demoniac of Matt. 8:28-34, she says, “before we proceed to the next point, consider a fact revealed in verse 27. The demonic didn’t live in a house. He resided in the tombs. I wonder how many people today are living “in the tombs”? I know a woman who is still so oppressed by despair that decades after the loss of a loved one, she still lives “in the tombs.” (Jesus, the One and Only, by Beth Moore, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tenn., 2002, p. 143-144).

Response: The biblical text is about Jesus’ authority over the demonic realm, not about people living “in the tombs.” The two demoniac’s that were living in these dark places were exceedingly violent (v. 28). They said to Jesus, “What do we have to do with you, Son of God?  Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Jesus then commanded the demons in these two men to leave, and they went and entered into swine (vv. 31-32). The point of the text has nothing to do with people who are held in bondage by emotional traumas. Beth’s allegorizing the text to make it fit her need is a wrong use of the text.

As both John MacArthur and Matt Slick stated, the danger of spiritualizing and allegorizing is that the person who is spiritualizing can just pick out of the air any symbol they want to make mean something and use it to interpret the Bible that way. Once you unhitch from the text you can then insert any symbol for any meaning or interpretation you like. “In the tombs” are not actual tombs, but symbolizes woman in despair. The “anchors” are not anchors but stand for faith, hope, etc. The “stone” was not a stone but symbolized fear. If I decided to allegorize those same texts I could decide that tombs means marginalized people in social injustice, anchors means lack of sanctification progress, and stone means hindrance to prosperity. Voila.

The only acceptable allegorizations

The Bible does have some allegories within it that can be explained as they are. There’s –

  • Nathan’s parable of the rich man who killed a poor man’s beloved pet lamb, 2 Samuel 12:1-4
  • Jesus’ parables have a wide range of degrees of allegorical symbols, many of them explained in the text just after the recording of the parable itself.
  • In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul uses the story of the children of Sarah (Isaac) and Hagar (Ishmael) and the images of Jerusalem above and Mount Sinai as a double allegory, which Paul then goes on to explicitly explain. “Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants…(v. 24)

No need to make up our own symbols when the few times allegories are used in the Bible they are already explained for us. Nor does the presence of allegories in the Bible give us license to continue our own allegorizations. Scripture interprets scripture.

Good interpretive practices

This article from 9Marks discusses the 9 marks of a prosperity gospel church by comparing good church practices with prosperity church practices. One could just as easily substitute any false practice by comparing to these 9 good marks. Topping the list is that a good church will practice expositional preaching on a regular basis.

Expositional preaching is

…at its simplest is preaching that is focused on explaining the meaning of Scripture in its historical and grammatical context. Expositional preaching involves explaining what the Bible says to a contemporary audience that is likely unfamiliar with the cultural and historical settings that the passage was written in.

The word exposition simply means “a setting forth or explanation.” So expositional preaching is the explanation of Scripture that is based upon diligent study and careful exegesis of a passage. It is the primary call of the pastor or preacher as we see in 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

No need for application

Where many preachers get into trouble is that they believe their sermon needs some sort of ‘application’ at the end. It could be that they have interpreted rightly, have explained the text in a solid expositional sermon, but when they get to the end they feel that it needs explicit teaching on how to apply the text to their congregants’ lives.

Here is an answer to the oft-asked question “Why Doesn’t John MacArthur Add much Application to His Sermons?” He is asked this because he is one of America’s best known-preachers for teaching exposionally, having taught verse-by-verse through the entire New Testament over the course of 42 years. Yet there is very little application in any of his sermons. Here’s why:

Now let me tell you what happens when you preach effectively. You do explanation. In other words, you explain the meaning of Scripture, okay? The explanation carries with it implication. In other words, there are implications built into this truth that impact us. You add to that exhortation. And I’ve said things tonight to exhort you to follow what is implied by the text. Now when you deal with the text and the armor of God, like tonight, all I can do is explain it. That’s all it does. There aren’t any applications in that text. It doesn’t say, “And here’s how to do this if you’re 32 years old, and you live in North Hollywood.” “Here’s how to do this the next time you go to a Mall.” “Here’s how to do this when you go in your car and you’re driving in a traffic jam.” It doesn’t tell you that. And if I made my message mostly a whole lot of those little illustrations, I would be missing 90 percent of you who don’t live in that experience.

It’s not for me to do that. Application belongs to the Spirit of God. All I’m interested in is explanation and its implications. And the power comes in the implication and the Spirit of God takes the implications of what I’ve said tonight, all these things I’ve said, I don’t need to say all kinds of little scenarios to you and paint all kinds of little individual circumstances. All I need you to know is this is what the Word of God says and the implications are powerfully brought to bear with authority on your life and I exhort you to respond to those implications, it is the Spirit’s work to drive those implications into direct and personal application.

Ladies, I Warn About Beth Moore Again

I’d like to refer you again to the picture at the top. I’ve listened to a lot of Beth Moore as well having listened to as other ladies who claim to be good Bible teachers. Beth Moore is not a good Bible teacher. If you have gone through her “Bible studies” please think about how many of the examples Moore has used like the ones in the picture at the top. The example from Matt Slick is only one of the several of Moore’s faulty interpretations he reported. Chris Rosebrough has also explained why Moore’s allegorizations are faulty. So has Justin Peters. Mike Abendroth. And so on.

I consider Moore “patient zero” in the infection into conservative, evangelical circles of her faulty way of teaching through made-up allegory. She has done it that way for so long that generations coming up are now also teaching it that way.

I warn you to avoid any teacher who consistently uses allegorization as their main way of interpreting scripture. Remember, they twist to their own – and their followers’ destruction.

Posted in discernment

To serve man

I used to watch the old anthology series from the 1950s and 60s called The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling used to intone a message at the beginning, and then there was doo-doo-doo-doo music, and the black and white episode would begin.

My favorite episodes were “Time Enough At Last“, “The Shelter” and “To Serve Man

About To Serve Man, I am going to SPOIL it for you. The episode is 55 years old but still has cultural (and moral) repercussions. Don’t read this if you don’t want to hear about the ending.

Wikipedia says,

“To Serve Man” is episode 89 of the anthology series originally airing on March 2, 1962 on CBS. The story is based on the 1950 short story “To Serve Man”, written by Damon Knight. The title is a play on the verb serve, which has a dual meaning of “to assist” and “to provide as a meal”. The episode is one of the few instances in the series wherein an actor breaks the fourth wall and addresses the viewing audience at the episode’s end.

Here is Wikipedia’s full synopsis of the episode:

The Kanamits, a race of 9-foot-tall aliens, land on Earth. One of them addresses the United Nations via telepathy, announcing that his race’s motive in coming to Earth is to aid humanity by sharing their advanced technology. After answering questions, the Kanamit departs and leaves a book in the Kanamit language without comment, which leads Michael Chambers, a US government cryptographer, to be pressed into service.

Initially wary of an alien race who came “quite uninvited”, international leaders begin to be persuaded of the Kanamits’ benevolence when their advanced technology puts an end to hunger, energy shortages, and nuclear proliferation. Trust in the Kanamits seems to be justified when Patty, a member of the cryptography staff led by Chambers, decodes the title of the Kanamit book: To Serve Man. The Kanamits submit to interrogation and polygraph, at the request of the UN delegates. When declaring their benevolent intentions, the polygraph indicates that the Kanamit is speaking the truth.

Soon, humans are volunteering for trips to the Kanamits’ home planet, which they describe as a paradise. Kanamits now have embassies in every major city on Earth. With the Cold War ended, the code-breaking staff has no real work to do, but Patty is still trying to work out the meaning of the text of To Serve Man.

The day arrives for Chambers’s excursion to the Kanamits’ planet. Just as he mounts the spaceship’s boarding stairs, Patty runs toward him in great agitation. While being held back by a Kanamit guard, Patty cries: “Mr. Chambers, don’t get on that ship! The rest of the book To Serve Man, it’s… it’s a cookbook!” Chambers tries to run back down the stairs, but a Kanamit blocks him, the stairs retract, and the ship lifts off.

Michael Chambers’s ship quarters are a cot in a spartan interior. A voice offers him a choice of dish at all the regular meal times. Each time he refuses food with increasing irritation. At last he says to the audience: “How about you? You still on Earth, or on the ship with me? Really doesn’t make very much difference, because sooner or later, all of us will be on the menu… all of us.” The episode closes as he gives in and breaks his hunger strike.

The episode was rated the best twist ending ever. It certainly has stuck in my memory.

The title To Serve Man is a play on the verb serve, which has a dual meaning of “to assist” and “to provide as a meal”.

We see what we want to see, based on our expectations, and previous experience. We usually connect the new to the known.

When satan comes along, he does not announce himself as a tiny man with horns in a red jumpsuit holding a pitchfork. He deceives. He deludes the unwary into thinking he is there to serve you. But satan actually is there to serve you.

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6).

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15).

Satan wants to serve you … up on a dinner plate.

But we are not unaware of satan’s schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11)

For examples, false teachers begin softly, humbly. They seem kind and willing to serve the local or the global body. But false teachers are actually waiting for the moment to pounce. They patiently build up a loyal following, they insulate themselves, and they wait. They are wolves. Wolves are patient, the pack will track a caribou for days. See how wolves hunt:

A wolf pack may trail a herd of elk, caribou or other large prey for days before making its move. During this time, they are already hunting, assessing the herd, looking for an animal that displays any sign of weakness, and this is just the beginning. Wolves must also factor in other conditions that will affect the hunt; weather and terrain can tip the scales in favor of predator or prey. For example, a wide-open plain favors the ungulates, who, if full-grown and healthy, can outrun the fastest wolf. On the other hand, crusty snow or ice favors the wolves whose wide round paws have evolved to perform like snowshoes and carry them effortlessly over the surface. An experienced wolf is well aware that hoofed animals break through the crust and can become bogged down in deep snow.

Do not entertain false teachers. Do not coddle them, forgive them, allow them, make excuses for them…Titus 1:16 says,

They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Of that verse, John MacArthur preached:

The next time you see a false teacher, you might say, “You rebellious, empty-talking, deceitful, lying, evil beast, slow-bellied glutton.” And you would certainly be within the framework of Scripture. You might have to cope a little bit with 2 Timothy 2, verse 25, which says, “We are to rebuke them with gentleness.” So say it kindly.

Remember, false teachers and false Christians don’t want to serve you, even if their mouths profess it. They want to serve you … up to the wolves…lions…pigs. Satan’s book…it’s a cookbook.

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Why does the LORD allow false prophets?

One question I’m asked a lot is “Why does the Lord allow false teachers?” I ask myself that question a lot! Another question related to it is, “Why do false teachers prosper?” We’re not alone in asking this. Job, Jeremiah, and David all asked the same thing. (Job 21:7, Jeremiah 12:1, Psalm 94:3). You and I are in good company!  I think of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen and other false teachers especially on the African continent, who live high off the hog and rake in millions of dollars, and it grieves me to see the sheep led astray and the false teachers enjoying a comfortable life filled with amenities, acclaim, and comfort. So…why?? Continue reading “Why does the LORD allow false prophets?”

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Why we must oppose false teachers: They shut heaven’s door in people’s faces

In the sermon The Characteristics of False Spiritual Leaders, Part 1, John MacArthur said,

There have always been and there always will be in this world false spiritual leaders who pretend to represent God, but in fact do not represent God. The Old Testament talks about them, identifies them, and warns people to stay away from them. The New Testament does the same. In fact, Moses was in conflict with them in Egypt. Jeremiah was fighting with them in Judah. Ezekiel faced them and called them foolish prophets that followed their own spirit and have seen nothing. Our Lord warned of them as false Christ’s and false prophets who shall show great signs and wonders. The apostle Paul struggled against them as preachers of another gospel in Galatians Chapter 1, and purveyors of the doctrine of demons he called them in writing to Timothy.

Continue reading “Why we must oppose false teachers: They shut heaven’s door in people’s faces”

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Mail Call #5: My friend is following a false teacher

Mail call is a big deal (at least it was on M*A*S*H)

We love Jesus and we’re so encouraged when a new Christian or a friend who is older but growing obviously develop fruit of the Spirit. However we also grieve when friends or new Christians go the other direction and begin to stray. One way they stray is by following false teachers. I can’t describe the heartache when I see friends post quotes from false teachers, or when they gush about a Bible ‘study’ that was written by someone who is not to be consumed. It hurts. We are all one body and we want the best for our brethren. False teachers are not the best. They are the worst.

What can we do when we see a friend beginning to be drawn away? They buy the false teacher’s books, they talk about what they ‘learned’ from the false teacher, they start attending a small group of this false teacher’s studies… what can we do?

First, remember we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matthew 19:16). In this case, it means we are wise to the schemes of satan. One of his schemes is to send false teachers. We are aware of the danger they pose and we do not minimize it nor ignore it.

But in dealing with our friend we are to be harmless, innocent, kind, and gentle. Harmlessness does not mean gullibility, but it does mean tact.

When Jesus told the Twelve to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, He laid down a general principle about the technique of kingdom work. As we take the gospel to a hostile world, we must be wise (avoiding the snares set for us), and we must be innocent (serving the Lord blamelessly). Jesus was not suggesting that we stoop to deception but that we should model some of the serpent’s famous shrewdness in a positive way. Wisdom does not equal dishonesty, and innocence does not equal gullibility.

Nineteenth-century pastor Charles Simeon provides a wonderful comment on the serpent and dove imagery: “Now the wisdom of the one and the harmlessness of the other are very desirable to be combined in the Christian character; because it is by such an union only that the Christian will be enabled to cope successfully with his more powerful enemies” (Horae Homileticae: Matthew, Vol. 11, London: Holdsworth and Ball, p. 318).  

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus taught us how to optimize our gospel-spreading opportunities. Successful Christian living requires that we strike the optimal balance between the dove and the serpent. We should strive to be gentle without being pushovers, and we must be sacrificial without being taken advantage of. (Source GotQuestions)

With that basis, I’d like to offer a few ideas. These are by no means exhaustive. Please comment below with your own success stories of how to engage a friend who is following a false teacher.

I like to ask questions. I ask them in a friendly way what they are getting out of it, or why they enjoy the teacher, or what the study is showing them. If the particular teacher has demonstrated unrepentant disobedience, I might ask them about it and ask if that changes their view of what and how the teacher is teaching them. For example, Christine Caine functions as a self-stated ordained pastor and teaches women that it is OK to step into leadership roles reserved for men. You could ask your friend what she thinks of this. Your friend’s answer could illuminate the direction in which yoru discussion could go.

If she is unaware that there are some roles reserved for men and others for women, you could explain this to her from the Bible. If she disagrees, then you know from whence her attraction to Caine or the certain teacher is coming from. If she was simply unaware and now agrees, then she’ll likely go away from false teachers who teach opposite to what the Bible says regarding roles, and you have won your sister.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1).

If the friend is open to these initial probes, I ask if I might share how the false teacher strays from the Word. It is one thing to warn, but it’s more helpful to show how to think about the Word of God and how to compare what a teacher is teaching to the Bible than it is just to say “She’s false.”

For example, Beth Moore relies on personal visions and revelations, and you could show your friend about the canon, why it’s closed, and the true meaning of Paul really meant when he admonished not to despise prophesying. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).

It is also good to offer alternatives. Nature abhors a vacuum. The person presumably wants to study the word, and if they desire to study it in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24) then they will want the better option. God knows how to give good gifts.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

So then I ask if they are open to receiving some solid material written by good Bible teachers. I accumulate books and CDs and booklets and pamphlets and links, and cache them in my bookcase set aside for the purpose of givine them away when the appropriate moment comes. When the time comes, I just give them the book/essay/CD etc. If I just suggest to them to go buy or acquire a certain resource, they will likely not do it. Sometimes they do. But not usually. I put the material in their hand (or electronic message box) and I have it on hand so I can do it quickly.

We are a discipling body. Christianity is not solitary. Lambs always have a mama sheep nearby. Be involved with the weaker ones, the new ones, the strong ones. Everyone. You could invite the friend to study with you (and your wife if you are a male leader or elder speaking to a woman) or invite him or her come to a group you’re involved with. Personal discipleship and establishing a trusting relationship works wonders.

Pray. Of course this is the best solution, the Spirit knows.

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18).

Asking the Lord to deliver a sister from the clutches of a false teacher is a wonderful supplication.


Some resources that might help–

Here is the Gospel Coalition’s essay 7 marks of a false teacher

Here is John MacArthur’s sermon How to treat a false teacher part 1

Here is 9Marks with How I Select and Schedule Discipling Relationships

Another Christian sister who answered the same question way better than I did! Help! My friend follows false teachers

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Mail call #3: Why can’t people who follow false teachers bear to hear disagreement about them?

Occasionally I receive email, blog comments, or Facebook messages asking questions about various topics and issues within the faith. Here is a question I received recently about false teachers and the people who follow them.

Q.  Are they truly deceived and cannot bear to hear any disagreement about the theology of their beloved [false] teacher?

A. The scriptures say that in the latter days (now) “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” 2 Timothy 4:3.

Note the action here. The false teachers are not accumulating followers. It’s the believers who go out and heap up false teachers for themselves! These false teachers like Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore would not exist if they had no followers (because there would be no money- the Bible’s explanation for the reason false teachers go into the false teaching business). The people who heap up these false teachers cannot endure sound teaching. It’s that simple. There is some sin in them that clings to what the false teacher is offering that will not allow them to endure the full truth.

When the false teacher’s aberrant theology is pointed out to the follower, the follower shrinks back in anger and defensiveness, the need to protect their pet false teacher rising hard and fast in their darkened heart. We will go to great lengths to protect our sin.

This good quote from Tom Ascol is the antidote for falling into the sin of heaping up a false teacher:

Mature Christians are those whose lives are marked by such stability that they are not easily led astray by teachings and practices that are contrary to the Word of God. On the contrary, mature believers are “growing up in every way” into Christ. —Tom Ascol in Tabletalk Magazine

The way to avoid being tossed by every wind of doctrine and landing in partnership with a false teacher in the sin-dance is to stay grounded in the Word. Read it, study it, and meditate on it.

Charles Spurgeon had some things to say about the false teachers-

He who does not hate the false does not love the true; and he to whom it is all the same whether it be God’s word or man’s, is himself unrenewed at heart. . . . substituting for honest manliness a mass of the tremulous jelly of mutual flattery. 

Oh, if some of you were like your fathers you would not have tolerated in this age the wagon loads of trash under which the gospel has been of late buried by ministers of your own choosing. You would have hurled out of your pulpits the men who are enemies to the fundamental doctrines of your churches, and yet are crafty enough to become your pastors and undermine the faith of a fickle and superficial generation. I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisoned meat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people with enticing words, by men who would fain make merchandise of souls; and I marvel at those who have soft words for such deceivers. 

~Charles Spurgeon, sermon “Under Constraint,” 1878.

collage by EPrata
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Mail Call: How can some good pastors be so off-track and not see doctrinal error in materials they use in church?

Occasionally I receive email or Facebook messages asking questions about various topics and issues within the faith. Here is a question I received recently, and it dovetails with an essay I’m preparing for tomorrow based on a verse in John 11.

3. How can a pastor who I believe loves Christ be so off track?

This question, which was from more than one person, revolved around pastors who are OK in the pulpit but allow false teachers to infiltrate Sunday School, Women’s Ministry, or the Youth group; or who recommend books or materials to their members that are less that solid.

There are many possible reasons. Here are a few I can think of.

One reason in answer to the question might be simply the pastor’s inattention and/or busyness. I remember a powerful sermon from about 4 years ago delivered by Pr. Jim Murphy of First Baptist of Johnson City NY in a sermon called “The Subtlety of Satan“. He repented on the pulpit and also charged his church to repent too. He said that he had allowed satan to get his tentacles on his congregation via the church library, the Sunday School, and the Women’s ministry (including Beth Moore materials.) He said he was protective of the pulpit but had been inattentive and too busy to guard those other areas and the devil had gotten in.

However, there is one critical difference between a false pastor and a true pastor who has simply become busy and inattentive. The true pastor will listen to your concerns and prayerfully consider them by checking against the Bible and with his elders. He would either teach you in all gentleness why you are in error, (2 Timothy 2:25, Galatians 5:23, Ephesians 4:2) or in all humility, accept what you’re saying and check it out for himself. A false pastor will become angry, and make accusations against you and blame you. Thankfully, if the cause of being off track is inattention, it does not last forever. Eventually the Spirit brings him to repentance, as Pastor Murphy powerfully and transparently showed us in his own life.

Another reason a pastor can be so off track is that he might be lazy. It’s easier to allow the ladies to continue in their Beth Moore study than it is to confront them and endure their lady-wrath. Or another way to be lazy is simply not check the materials his people are using and rely too much on the Sunday School Superintendent or Ladies Ministry leader to make these decisions. However, a good shepherd will remember he is responsible for the souls of all his sheep’s souls, and won’t over-rely for long.

If he is lazy, one way to check is by googling his sermon titles and key points of the sermon and find out if he is plagiarizing, that is, passing off his sermons as his own but they are really canned from some storehouse online somewhere. If he is lazy at the pulpit he will be lazy elsewhere, like not being diligent in vetting study materials for the women and Sunday School. Plagiarism by the way, isn’t a new problem. God charged the false prophets leaders of Israel thru prophet Jeremiah of plagiarism. It is the lazy way out.

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. (Jeremiah 23:30).

Sadly, one reason he could be off-track could be that he may not really be a believer. I’m very sorry to have to say this. We say it carefully and only as a last resort. The Bible is clear about how powerfully the false convert can mirror a real one. For one, Judas was living intimately with the disciples, and when Jesus said one of them will betray Him, not one disciple asked if it was Judas. They all asked if it could be themselves rather than Judas. (“Is it I?”) He had all the disciples well fooled. Philip baptized Simon the sorcerer, he had Philip fooled, but his dark heart was revealed later when Simon asked Peter to give him the Spirit for money. Demas walked with Paul and only betrayed his black heart when he left to go join the world. Demas had fooled Paul. So false converts can rise to even leadership positions, and fool all those who know them. For a while. Sin eventually shows itself, or there’s an eventual failure to bring fruit.

In any case, you look at your pastor or any believer over time. There are only two ways to go. The believer grows, is on the narrow path, and is developing fruit. Upward. The lost, false convert, even a false pastor, is on the broad path, goes downward, and develops thorns and thistles. The Holy Spirit in the true believer will NOT allow false doctrine to remain in that person for long. That’s why we look over time. Any person can make a mistake, even pastors. That’s OK, it happens. The key is the reaction by the pastor when he is respectfully asked about whatever it is concerning you. Hopefully he will make a course correction be repented of, and the pastor AND his flock grows because of his humble example. If not, then the Spirit is not in him.

If you see something of concern, first, pray. The Spirit’s ministry is to point to Christ. The Holy Spirit wants purity and truth. He is always working. So pray to Him for your pastor, and He will be the catalyst for the necessary changes in him…or you! In all things, submit to those who lead you and pray for them. Love is patient and love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)… As a matter of fact, before you go speak to your pastor about your concerns, Love your pastor this way-

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Beware using Bible Gateway

I have several go-to Bible sites on my laptop. One is BibleHub, which contains the entire Bible, a lexicon, commentaries, maps, Strong’s, parallel views of verses, and much more.

I also have in my bookmarks BibleGateway, (BG) which has the Bible of course, devotionals, a helpful list of all the named and unnamed men and women in the Bible with short bios, and much more.

BibleGateway is a favorite of many, and it’s a favorite of mine, as well, which is why it’s hard to write this. I’ve noticed both on BibleGateway’s twitter stream and on their website that they are promoting some decidedly UN-Bible-like people.

I grabbed screen shots on BG’s Twitter stream and on the BG website to show you what I mean. I did not have to search hard. I did not have to search long. These are not cherry picked screen grabs gathered over years. They are selected grabs gained over the last few weeks. I actually had to delete a few I’d grabbed because the blog essay was getting too long.

1. Bible Gateway promotes Catholic dogma, apps, and Bibles. Christianity is Christianity, Catholicism is Catholicism, and they are at odds with each other. Catholicism is not a Christian faith. If one includes Catholic material on a Christian site one may as well include Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. FMI on why Catholicism is not Christianity, go here.

2. Bible Gateway promotes Charismatic author Sarah Young of Jesus Calling and other mystical devotionals in her ongoing cottage industry of falsity. Young’s books undermine the sufficiency of scripture. Young is a huge problem especially for younger undiscerning women who are at risk, and BG is not helping by legitimizing her false works. The Jesus Calling and other Young devotionals were in heavy rotation throughout July/early August. FMI on Sarah Young’s serious doctrinal errors, go here.


3. Bible Gateway promotes Bill Hybels. The shot below is of the BG’s twitter stream. #GLS16 refers to a Hybel-led conference called Global Leadership Summit of a gathering of false teachers at Hybels’ Willow Creek campus plus global leaders, to promote business practices in church leaders. The line-up includes false teachers Hybels and TD Jakes, and lifestyle guru John C. Maxwell, among other secular speakers. FMI on why Hybels’ brand of business-driven church growth movement is false, go here.

4. Bible Gateway promotes material by false pastrix Christine Caine, who is also founder of the feminist Propel Women movement. FMI on why Caine is false, go here.


5. Bible Gateway encourages using material by Roman Catholic-dabbler and mystic Dallas Willard, teacher of contemplative prayer, spiritual formation, universalism, and other false disciplines. FMI on why Willard is false, go here.


This one below is only one of many dozens of tweets sent out by BG and retweeted by followers, touting the new Bible search function BG has developed. It seems you can now search the Bible at BibleGateway using…emojis. Just because the culture has made the Emoji Bible a “success” does not mean we need to cave to the culture and create search functions with them. The Bible is the WORD of God, not the rebus pictures of God. Here is a screen shot of the introduction of the BG emoji search function:

Remember when you were in kindergarten, the easy books you were first learning to read? They inserted pictures for some of the words to make it easier to read and have the child feel successful.

The juvenilization of Christianity continues, helped by Bible Gateway.

Promoting Caine, Hybels, Willard, Young, and other false teachers such as CS Lewis, Beth Moore, Proverbs 31 ministries, and Rick Warren, as well as unbiblical conferences such as “Unwrap the Bible” with Roma Downey, displays a tremendous lack of discernment. Worse, it puts unhealthy and undoctrinal doctrines in front of millions of people.

As for myself, sure, I know who to look up and who to avoid, but when I search for a verse or an address, I don’t want to be confronted every time by false teachers and deal with the site’s excited urgencies to try this or that false teacher’s material. It’s depressing. It’s discouraging. I want Bible, not rebus pictures and a lengthy and constant list of false teachers I have to avert my eyes from on the screen.

My essay today is to just make you aware, that once again, a previously solid ministry has allowed a flood of falsity through its gates, and to beware.

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

The problem with tolerating false teachers is…

A friend and I were talking about the younger church generation. A kind of “Kids these days” conversation, lol.  She said, “They’ve been swimming in Beth Moore stuff for so long they don’t know if they are even in troubled water.” She and I, and others I’ve spoken with, notice the younger generation of 16-25 year olds simply do not have a solid theological grounding. They do not approach Bible study credibly. They infuse it with feelings, mysticism, romanticism, and subjective experience. They think this is the norm.

This is wrong.

And it is our fault.

This problem is what I dub the ‘Symbolic Jezebel problem’. It’s a generation thing. You see, in Revelation 2 metaphorical Jezebel who was a false prophetess of Thyatira. She was tolerated (one would assume, by the elders of the local church) for so long, unfortunately another generation of spiritual daughters had sprung up under her influence with her false teaching as a model. The ones coming up didn’t know any better, because they had false prophetess ‘Jezebel’ as their example. They must have figured this is the right way to practice the faith, because after all, the elders were not saying anything. It was tolerated. The issues were her false teaching, her false prophesying and the fact that she was teaching in a position of authority in the church. There’s a lot wrong right there. Jesus said to this church-

But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23and I will strike her children dead. (Revelation 2:20-23).

The other day I was talking with a 25-year-old. He was frustrated his peers could not see the truth that certain teachers are false or they could not understand why they approaches to study and communing with God were false (liver shivers, manifestations, circle praying, contemplative prayer…etc). I’d replied that his generation was the first one to have grown up completely under the false emergent, purpose driven, emotional, romantic, mystical model. An entire generation has been exposed to false teachings of one sort or another that have been tolerated by elders.

Beth Moore has been teaching locally since 1984 and went public with incorporating Living Proof Ministries in 1994. She’s nearly 60 now, Christine Caine is turning 50 next month. Lysa TerKeurst is 47. “Experiencing God” the terrible mystical curriculum that took the SBC by storm was published in 1976 and grew to monstrously popular proportions in the 1980s. All this is 25-30 years ago and we are reaping the terrible penalty for it now with our soft youth who are growing up as the the next generation of leaders. The problem is seen in this 2015 headline from Christianity Today, which unwittingly puts its finger dead center on the problem-

What Happens When We See Women Teach the Bible; A figure like Beth Moore shows evangelical women what’s possible.

No. It’s about what happens when we see not what’s possible, but what’s tolerated.

These young kids coming up who are 16 or 20 or 25 have been exposed to these things from their birth, even in homes that are solid (because it creeps in anyway). These teachers have been at it for a long time. Forty years is the length of a generation.

We tolerate a Moore, we accept a Experiencing God, we teach subjective methods of Bible study, and incrementally it all adds up. Inch by inch and then foot by foot and then mile by mile, we are on a downward slide that accelerates from a snowball to a tsunami. The generation of kids who use this stuff become the next generation of leaders, and promote it all over again to a new generation coming up. That is what is happening now.

What can you do about it? The Apostles of the first century church and their leader successors spent a great deal of time stamping out error, falsity and heresy where it sprang up. They didn’t let it go, They didn’t tolerate it, except in the case of the Thyatiran church, where Jesus personally dictated a letter telling them they were in danger of being smited by His hand! Jesus takes error seriously, the Apostles took error seriously and we should too. Error kills. (Galatians 5:9, John 10:10).

What should we do?

Repent of your personal sin so that your heart and mind can stay clear.

Don’t overlook the small errors that pop up when they occur in your sphere. Satan’s tentacles will gradually creep in (2 Timothy 3:6). Notice them and address them. Would you ignore a spark on a haystack just because it’s small and pretty? No the spark has the power to ignite a conflagration and destroy the entire thing. What happens in your garden if you let a few weeds go, and you don’t pull them up? Pick your battles (because you’re not a lone ranger, others in your church have the gift of discernment and exhortation, too 😉 and speak up. I know it’s tiring. I know it’s a message that is increasingly unwanted. But do it.

Also, stay in the Word. Keep reading and delving into who Jesus is and His character and nature. It is the way we stay sharp and grounded and on the Rock.

I do not have a new message here. I always say to repent, pray, and stay in the word. That’s because this is what Jess says to do. The messages in the Bible are true and right, and if we follow them, and continue to do our duty by Him, we will be all right.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22).


Further Reading

The Gigantic Problem Beneath the Really Big Problem

Six Ways the World will Pressure you to Conform

Does ‘Judge Not’ Mean we Should not Rebuke Error?

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Stalking Horse Religion

For if it be unlawful to follow Christ for loaves, (as it is in the sixth of John), how much more abominable is it to make of him and religion a stalking-horse to get and enjoy the world! Nor do we find any other than heathens, hypocrites, devils, and witches, that are of this opinion.

The above quote is from Pilgrim’s Progress. The main character named Christian is discussing the motives behind following Christ. We do not follow Him for loaves, as Christian says. Put another way, we don’t follow Christ for what we can get out of Him to satisfy our fleshly desires.

Christian goes on to give three examples of those who DID pretend to follow Christ but really were in it to get what they could. Continue reading “Stalking Horse Religion”