More Scriptures than I could possibly quote in this little blog post urge Christians to develop and exercise discernment. The Lord desires that His people learn to distinguish between truth and error, particularly when it comes to His Word. My regular readers know that I champion the idea of encouraging greater discernment among Bible-believing Christians, especially in light of all the doctrinal error infiltrating evangelical churches these days. Weakened doctrine leads to deception, which in turn leads people to hell.
At the same time, we can actually turn discernment into an idol, feeding into our pride as we fancy that we possess some special knowledge that most Christians haven’t been given. This superior enlightenment pulls us into pride as we use our blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to demonstrate how knowledgeable we are. Rather than warning people against false teaching because of a sincere concern for God’s honor and for their souls, we show off our prowess at finding fault with whatever teacher or Christian idea that we manage to dig up dirt on.
I know this is true because I’ve crossed that line myself. May God forgive me!
Again, there’s a legitimate place for pointing out heresy. I praise God for the Reformers the 16th Century who stood against the perversions of Roman Catholicism to restore Biblical Christianity. Having said that, I also believe that we run the danger of manufacturing evidence for heresy where there is none.
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. ~~1 Corinthians 8:1-3 (ESV)
Apparently some of the Corinthians felt proud of their discernment regarding meat that, after being used in the worship of pagan deities, had been purchased in markets and served to dinner guests. They would certainly have been right to abstain from eating it themselves if doing so violated their consciences. But in reality, eating such meat could be completely divorced from idol worship. These people “advised” others about the meat in order to show off their supposed discernment. Thus, they puffed up their own egos and, in the process, probably caused people to go hungry.
We all enjoy letting people think that we are “in the know,” don’t we? By billing ourselves as discernment bloggers, we indeed can puff ourselves up…at least in our own eyes. But the same Bible that commands us to call out false teachers also admonishes us to maintain an attitude of humility.
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. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. ~~Galatians 6:1-5 (ESV)
When we have concerns about a person’s ministry, therefore, we must first examine ourselves. Why do we feel the necessity to call attention to this person’s weaknesses? Is the error they teach assaulting an essential doctrine (such as the sufficiency of Scripture or Total Depravity), or are they simply mistaken about a disputable point of echatology? Are we exposing them because they do serious damage to the Body of Christ, or so that we can bolster our image as tippers of sacred cows?
Sometimes the Church really does require people with the courage to speak out against doctrinal error. Sadly, we live in a time when evangelicals compromise with all sorts of deception and error, creating a legitimate need for discernment ministries and discernment blogs. That said, let’s be certain to exercise genuine discernment instead of demonstrating our skill at finding skeletons in the closets of well-known Bible teachers. Above all, let’s remember that our primary purpose is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.