When did Christians begin equating discernment with calling out false teachers? Certainly, identifying harmful teachings and trends that worm their way into even the best of churches has merit, especially in this age of technology when false teachers can influence a lot more people in a lot less time. At times, discernment bloggers absolutely must name names and loudly denounce error. Please don’t think I disapprove of warning other believers when wolves threaten God’s flock.
But if we reduce discernment ministry simply to the act of exposing false teachers, we distort the entire concept. One aspect of a ministry should never be mistaken for the ministry as a whole.
In addition to enabling Christians to recognize error, Biblical discernment draws us towards God’s truth. It refutes bad doctrine by filling us with sound doctrine. That sound doctrine, in turn, leads us to greater intimacy with the Lord.
By intimacy, I don’t mean a romantic or quasi-erotic experience with Jesus as our supposed Lover. As we study Scripture, rather, we see Who the Lord is, how He thinks and what He values. The doctrine of Christ’s supremacy, for example, gives us an understanding of His relationship to His creation, as we see in the following passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)
It may interest you to know that Paul actually wrote that particular passage in response to false teachers who tried to tell the Colossians that Christ didn’t have supreme authority. In this case (as in so many others), Paul refrained from naming the error directly and instead addressed it by replacing it with the correct view of the Lord. In the process, he drew his readers into a deeper understanding of Christ’s deity, His role as Creator, His eternal nature and His atoning work on the cross. That, dear ladies, is a hefty amount of doctrine to pack into one little paragraph!
Doctrine helps Christians discern error, then, but it does so with the purpose of leading us into a closer knowledge of the Lord. Simply calling out false teachers may allow us to feel an air of superiority, but that’s quite different from leading us into His presence. True discernment does protect Christians from deception, but that protection ought to ultimately bring us into greater worship and adoration of the Lord.