False Teachings Or Simply Disagreements?

Bible AloneWho is a false teacher? Sadly some popular “discernment” ministries are currently throwing out accusations of heresy against other well-known Christian apologists, largely over matters of how they approach their ministry.  Occasionally they also use non-essential points of doctrine as reason to anathematize people, but generally the battles boil down to pride.

A reader recently expressed her concern that “discernment ministry” types have been indiscriminately calling anyone they disagree with a false teacher.  In many instances, I must concur. The article she sent me, A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity by Al Mohler,  certainly offers a helpful guideline in determining what issues should divide Christians and when we can disagree without breaking unity. I encourage each of you to read it.

As helpful as Mohler’s article is, however,  perhaps Scripture provides an even better measurement. Some doctrines (such as women not teaching men within a church setting) are clearly stated in Scripture. Other principles (such as women writing Bible Studies on blogs that men will read) lend themselves to more ambiguity. In the first case, I will divide. In the second, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. The second merely violates my personal convictions; the first violates God’s Word.

Paul addresses Christian liberty in a number of passages. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 directly speak to the necessity of avoiding judgmental postures over matters of individual conscience. Just because I believe, for instance, that I should wear hats to church doesn’t give me the right to insist that my sisters in Christ wear hats. But neither does their freedom to attend church bareheaded give them the right to judge me as being legalistic.

Suppose, however, that I devoted this entire blog to head coverings,  asserting that women who failed to cover their heads in church were in blatant rebellion against God’s Word. Suppose I wrote, in no uncertain terms, that head coverings were necessary to salvation. Ladies, if I did anything like that, I would most definitely be a false teacher. Furthermore, you would have a responsibility to contact First Baptist Church Weymouth to alert the elders that I promoted heresy. That sort of divisiveness must never be tolerated within the Body of Christ!

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)

As Christians, we must know Scripture well enough to distinguish between simple disagreements with our brothers and sisters in Christ and false teachings that worm their way into the church. In our zeal for doctrinal purity, let’s take care that we divide only from those who truly pervert the Word of God.

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3 thoughts on “False Teachings Or Simply Disagreements?

  1. Thank you DebbieLynne! This is a wonderful beginning. I’m going to throw something out here and I don’t mean for it to be offensive but I’m trying to understand exactly what you’re saying here. You draw the lines at what you declare are clear Biblical teachings ie Women’s roles and on something like your Calvinism you’re just not quite as sure that your Calvinism is Biblical so you’ll allow others to hold differences without the false teacher label. Or you’re not sure about your eschatology so you;re
    l allowing those who disagree with you to avoid the false teacher label. Aren’t we all trying to determine what is truly Biblical and yet we have different opinions about many doctrines so the idea that what any one person considers Biblical is actually subjective. It seems like your saying that if it is very clear to you that it must therefore rise to the level of primary doctrine even when it is not a salvic issue.

    And is your definition of a false teacher someone who is wrong on tertiary issues? Can a false teacher be a Christian.

    Again I’m not really sure you’re understanding my questions or that you got out of Mohler’s article the same thing I did.

    Dr. Mohler seems to posit the idea that there are doctrines that are PRIMARY – we cannot disagree on PRIMARY doctrines and still all be Christians. There are tertiary, lover level doctrines we can have disagreement about and still be considered Christian. But you seem to be saying that there are some tertiary issues where you would label someone not a Christian. It seems like Dr. Mohler would base labeling false teachers as those who get the primary doctrines wrong but on tertiary doctrines we can have disagreements.

    It seems to be – and this is not you at all – but it seems like there are some people who are very P.R.O.U.D. of their labeling. They are very arrogant and it’s almost as if they’ve raised idols for themselves in the way they are raising tertiary issues up as false doctrines that are oh so very clear because they are oh so very superior super christian.

    Who gets to decide which issues rise up to the level of false doctrine that warrants the label of false teacher? Should we draw the line at primary doctrine? Why do some tertiary issues matter more than others if they’re all tertiary?

    I’ve rambled on here and I appreciate you’re reading my thoughts. I do not expect a reply or even a public posting of these thoughts. I do appreciate your humility and willingness to consider my questions. There are many discernment bloggers who refuse comments which I think shows and unwillingness to be held accountable and an inability to actual defend what they believe. But alas.

    Hope you and your husband are as well as you can be entering this joyful holiday season.


    • Thank you for commenting. You make me think, and that’s healthy.

      But please remember my comment policy: no more than 150 words. It’s fair, and it may encourage you to start a blog of your own! 🙂


  2. Oh, we need to hear this message. So, so true. I think you would really appreciate this sermon by my brother. (he preaches at a small church in the Cleveland area and I am not selling or promoting anything except this biblical sermon! 😉 haha) It is about judging each other as Christians and I wish I would have heard and put into place years ago. Glad, through the Holy Spirit and God’s Grace, that we can keep learning and growing 🙂



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