A Less Popular Approach To Discernment Ministry

Intricate Boarder 03When I started The Outspoken TULIP, I considered myself a discernment blogger because I named false teachers. Frequently.  At the time, I believed doing so was necessary because so many Christian women fell for popular teachers who characteristically mishandle God’s Word and promote errors like mysticism and self-esteem.

Sadly, even excellent pastors who preach solid, expositional sermons neglect to warn women about these teachers, and consequently women (even women in the best Bible-believing churches) erect War Rooms and claim that God speaks to them personally. So yes, the Church does need people who will expose false teaching and even call out false teachers.

Did you know that all but one of the New Testament epistles deal with false teaching in the First Century Church? Neither did I, until a few years ago.  Momentarily, I want to tell you why we seldom recognize these letters as corrective tools against error, but right now I want to acknowledge that, from the very beginning of church history, false teaching was a dominant problem. My longtime readers will recall that Jude found this matter so pressing that it kept him from writing about the subject nearest to his heart.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (ESV)

So okay, there’s Biblical precedent for identifying false teachers. And all too often, it’s even necessary, as in Jude’s case. In reassessing the role of discernment ministry in the Church, therefore, I’m by no means implying that we should ignore the tremendous impact that false teaching has on evangelicals.

But lately many discernment ministries (particularly online blogs and podcasts) have become downright nasty. The obvious intent to ruin reputations and unearth salacious details has become obsessive, while there seems to be precious little genuine pleading for these teachers, or even their followers, to repent and find restoration in the Lord.

We in the discernment community forget that the New Testament epistles typically address false teaching by offering correct teaching rather than evaluating all the points of the heresies that prompted each letter. And while Paul and John certainly do name names, they do it very sparingly (Paul mostly does it in his letters to Timothy, not in his general epistles). For that reason, we have trouble understanding the epistles as refutations against false teaching.

Most reputable discernment bloggers agree that 21st Century evangelicals show an increasing susceptibility to false teaching because of Biblical illiteracy. This being the case, shouldn’t we follow the Biblical model of combating false teaching with sound doctrine, directly confronting error gently and only when necessary? This isn’t a popular approach to discernment ministry, I realize, but it may be worth consideration.

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