I’ve written several articles warning against seeing discernment merely as the identification of false teachers. When we limit our definition of discernment to that one function, we run the risk of degenerating into gossips and scandal-mongers. I could easily write several more articles explaining why a single focus on exposing false teachers dishonors the Lord.
In standing against this truncated understanding of discernment, however, I’m keenly aware that Christians can go to the opposite extreme of never mentioning false teachers. They insist that knowing Scripture well will protect a person from falling prey to doctrinal error.
In many respects, I agree with their position. In fact, just last evening I tweeted something to that effect:
I certainly stand by my words, firm in the conviction that God’s Word is sufficient for distinguishing truth from error. The more we study the Bible, the easier it is to spot variations from the truth. For that reason I try to interest you in going through Bible Studies with me. I understand your desire to be discerning women, and I wholeheartedly believe that you’ll develop discernment skills better my digging into Scripture than by reading about Beth Moore’s latest foibles.
At the same time, I don’t think it wise to completely avoid talking about false teachers. As a matter of fact, numerous Scriptures mandate that we be aware of people who divide Christ’s body by teaching wrong doctrine.
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)
False teachers pose a significant threat, particularly to believers who haven’t been grounded in the faith. As fewer and fewer churches provide verse-by-verse expositional preaching from their pulpits (if they even have pulpits), Christians don’t receive solid foundations for their faith. Consequently, they believe teachers who may or may not distort disembodied portions of God’s Word to suit their agendas.
Young and poorly taught Christians often need someone to point out false teachers by name. Even in churches with excellent preaching currently, some women who haven’t received good teaching in their past will favorably quote someone like Priscilla Shirer without batting an eye. Unless we name names, some women simply won’t make the necessary connections. Untaught and poorly taught women run an even greater risk of being deceived.
I try to keep my articles about false teachers to a minimum, despite the grim knowledge that such posts attract far more readers than doctrinal posts do. Even when it becomes necessary to write about false teachers, I try to direct your attention back to God’s Word. So when I must expose a false teacher, please know that I do so only in obedience to Scripture and for the purpose of drawing you back to Scripture.