The Most Important Aspect Of Dealing With False Teachers

For years, I researched several popular false teachers (most notably Beth Moore) with the motive of helping women escape their deceptions. To a point, that research benefited me, and hopefully benefited some of my readers. I still appreciate the bloggers and podcasters who keep up with these teachers and faithfully warn against them. Doing so requires a lot of time and effort, usually incurring a lot of abuse from followers of false teachers. When this form of discernment ministry is done properly and with a right attitude, it can be worth the persecution just to save one person from the lies that could damn their souls (Jude 22-23).

Aging with a physical disability has significantly reduced my desire to research false teachers, however. I now leave that work to people with more stamina. Oh, I might occasionally pop out a blog post alerting readers to a dangerous teacher, but I doubt I’d make it a regular practice. And the Lord has convinced me to compliment the ministries of those courageous bloggers who name names by teaching women discernment through sound doctrine.

This past month I’ve been reading 2 Peter, an epistle known for its teaching on handling false teachers (Chapter 2) and unbelieving scoffers (Chapter 3). Over the past few days, Chapter 1 has caught my attention, as Peter lays a foundation for the bulk of his epistle by encouraging his readers toward God’s Word as the source for knowing God. Interestingly, during this week’s Bible Study reviewing Colossians at our church, my pastor emphasized that Paul’s approach to refuting false teachers hinged on teaching right doctrine. The best way to spot false doctrine, he said, is to saturate oneself in true doctrine. Between 2 Peter and my pastor, I learned that the most effective approach to dealing with false teachers comes from knowing God through His Word.

Peter begins his second epistle with one of my favorite passages.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. ~~2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB95)

The knowledge of God, of course, comes through His promises, which in turn we find in Scripture. Sadly, this truth is a hard sell these days. Present-day evangelicals often believe that knowing God is more about personal experience of Him. This misunderstanding has its roots in Pentecostal and Charismatic theology. Since the 1990s, however, it has spread to almost all denominations that call themselves Christian. Despite the popularity of the idea that we know God through personal experience, Peter — who experienced nothing less than the Transfiguration — shoots down that possibility later in this chapter (2 Peter 1:16-21). Experiences may or may not be real, but even the real ones are subordinate to Scripture. Therefore knowing God depends solely on acquainting ourselves with His Word.

Establishing ourselves in the Word of God teaches us Who He is. Knowing His attributes guards us against those who deny His deity, His humanity, His death and resurrection, and His triune nature. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, teach that Jesus is a god, but adamantly deny His equality with God the Father. (I have no idea what they do with the Holy Spirit.) We don’t have to know all the ins and outs of the Watchtower Society in order to stand confidently on His deity, because we see it clearly the more we read the Bible.

Popular teachers within evangelical circles require an even greater familiarity with the Bible. Beth Moore, Rick Warren and others who come from seemingly orthodox backgrounds know how to embed error within truth, making their teachings appear grounded in the Word of God. Although they twist the Word to accommodate their aberrations, their followers don’t recognize the deviations from sound doctrine. Sometimes a follower might feel a vague sense that something seems off base, but typically they’ll dismiss their reservations rather than make waves. I certainly excused a lot of error during my 31 years in Charismatic fellowships, and I seriously doubt that I’m an exception.

Praise God for people like Justin Peters, Elizabeth Prata and Michelle Lesley who do identify the many false teachers that permeate evangelical circles today. Precisely because many evangelicals don’t study God’s Word properly (if they study it at all), we need solid discernment ministries that call out deceivers and warn against them. Romans 16:17-18 pointedly commands us to mark these people, and Christians like Justin, Elizabeth and Michelle help us obey that command. Nevertheless, these three and others like them always encourage their audiences to get into Scripture itself.

And that’s where The Outspoken TULIP comes in.

Once you’ve learned about some of the false teachers to avoid, you’ll find yourself wanting to know all the false teachers out there. I went through several years of that phase, eagerly reading every discernment website I could find (including a few that tuned out to be disreputable) and typing names into search engines as often as I could. I’d even spy on their Twitter feeds, searching for evidence of apostasy. In the past few years, however, I’ve realized that not even Justin Peters can keep up with every false teacher.

If you’re inexperienced at determining a teacher’s faithfulness to Scripture, use Michelle Lesley’s Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own as training wheels to evaluating popular teachers. New believers and believers who haven’t been well-taught are particularly vulnerable to false teaching because they haven’t yet developed skills in combating error with the Word of God. Thus, the seven steps Michelle provides offer a wonderful starting place for learning to vet popular teachers for ourselves. As you grow in God’s Word, you’ll see how easy it becomes to make good judgments. Notice, please, that both Michelle and I emphasize the necessity of knowing God’s Word.

At this point, I believe that most of us do better if we focus on learning right doctrine instead of actively chasing down the latest false teacher. As we develop an understanding of God through His Word, we also develop the ability to evaluate false teachers that cross our paths. Instead of rushing to Michelle Lesley’s blog and typing a name into her search bar, we can hold that person up against Scripture to discern whether or not they deserve our attention.

With that thought in mind, The Outspoken TULIP best serves women by concentrating on teaching right doctrine, thereby equipping you to distinguish good teaching from error. I’d rather study Scripture than research the latest celebrity, and I honestly think I could add to the ministries of discernment bloggers by leading you back to Scripture. What better way to stand against false teachers?

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