Thank the Lord for discernment bloggers who have the courage to identify false teachers! Years ago John and I attended a church that went through Rick Warren’s 40 Days Of Purpose campaign. At first, it seemed so benign that I assured a girlfriend that we could trust it. But a promotional video the pastors ran one Sunday morning showed Warren repeatedly using Bible verses way out of context. Alarmed, I began scouring the Internet for information on him, finding an overwhelming amount of evidence that he is indeed a false teacher.
Discernment bloggers can, obviously, be an invaluable resource when we need quick answers about popular evangelical teachers and trends. Some of them can even move readers towards sound doctrine. Researching yoga, as a matter of fact, actually led me to discernment bloggers who in turn introduced me to Reformed theology. Some self-proclaimed discernment bloggers, of course, are really nothing more than baptized gossips whom we should avoid as fastidiously as we avoid false teachers, but there are many trustworthy bloggers who provide information that keeps us from falling into deception. So as you read this article, please don’t misunderstand me as denouncing all attempts to call out those who regularly and unrepentedly propagate error.
As essential as it is to name names when we see our brothers and sisters wandering into false teaching, we can fall into an opposite ditch of heresy hunting. The desire to keep our doctrine pure can degenerate into an obsession with becoming experts on various false teachers, causing us to spend hours on end researching them. We read their books, pour over their websites and check their social media feeds, as well as reading everything we can find that exposes them. Before long, studying them takes on an addictive quality.
I speak from personal experience, I’m ashamed to say.
Does it really advance our sanctification to saturate our minds with the junk that false teachers produce? Scripture would counsel us to do the opposite:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. ~~Philippians 4:8 (NASB95)
The charge to direct our thoughts toward good, pure and excellent things leaves little room for ruminating on the vile speculations of Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Steven Furtick and all the other deceitful teachers that populate the evangelical landscape. Overly studying them can distract us from fixing our minds on Jesus, the most good, pure and excellent Person in existence. While sometimes we need to know a little about a teacher that dominates evangelical conversion, it doesn’t necessarily follow that becoming experts on that teacher is essential in refuting his or her teachings, But it always follows that knowing Scripture well enables us to discern false teaching when we hear it.
In short, we don’t need to amass an entire library on what Mormons believe or what Beth Moore teaches. A cursory acquaintance with them is usually adequate, unless you have a ministry of exposing false teachers. And even then, you must focus more on teaching truth than on explaining their heresies.
My pastor has been teaching our Wednesday night Bible Study that even though understanding erroneous doctrine sometimes has benefit, we refute false teaching most effectively by focusing on sound doctrine. His approach isn’t new to me. Two years ago, I tried to blog verse-by-verse through Paul’s letter to the Colossians with the goal of demonstrating how the apostle counteracted the heresies of both the Judaizers and the Gnostics without once repeating their teachings. He instead concentrated on giving solid teaching, steadfastly pointing them to Christ.
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. ~~Colossians 2:1-4 (NASB95)
While the Gnostics promised secret wisdom to all who would join their cult, Paul insisted that Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” gave them everything they needed. As his letter progressed, he drew their attention to the Lord rather than examining the particulars of Gnosticism. The first three chapters of this epistle overflow with arguably some of the most eloquent presentations of Who Christ is and what He did to accomplish our salvation. Paul refuted two very detrimental teachings without once repeating their faulty principles. He knew that the best defense against deception is truth.
I wish my health problems had allowed me to finish going through CoIossians with you, but I think you’ll see (as you study it for yourselves) that Paul consistently diverted attention away from the false teachers and onto Christ. You don’t need to know everything about every false teaching out there. You do, however, need to know everything you can learn about the Lord Jesus Christ.