When Discernment Lacks Wisdom

Discern WiselyA few years ago, everybody wanted to bill themselves as having discernment. Myself included. At that time, many people equated discernment ministry with calling out false teachers and exposing unbiblical trends within evangelism.

Certainly, discernment ministry includes such activities, and Christians shouldn’t apologize for speaking against people and movements that contradict Scripture. If anything, more Christians need to brace against the many deceptions that continually creep into the church. So please, as you read this article, understand that I most assuredly believe discernment ministry encompasses exposing people and practices that oppose sound doctrine.

Having said that, I’ve learned that some Christians limit discernment ministry to nothing more than heresy hunting. Such people, despite their claims of being discerning, fall for conspiracy theories and impugn genuine brothers and sisters in Christ over secondary issues. Brannon Howse obviously comes to mind in his attacks on James White, Phil Johnson and Justin Peters.

The attacks on Justin Peters is perhaps the most interesting, and the most instructive.

Both Brannon and Justin have ministries that they call discernment ministries. Both believe they call out false teachers (and indeed, both have done so). As a matter of fact, both have publicly disagreed with James White’s Interfaith  Dialogue with Yasir Qadhi.

Justin, however, refuses to label James White as a heretic. While he disagrees with the methods James employs, he trusts that James submits to the leadership of his local church and that he’s motivated by a real desire to evangelize Muslims. For those reasons, he won’t join Brannon in denouncing James.

As a result, Brannon has now declared that Justin Peters supports Islam and has compromised his ministry. Brannon’s Facebook page bulges with invective comments against Justin, almost gleefully predicting the demise of his ministry.

I question whether or not Brannon Howse truly understands discernment. If he researched even a little bit, he’d quickly realize that none of the people he’s denounced in this matter compromised with Islam. True discernment would cause him to disagree with James White’s approach (as Phil Johnson and Justin Peters have) without trying to discredit them. True discernment would seek unity on primary issues and graciously accept differences on matters of preference.

Discernment ministry goes far beyond naming false teachers. It discerns when to make something an issue and when to quietly disagree without breaking fellowship with Bible-believing Christians who hold to sound doctrine. Furthermore, it rejects conspiracy theories in favor of loving enemies (like Muslims) enough to respectfully dialogue with them about the differences between Islam and Christianity so that we can effectively evangelize them.

Discernment is a great deal more than publicly calling out false teachers, particularly when someone actually teaches sound doctrine. True discernment investigates a person’s overall ministry to determine if he or she consistently upholds Scripture or consistently makes mistakes. True discernment, moreover, doesn’t distort that person’s words in order to win a fight.

Above all, true discernment seeks to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. Even in calling out false teachers, true discernment points people back to the Lord, helping others understand the Gospel. In fact, it affirms efforts to proclaim the Gospel to people caught in deceptions like Islam. As long as someone presents the Gospel fully and without minimizing its components, we should rejoice that someone cares enough to bring it to Muslims.

Discernment is necessary to Christian maturity. So let’s use it, not just to identity people and practices that contradict God’s Word, but to conduct ourselves in ways that honor the Lord.

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Saturday Sampler: July 30 — August 5

Extruded FunsiesVisit Growing 4 Life to see how Leslie A has revived her series on discernment with Learn to Discern: How Do You Determine What is True, Right, and Good? All of us need to think seriously about the way we make these determinations.

In her article for 9Marks, Carrie Russell writes about Ministry to Women When There’s No “Women’s Ministry”. Her thoughts on the topic go against popular ideas, but she successfully substantiates them with Scripture.

Speaking from her personal experience, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day offers Turnstile Salvation as evidence that nobody can claim a relationship with the Lord simply because Christian parents raised her. Maybe Jennifer states the obvious. Then again, maybe not.

In his mid-teens, my Catholic-turned-agnostic husband decided to see what the Bible said about the origins of life, so he picked up a Catholic New Testament. The Holy Spirit used it to bring him to salvation. Tom’s article, Sketchy Catholic versions of the Bible were stepping stones to salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone in excatholic4christ, reminds me of John’s testimony. Even better, it reminds me of the power off God’s Word!

Denny Burk outlines Four stages of “evangelical” affirmation of gay marriage as a warning to us all.

In her blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, Lara d’Entremont uncovers The Real Reason to Remain Sexually Pure. She directs her teaching to women waiting to be married, single women and women who teach younger women.

Guiding us through Psalm 19, Lisa Morris of Conforming To The Truth lists 6 Reasons  to Glory in the Sufficiency of Scripture. Honestly, professing Christians often forget (or at least ignore) the marvelous provision God has made for us by His Word. Lisa’s blog post serves as a helpful refresher on this essential point of faith.

How about a double dose of Leslie A this week? Her candor in Grace That Changes convicts me of my own self-righteousness, which I appreciate. So often, we lose sight of God’s gentleness with us, and consequently get impatient with less mature believers. Leslie’s article encourages us as we endeavor to overcome that sin. Yet she offers an important balance.

Coming to Christ as an adult, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day has experienced both the world’s view of womanhood and the Lord’s. From this rare vantage point, she unveils the contrast between  Biblical vs. Secular Womanhood. Ladies, we can’t hear these things too often.

As I’ve been saying for two years, Obergefell vs Hodges opened a door for a full assault on traditional values. John Ellis’ article in PJ Media, Transgender Student Sues Private School in California, sadly confirms my warnings, but it also encourages us to stand firm.

Those who see no harm in the ordination of women will want to read The Slippery Slope and the Jesus Box by Richard D. Philips on the Reformation 21 blog. Philips’ assertion doesn’t at all surprise me, but it may help you to understand the dangers of compromising Scripture in this seemingly minor area. Obedience to Scripture matters!

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The Internet Can’t Silence The Gospel (Even If It Bans It)

Headstick 2013Longtime readers of this blog may remember my initial purpose for abandoning the blog I’d kept on Google’s Blogspot.com for nine years in favor of starting this one on WordPress. For the benefit of newer readers, however, allow me to reiterate why I made the move.

The Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, by which the United States Supreme Court unilaterally legalized same sex marriage signaled that the political left would no longer tolerate any opposition to their various viewpoints. Almost immediately, same sex couples began suing Christian bakers, florists and other vendors who chose not to participate in celebrating weddings that violated Scripture’s definition of marriage. Some of those vendors have lost their businesses as a result.

I was not surprised.

Along those lines, I realized that having Google host a free blog invited censorship because I write boldly from a Biblical perspective. In so doing, I firmly state that homosexuality is sin. I also firmly state that salvation cannot occur apart from repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such statements, of course, violate the liberal positions that Google officials hold. And, since Google essentially owned my old blog, they would have the legal right to shut it down because of my Christian stand.

Technically, WordPress could probably do the same, but the fact that I pay for it may delay the termination. I hope.

I’m sure some people think I made a knee-jerk reaction in leaving Blogspot.com. Until yesterday, I could have been persuaded that perhaps I did. Perhaps I sunk all that money into WordPress needlessly. But yesterday, YouTube (which Google owns) issued their new policy for combating hate speech and terrorism.

Like many Christians, I found the following section of the new policy disturbing:

Youtube policy change
Borrowed from James White’s Twitter feed

Obviously, Christians should consider this clause a warning that we will eventually be shut out from the Internet if we dare to proclaim Biblical principles. Compared to the persecution Christians endure in other countries, this is mild, I admit. But it does limit our ability to use social media to advance the Gospel and equip Christians in discernment ministry.

Yet Google can’t prevent us from spreading God’s Word. Christians proclaimed it for 2,000 years before the Internet, and we’ll continue to proclaim it long after Google, Facebook and Twitter block us. So let’s use social media as long as we can to declare the Gospel and prepare for the opportunities God will give us once we lose our online privileges. No matter what, we can trust His faithfulness.

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Saturday Sampler: July 23 — July 29

Swatches 01

For those who wonder why people object so strongly to The Message paraphrase of the Bible, I beg you to read Eugene Peterson by Justin Peters. He compares selected passages with more standard Bible translations to show why this paraphrase cannot be trusted.

One of the things I like best about Michelle Lesley is her unwillingness to compromise God’s Word. Her post, The Mailbag: Female Pastors – False Teachers or Just Sinning?, looks at the issue fairly while raising important questions based on both Scripture and Michelle’s observation. I do wish she would have also commented on women who, although they don’t hold the office of pastor, teach men.

Discernment ministry isn’t the path to popularity, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life tells us in Don’t Expect a Crowd.

The problem with hip humility by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day hits the nail on the head. Is it really cool to cuss a little if we profess to love Jesus? Jennifer causes us to think seriously about such casual attitudes.

What can I say about Erin Benziger’s essay, On the Dangers of Distorting God’s Grace, which you’ll find on Do Not Surprised? She gives a healthy balance on responding to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. I love her passion for His truth!

It bothers me that evangelicals teach people to expect God to speak to them apart from Scripture. So Elizabeth Prata’s pointed essay, How did they ever hear God without a how-to manual? in The End Time, both amuses and encourages me. She stands firm on the Word of God, as we all should.

Sunny Shell of Abandoned to Christ writes a heartfelt blog entry called Content in Christ Alone that, to be honest, addresses a malaise common to all women. Although she doesn’t say anything particularly novel, she certainly reminds us of basic Biblical truth. Sometimes we need such reminders.

Are you in that heartwrenching season of praying earnestly for someone, only to see them harden themselves against the Gospel? If so, Even If He Doesn’t by Staci Eastin of Out of the Ordinary will most assuredly minister to you.

On her blog, Unified in Truth, Nikki Campbell educates us on The Downgrade Controversy that dogged the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon and relates it to the downgrade in evangelical churches today. She features a short, but compelling video with John MacArthur explaining how history is sadly repeating itself, as well as how pastors and congregations can resist this unbiblical trend.

Let’s add a second article by Leslie A., if only to validate my pet peeve regarding smart phones. Every Three Seconds looks at our addiction to these devices as well as suggesting ways to use them more responsibly and in ways that honor God.

Visiting an Embassy by Jesse Johnson is a slight departure from the sort of writing that usually appears in The Cripplegate. It also makes a powerful point about seeker-sensitive churches.

Please don’t miss Amy Spreeman’s article, When women’s ministries abandon the Bible, on the Naomi’s Table website. It perplexes me that any Bible Study group would choose to study a book when they can study the very Word of God.

If you feel left out because you don’t hear God speak personally to you, check out God Doesn’t Talk to Me on Rachel’s danielthree 18 blog. She guides us on making right decisions. I’ll offer no hints on how she advises us to seek God’s will; I want you to read her counsel for yourselves.

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The Folly And Shame Of Weighing In Too Quickly

ae2c7-pearlonvictoriandesignLast January, well-known Christian apologist James White and Islamic scholar Yasir Qadhi conducted a two part dialogue to help their respective communities understand some of the actual beliefs of Christianity and Islam. On the first evening, they appeared in a church, where White permitted Qadhi to present Muslim beliefs without challenge. On the following evening, they met in Qadhi’s own Mosque, where White straightforwardly declared the Gospel.

In June, Christian radio host Brannon Howse unearthed the YouTube video of the discussion in the church, and has since launched a vicious attack on White. He believes White has violated 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, particularly in failing to refute Qadhi or proclaim the Gospel during the meeting in the church. The controversy escalated, even to the point of branding White as a heretic.

I’ve followed the bruhaha fairly closely, reading arguments on both sides and watching the video of the discussion in the Mosque (which, it should be noted, Howse and his supporters carefully avoid mentioning). Although I wrote a couple posts early in June which indirectly alluded to the controversy, for the most part I didn’t really believe I had enough information to state an opinion. And frankly, I struggled to the point of doubting my own discernment abilities, therefore putting off blogging about it until I could reach a solid conclusion.

I took my guidance from Proverbs:

13 If one gives an answer before he hears,
    it is his folly and shame.
14 A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
    but a crushed spirit who can bear?
15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
    and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
16 A man’s gift makes room for him
    and brings him before the great.
17 The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.
18 The lot puts an end to quarrels
    and decides between powerful contenders.
19 A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
    and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
20 From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied;
    he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. ~~Proverbs 18:13-20 (ESV)

I kept studying the various arguments, knowing I shouldn’t speak further until I felt assurance that I adequately understood whether or not James White did anything wrong. Only in the last week have I settled in my mind that, though he probably could have found wiser ways of staging the dialogue, he made no substantive compromises. Additionally, Brannon Howse erred by totally ignoring what happened at the Mosque, therefore misrepresenting the facts in order to smear White’s reputation.

Now that I feel ready to weigh in, however, everyone else has finally moved on to other matters. As well they should! The ugliness displayed on both sides dishonored Christ.

Part of me regrets waiting so long to voice my opinion. Blogging gains traction, in part, by addressing controversies  as they unfold. If a Christian blogger handles a controversial topic with humility and fairness, bringing out Biblical principles that direct readers to the Lord, I see no reason not to write about it.

I can’t stop remembering childhood experiences of crawling across  the lawn to join the neighborhood kids in play, only to watch them move to another yard just before I reached them. Once again, I’ve arrived too late.

But another part of me appreciates the Lord for teaching me to remain silent until I could properly research the situation. In this particular case, my investigations confirmed my original position on the controversy, but what if I had stated my opinion immediately and then discovered that I was wrong? Retractions rarely receive the same attention as original articles do.

In the end, writing a blog post in the heat of the controversy would have probably boosted my readership, at least temporarily, but I would have sinned by expressing an opinion before I really knew all the facts. Such recklessness has no place on a Christian blog. Praise the Holy Spirit for convicting me to wait, study and understand all aspects of the controversy before I put forth my thoughts.

That’s actually the greater lesson in all of this, when you think about it. Ironically, White’s primary purpose in having the dialogue with Qadhi was to help Christians understand what Islam actually teaches. Understanding other viewpoints enables us to present the Gospel with greater clarity because we know their way of thinking. When Christians listen before speaking, we can make a more effective case for the Gospel.

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Boston Public Schools And The Moral Training Of Children (Or: Musings From The Subway)

IMG_3957On the subway yesterday, the man across from me was reading a local newspaper. I happened to glimpse a headline that Boston public schools plan to start teaching emotional and social skills.

Initially I reacted positively, thinking about the Snowflakes on college campuses these days who can’t tolerate anyone or anything that challenges their typically liberal beliefs. I echo others who correctly point out that college no longer encourages kids to think through a variety of viewpoints, but instead brainwashes them to adopt the liberal agenda. As a result, college kids (and their instructors) refuse to listen to those who disagree with their accepted dogmas.

Maybe teaching emotional and social skills to younger children would thicken their skin, I thought to myself. Um, public schools? In Boston? Obviously I suffered momentary brain lapse. Whatever they define as “emotional and social skills,” I highly doubt that they encourage kids to consider conservative and Biblical perspectives!

Thinking further about the headline, it occurred to me that parents, not schools, should teach emotional and social skills to their children. Granted, few secularized parents do teach these things. Over the past 50 years, parents have abdicated more and more of their responsibilities to the schools, allowing the very indoctrination that produces Snowflakes in the first place.

I understand that, because I don’t have children of my own, some of you mothers may resent me for daring to comment on what parents should and shouldn’t do. And I concede that I have limited understanding of the difficulties and complexities of child rearing. Furthermore, I realize that single moms face even more struggles. For those without husbands to take the lead in teaching your children, I can appreciate that having the schools help shoulder your burden can be an enormous relief.

Yet I also know that parents (and especially Christian parents) ought to take charge of training their children how to navigate through life. Such training depends on teaching and modeling Scripture’s commands and principles. Moses’ instructions to Israel certainly apply to Christian parents.

18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. ~~Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (ESV)

The apostle Paul gives us a similar charge:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ~~Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)

Scripture doesn’t have parents entrusting their children to secular institutions when it comes to the arena of morality and ethics. I don’t know exactly what “emotional and social skills” the Boston public schools intend to teach, but it’s probably a safe bet that the Sermon on the Mount won’t be part of the curriculum.

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Saturday Sampler: July 16 — July 22

Critter Sampler 01Too bad Summer White’s Peterson and the Ghosts in the Machine (appearing in Sheologians) didn’t reach my in-box until after I published last week’s Saturday Sample, because Summer raises some extremely interesting angles to the controversy.

Examining one of the more prevalent false dichotomies among evangelicals, Mark McIntyre of Attempts at Honesty presents External versus Internal Focus to remind us that the Great Commission involves more than just evangelism and more than just discipleship.

Speaking of good reminders, Elizabeth Prata cautions us against Lucky Dipping by her post in The End Time. Her warning isn’t particularly novel, but it can’t be repeated too often.

Interestingly, Nikki Campbell of Unified in Truth also directs us toward proper Bible study techniques in the article Rightly Handling the Word of Truth (part 2). The principles laid out can help us in our own understanding of Scripture, and they can also assist us in discerning false teaching. Therefore this post deserves our careful attention.

Regular readers of Saturday Sampler know that One Hired Late In The Day is a blog I love to feature. This week’s article, The narrow gate, looks at the Lord’s claim that salvation excludes many people — including professing Christians who show no fruit of genuine conversion. Jennifer substantiates her points with a good variety of Scripture, making this an essay well  worth your time and attention.

Those of you following the Eugene Peterson fiasco might appreciate Amy Spreeman’s  Eugene Peterson’s error isn’t about gay weddings in Berean Research. I think she gets to the heart of the matter quite effectively.

Michelle Lesley weighs in with The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies. She raises excellent questions that this Southern Baptist Convention publishing company should have answered years ago.

As women, none of us should serve as the pastors that John Chester directly addresses in his Parking Space 23 article, Church 101. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the principles he puts forth, however. I especially appreciate his thoughts on the purpose of the church.

Am I including Elizabeth Prata’s The Approachableness of Jesus (Reprise) because she mentions John Adams? Maybe a little (I live near Quincy, MA). But seriously, she uses Adams’ struggle with royal protocol to highlight the graciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to receive us into His presence without  condition. Her post fills me with adoration for the King of kings!

Yes friends, it’s true. I’m really giving you two posts by Michelle Lesley on top of two by Elizabeth Prata this week. Michelle’s Throwback Thursday ~ Persecution in the Pew brings back an article Michelle wrote nearly two years ago about a sad form of persecution that I’ve personally experienced. As we stand for Biblical truth, we should expect pushback — even from professing Christians.

I’m new to Lara d’Entremont’s blog, Renewed in Truth Discipleship, so I can’t yet fully endorse it (I have a sneaking suspicion that I eventually will). Her post, 7 Mistakes You Might Be Making When Studying the Bible, certainly indicates that  she’s worth reading. See if you agree.

Tom at excatholic4christ writes Papal allies accuse American right-wing Catholics and evangelicals of joining together in “ecumenism of hate” to remind us that the Gospel is not about American politics. It’s an interesting read for many reasons.

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