Let me begin by assuring you that I have nothing against discernment ministries and blogs that call out false teachers. Especially when those discernment ministries and blogs balance their critiques with clear Biblical teaching. Elizabeth Prata serves as one of the best examples of Biblical discernment ministry precisely because she emphasizes Scripture and doesn’t write about false teachers unless she has reason. Justin Peters, though famous for exposing false teachers, always maintains his purpose of proclaiming the true Gospel. Other trustworthy discernment leaders include Chris Rosebrough, Steve Kozar, Amy Spreeman and Michelle Lesley.
When people call out false teachers for the purpose of leading others to sound doctrine and therefore pure devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s a good work they do. So much of the evangelical world falls for deception because they don’t receive solid instruction in the Word of God. Consequently, the need for discernment ministries has mushroomed in recent decades. Young and poorly taught Christians often need to hear the truth about popular teachers on the evangelical landscape.
The Bible commands us to be aware of false teachers to the point of calling them out.
During my years in Charismatic churches, I frequently heard that Christians possess the same Holy Spirit that worked through the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. I quite agree. The way we applied that belief, however, now troubles me. We expected that His presence in our lives meant that we had the power to perform miracles, and certainly that God would speak to us personally. Long after we abandoned the miracle idea, we clung to the conviction that God augmented Scripture with personal words.
In the past 30 years, the idea of hearing directly from the Lord has seeped into non-Charismatiic churches. In the 90s, Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God, swept through Southern Baptist churches, insisting that all believers needed to hear from God regularly. In fact, the book said, failure to hear direct and personal words from God indicated definite problems. Beth Moore introduced Blackaby’s ideas to her audience, which transcends denominational boundaries, and now it’s almost universally assumed that every Christian should hear from God independent of the Bible.
This trend disturbs me for a number of reasons, causing me to write more posts about it than I can count. I’m dumb enough to think that people will see how unbiblical this teaching is. Sadly, I periodically bump into the reality that people don’t want to surrender their perceived experiences.
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.
Does a Christian blogger really need to include a Statement Of Faith on his or her website? Strictly speaking, maybe not. There aren’t any actual rules or regulations for blogging — Christian or otherwise — because blogs are self-published, and therefore guided by the conscience of each author. From that perspective, one might argue that no one mandates that a Christian blog must include a Statement Of Faith, and thus one is unnecessary.
One might further argue that a blog itself is a Statement Of Faith since its individual posts over time reveal the author’s beliefs. I see merit in this supposition, particularly since a Statement Of Faith can’t possibly present every nuance of an author’s theology. Readers get to know a blogger over time, especially if articles cover a fairly wide range of subject matter. No writer possesses enough skill to condense all of his or her beliefs into a single webpage. If we want to fully understand a blogger, we have to read a good amount of that person’s work. Indeed, that commitment to read someone’s blog with a degree of thoroughness should be a priority in properly vetting that person. After all, anybody can copy-and-paste an orthodox Statement Of Faith from a website and then proceed to promulgate all kinds of error. For example, see Beth Moore’s What We Believe page and the About page for Joel Osteen’s church.
And yet, vetting a blogger (or any Christian ministry) begins with examining their stated doctrine. Look again at Beth Moore’s beliefs. Among all the points that do align with Scripture, she tucks in a crafty little item that demonstrates her lack of obedience to the very Bible that she earlier claimed to believe. She writes:
We believe we have been “baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1Corinthians 12:13) and recognize the value and equality of all members of the body of Christ. We are “all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Did you notice that subtle opening to egalitarianism? It opens a big door to justify her unbiblical practices of preaching with men in the congregation. Thus, her Statement Of Faith drops a tiny clue that she’s not a teacher we ought to follow. Similarly, Joel Osteen’s page absolutely ignores the issue of sin. In fact, neither of them mention anything about judgment, hell or God’s wrath. leaving us to wonder why Jesus died on the cross. So their Statements Of Faith, while giving the appearance of fidelity to God’s Word, offer hints of doctrinal error,
You don’t have to belong to the Southern Baptist Convention to have heard that its newly elected president, Ed Litton, preached a sermon almost word for word that outgoing SBC president J.D, Greear had previously preached. A simple Google search will verify this fact. Justin Peters put out a video showing both sermons, which you can view here. And this scandal most assuredly needs much discussion, especially because (in the words of the more liberal element of the SBC) the world is watching.
Although the concept of the watching world was used at the SBC meeting in June primarily to excuse a refusal to deal with Critical Race Theory directly, I believe more conservative Christians should turn it around. The world is indeed watching, and it sees a new SBC president who passed off another pastor’s sermon as his own. My educated guess is that the world will see this situation as evidence of Christian hypocrisy. But others have already written about that aspect of Litton’s actions, so I feel no need to join that echo chamber.
Instead, I want to apply this situation to Christian bloggers. I’d already been thinking about writing an article on the matter, and a recent email Justin Peters sent to me and a few others confirmed to me that such an article should be written.
Bloggers, my sisters, aren’t pastors. But because we supplement the ministry of pastors, we must hold ourselves to the moral and ethical standards that God expects of pastors, elders and teachers. James 3:1 states that teachers will incur a stricter judgment. Writing a Christian blog, regardless of how small a readership one has, demands moral integrity.