A couple of days ago I posted My Plea to the Church, which has been received better than I expected. I have received some questions about it that I thought I could answer alongside some additional thoughts and clarifications. First, perhaps, I can offer the clarification that will answer the majority of the questions I received.
What do you mean, “we”?
Within the post I used the language of “we” such as,
Comparing scripture, and the early church’s zeal with our day is quite telling. Where scripture tells us to keep an eye out, we close both of them. When scripture tells us to test spirits, we check our brains at the door. Where scripture tells us to have no part with them, we join them. While the early church fought for truth for the sake of the true Gospel and true Jesus, we sit back and join the false teachers. The early church made themselves holy from paganism, so much so that they would have nothing to do with their worship, while we play songs in congregations written to worship a cheap imitation of the gospel and Jesus. Our culture when reading Paul’s words, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 1:21) brushes it aside and says, eat, drink, and be merry. While the early church would excommunicate heretics, we fund them. Christian business sell their books, churches play their music, we host them on TV networks, and even promote their reading plans on popular bible apps. We are the unfaithful adulterous people.
This was intentional and I actually thought about it for awhile before using this language. One of the first reasons I used this language had to do with my own conviction. This is not to say that I have partnered with false teachers, in fact I work pretty hard to keep an eye on my doctrine, and who I pay attention to, but rather that I took longer than I should have to bring up these issues. Instances where I should have said something, but didn’t. This makes me a bystander in some sense, and I think that is one of those instances where you find that you are guilty, not for what you did do, but for what you didn’t do.
The second reason is because my article presupposes that I’m speaking to the genuine church. I frame it that way, comparing the early church with our own, and while this is unpleasant for many who are zealous for the truth, I think it is appropriate for those who haven’t been. What do I mean? The purpose of my article was to call the genuine church to action where they haven’t been active. In reality, many sound churches have brought in these bible studies through small groups and play these groups’ music. Yes, we can all expect the “self-professing christians” to be entertained by the appeals of prosperity and experience, but we have been silent in many respects. This being said, I fully recognize the hard work of many to make these issues known, and I appreciate them all very much.
Yes, it could be argued that the majority of individuals who listen to such teachers are not saved, but we still have participated in their works and I want to think I expressed that by pointing out that many genuine churches use their materials. There is a disconnect there that needs to be assessed and addressed. In reality, it makes little sense to say that we shouldn’t listen to these teachers while playing their music or sharing their bible studies. So when I use “we” I mean the genuine church because sound churches have let these groups in, perhaps through ignorance, which is why (I would argue) we need more diligence in how we operate. If the command in scripture is to test all spirits (1 John 4:1), then why don’t we vet the materials our small groups are using? Why don’t we vet the music? If the Bearens examined Paul, the apostle who gave us the majority of the New Testament, and were counted noble for it, why don’t we imitate them? It doesn’t follow that they could examine the Apostle, but we won’t examine musicians or teachers.
Necessity of Division
Just as well, we have allowed for the formation of a new taboo, that is, the taboo of standing for truth and calling out false teachings and teachers. The question is, why? Why is this taboo when it is the model of Jesus, the apostles, the church, etc? My answer is simple; because it divides. Truth divides, and that is really where we have given ourselves over to a postmodernist christianity. A post modernist christianity, which says, “who are we to question this group or another individual? who are we to say their teachings are false?” It’s essentially the equivalent of saying, they can have “their truth”. The problem is, that’s not how the Bible is. It clearly outlines the differences between truth and error. If we are to model Christ, that would include calling out those who abuse the scriptures and threaten spiritual truth for those who are seeking it.
The reality is that division is necessary and to disagree would be quite peculiar for a self professing Christian. I mean, why not accept Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses into fellowship? Isn’t it divisive to recognize them as cults? Why can we recognize that, but not those in the prosperity/WOF movement? I have an answer to that in my head, but I fear it to be honest, and I would expect genuine believers to stand up and make that necessary division. Why would we allow the gospel to be changed when false gospels cannot save? Do we actually know the gospel? Do we actually believe it is the power to save and that an alteration of it cannot save? In short, if you’re willing to compromise on these teachers, then you need to open up fellowship with the other cults, and if you do that, you should be concerned about whether or not you know the truth at all.
I have heard numerous stories of churches who have bible studies in which individuals are hushed when they point out the false teacher who formed the study. In many cases those who run the study say, “we aren’t divisive here.” I have heard stories of churches who claim the prosperity movement isn’t that bad. I have heard stories of churches splitting over this issue. My response to this is heartbreak, but also I believe these situations more often than not distinguish the sheep from the goats. This is one of the reasons we need to stand up, because some of these sheep are stuck in these situations and suffering for it. This is one of the reasons we need to be firm, and loud, on what the truth is, because for too long we have let goats dictate how the sheep are to operate. Yes, there will always be tares among the wheat, but I have a hard time believing that this meant, “lay down and entertain the goats while the sheep starve”. Where is the accountability and responsibility? Remember the way Paul wrote Galatians and 1 Corinthians? Imagine what rebukes he would have for us.
Some of the responses I have received were negative, but not in the same way I had initially expected. They were negative in the sense that people felt hopeless. This is absolutely saddening. I think it is times like these where the church really is being purified, and while we fear splits or troubles, what is more important? Standing up for the truth, for the gospel, or laying down and compromising? To that I would say, stand up for truth and have hope, because God is sovereign indeed.
One of the responses I received was, basically, “there are too many materials [from these teachers]” meaning that we can’t possibly get away from them. This, I believe, is a sad excuse. We have hundreds of years of church history, and books from sound individuals, but there are too many wolves? There are plenty of works in the confessions, by the reformers, puritans, early church fathers, etc that you can read, and I guarantee you will learn more from ten pages of those works than you would from the prominent fluff of false teachers. Not only this, but even if there were no books from teachers, there is still one book you have not mastered, the Bible. It’s simple, read your bible. If you can’t find a single sound resource, the Bible is available. What about small groups? Read through the Bible, and discuss the Bible. There are plenty of individuals in the church who could create studies if need be, which can be reviewed by pastoral staff, and there are plenty of sound resources out there that are sound.
A similar response occurred many times when I mentioned worship music, “that would be eliminating a lot of options”. I think this is also a sad excuse, because there are a lot of sound groups out there that could be used for worship. Additionally, if you couldn’t find sound contemporary musicians, hymns are available, and it would be silly to appeal to the culture today and avoid hymns at the expense of truth. And if, for some reason, all hymns disappeared, we have the book of Psalms. To these responses I’d simply say, there is no excuse.
My conclusion has not changed much, in fact, as the conclusion said in my last post; Let us all be bold in the truth and stand against the current of modern Christianity. Let us stand firm on the gospel and stand firm against the movements that have, for so long, been the face of Christianity in America. Let it be clear that we care more for Jesus Christ and what he deposited to us than how false teachers will respond. Let us do it for the sake of the Gospel just as our brothers and sisters did it before. We all have a responsibility and role to make the truth known and to point people back to the scriptures. To have any spiritual enterprise with false teachers is to take part in an attack on Christ himself. To support a false teacher, is to fund a war against God.