Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Should False Teachers Be Named?

The bottom line right away: um, yes. But I have a better answer than that.

To get into my topic, I've got to introduce a neat couple who both blog: Jason and Brandy. They're already linked on my sidebar. Jason recently wrote about false teaching, and his sweet wife brought up a question I hear a lot. She wrote,

"Did the Lord really name names, Mike? Think about that before you answer. Did He really name specific names? Groups of people (Sadducees and Pharisees) yeah sure. But specific people's names? And Paul? Did he? By all means, if they did, please provide the Scripture. I make no claims to my memory being the greatest, so if I'm all for learning if I'm correct or not.....I just never remember either Jesus Christ nor Paul (not that they are on the same level) naming specific names as you are suggesting that they did. Oh, yeah. Would you mind posting the Scripture or Scriptures that back your point -- the one saying it's ok to point out specific people and to name them by name and to point them out as false teachers."

It's an excellent question, because often people do not think you can name names. This particular thread had an interesting discussion about Benny Hinn, but he won't be my subject today. Let's examine the Scripture to see whether false teachers can ever be named specifically.

Certainly there are many general warnings against false teaching. Jesus' Olivet Discourse and Jude come to mind immediately:

Matt 24:11, 23-24
And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray....Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Jude 3-4
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Here the Holy Spirit did not name names. There are times to give general warnings, especially when many teachers, perhaps, are spreading a particular false teaching. It's always the principalities involved with whom we are at war, not a person, so we should take care to direct our ire at the lies of the enemy.

However, we'd be missing part of the scripture, and an important tool for keeping the body of Christ clean and safe, if we skimmed over the verses where Paul does mention a couple of people--by name for the purpose of warning the flock against their teaching.

2 Tim 4:14-15
Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.

2 Tim 2:16-18
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.

1 Tim 1:19-20
Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

It's not like these verses are preached a lot, so I can totally understand why Brandy would have the questions she did.

I gave an example in the comments section of their post that I want to expound on a bit (some of you have probably heard it before!). If I found out that there had been a psycho putting cyanide in bottles of Tylenol, and those bottles were headed for a CVS near your house, would I tell you, "Hey...you might want to watch out. I heard some pain relievers might be poisoned or something"? Or would I say, "There are bottles of Tylenol poisoned with cyanide headed for your neighborhood CVS!"?

You guessed it...I'd tell you specifically what the problem is, why, and how to avoid it. That's what I see Paul doing here.

As for Jesus, honestly, since the Sadducees and Pharisees were known to everyone and taught more as a group than as individuals, I think He was kind of calling them out when He taught the disciples about them:

Matt 16:11-12
'How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Brandy correctly pointed out that Jesus specifically warned against them. I think we have the same heart on the issue, but I just wanted to clarify, for anyone who wonders about this, that from the Word of God you can support exposing false teachers.

We can never support doing things--even 'righteous' things--out of spite or hatred, and God knows our hearts anyway. Naming names should be done in a way that is grounded and reasoned from the Word of God, with the purpose of helping God's children not to be led astray from the truth, as Jude wrote. It should not be done simply to humiliate, to threaten, or cast a pall on someone with whom we simply disagree in the Lord. We must, though, know the Truth well enough to know when it is being attacked, and defend it without compromise. Paul is a good example of this love and firmness in action.


rev-ed said...

Good post, Kristen. It should be remembered that Paul didn't name all of the false teachers because he likely didn't know all of them. He hadn't even visited a couple of those churches. What Paul wanted to do was to equip the belivers to be able to spot them on their own. If he had names and it wasn't a long list, he mentioned them, but more importantly he wanted the Christians to be able to police doctrine themselves. After all Paul isn't around to talk to us about Benny Hinn. We're the ones who have to be able to understand false teachers from correct teachers and be able to tell others who and why.

The only other example off the top of my head would be Simon Magus in Acts.

Kristen said...

Thanks for that extremely helpful comment, Rev-Ed! (I have been meaning to link you, btw.) I knew I was leaving out some examples...the Pauline ones were the only ones I could think of off the cuff.

Is this the scripture you're referring to?

Thanks for making those points. I absolutely agree with you.

Acts 8:20-24

But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." And Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."

and then Life happened said...

Gal. 1:

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- 7not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
10For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant[b] of Christ.
11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Hi Kristen,
The one thing I see Paul addressing frequently is the matter of those that said that grace was not enough, and so there needed to be some Law added to it.
Paul was adamantly opposed to a co-mingled gospel period.


PS I love the new look of your blog!!

Kristen said...

Thanks, Richard! Rachel did it for me. She rocks.

You're right--Paul vigorously opposed the Judaizers, who taught that the Law must be added to the blood of Christ for one to be saved.

jodi said...

This post hits home. We live in Mormon-country, and my husband works closely with many LDS-ers. His company is run by them and his former boss (just left the company) was/is a bishop! These people are so loving, giving, and strive so hard to serve "the Lord" but they are lost and misguided.

My husband and I have both struggled to know how to reach out to them. If anyone has experience specifically with Mormons please share. It's so difficult to talk about God's love with someone who is thoroughly convinced that they have it right and you are the one who is lost. Argh.

Also, I need to ask this here because some of his LDS co-workers read my blog. I want to be sensitive to not attack their faith outright, as I think that would be hurtful.


Joanna said...

There are books available on witnessing to Mormons. Check your local Christian bookstore. Mine has a section specifically for witnessing books and pamphlets.
Kristen, are you brave enough to name some false prophets? This is a new area for me and I'd like to be warned of who not to listen to. I know Benny Hinn is controversial and Bill Gothard also comes to mind.

rev-ed said...

jodi, it's tough to reach people who consider you as the mission field. The last time I got a chance to speak with couple of Mormon missionaries, they came back with an older local guy. I figured that I was never going to make too much headway if the conversation got too scattered, so I decided to stick with one major point. I emphasized that I knew where I was going after I left this planet. I made the point five or six times that I didn't understand how they could be a part of a religion that told you that you couldn't be sure where you'd end up. I told them that I knew I'd be in heaven, but that their teaching said that you'd only be in heaven if you were "good enough" and I worked on the whole idea of works-righteousness. But my invitation was that I knew from Scripture where I was going and that the only way to know was in true Christianity.

I doubt it made a difference to them, but my prayer is that it kept them awake for a few nights.

Mostly, just love them back, but be frank that Jesus didn't tell us that we could work our way into heaven. It's a tough row to hoe, but I think it's a lot easier than dealing with all the Joseph Smith nonsense.

Kristen said...

Jodi--I have some good stuff on Mormonism I'll try to rustle up for you.

Joanna--Yes, I am. Do you really have to ask that? ;-) But some people, I am sure, will take issue with whomever I name, so that's a post for another day. You probably know by now that I like to back up what I say as fully as possible, so I don't want to launch into a tirade in my comments section. I welcome an e-mail, though, if you want my opinions. I have plenty of them.

Rev-Ed: You are the ANSWER MAN!!

Christy said...

I worked to witness to some Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons for about 6 months...read some good books too which all basically said that trying to hash out doctrine with them is almost impossible. They are already told what you "will say", and are prepared with the "truth". They are not allowed to accept your literature to read. So, the best way to reach them, is to show them the inconsistancies in the Watch Tower Organization (JW) or in the Mormon religion. There are many that do not line up with what is said in THEIR Bible. It takes a lot of research, but there are books that help point out main topics that will help you.

And praypraypray!! for them...they are lost souls that need help. Someone mentioned that the People are not our enemies, Satan and the pricipalities and powers are...I agree!

Christy said...

Good topic, Kristen

Someone once told me that we don't need to know all the "bad" stuff out there, we just need to know the Word, and really know it well. The better a person knows the Word, the easier it is to identify false doctrine. Just like what Paul said, if it doesn't line up with what he has said, its false. I think that's one reason God gives the Bible to us...its timeless and such a rock, and guideline for life.

Just wanted to throw that in...I do believe that we should have a heads up on what's going on for sure...but most of our learning is from the Word...then when things pop up, they are easier to discern...

David U said...

Kristen, I just found your blog thru JP's.....good stuff! Will you be at the Pepperdine Lectures?
I would love to visit with you there!

God Bless!

Kristen said...

Christy, that seems to be what rev-ed was saying, too ("more importantly he wanted the Christians to be able to police doctrine themselves"). I totally agree. And we should spend more time listening to God through prayer and His Word than exposing lies and falsehood--but I do believe we are called to expose what is wrong. :) I know you do, too. But being equipped to DISCERN between right and wrong, good and evil, is of primary importance.

Heb 3:14

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Rom 16:19

For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.

Eph 5:8b-11

at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Kristen said...

David, I enjoyed looking through your blog!

What Pepperdine Lectures?

Todd said...

Like the new look. Great post, very important stuff for Christians. I have had the displeasure to run across Benny Hinn when he came to town for a "revival" (if you will) sponsored by one of the largest churches in my area. I look forward to your thoughts on him.

Kristen said...

Todd, I may just have to do that for you (and Joanna) soon. :) There's one topic that has to be tackled first, though, and I'm waiting until I have a little time to do it.

Rachel said...


My husband has specialized, if you will, in the past fifteen years, in witnessing to the LDS and to Jehovah's Witnesses. He's looking at starting his own blog soon but until that time, if you have any specific questions, send them my way and maybe I can set up a dialogue with the two of you.

Like the other commenter said, one key thing is to point out inconsistencies in their own works and organizations. Also, at the beginning of each discussion, one thing that T makes sure to make clear with them is that the Bible is to be the standard on which doctrinal issues rest. They'll generally agree to this. Then it does kind of floor them when you come back to them with inconsistencies between their own translation of the Bible and their positions.

I have actually, in a human way, felt kind of sorry for some of the young men who've sat around our table. T is gentle with them, but you can see the pain and confusion in their eyes as they start to kind of grasp at straws. Nobody's renounced the Watchtower or Joseph Smith in our dining room, but I hope some seeds have been planted.

Kristen said...

Wow, Rachel, that is so awesome.

I really hope T starts his own blog. Tell him I'll come ever' day and link to it (Ooh, what a carrot THAT is, right?)! Purdy please! :-p

Seriously, I can just tell from everything you've told me about him that his blog would be super.

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