Can you imagine a pastor/teacher that doesn’t have any good things to say-ever? Of course not! They wouldn’t last five minutes. Having some good things to say does not qualify anyone for ministry. So, this problem is twofold: first, there are unqualified “ministers” who really think they’re doing God’s work (but they’re not), and second, there are millions of people putting themselves under their authority (and they shouldn’t be). We should be very strict and discerning in who we accept (“ordain”) as our pastor/teacher, just as the Bible instructs us to.
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The ideas below, catch phrases and concepts, have infiltrated the church and have laid a false foundation. They’re a “set-up.” Because many Christians believe these things, false teachings are slipping into the church all over the place.
These are the type of comments that Chris Rosebrough and other “discernment Christians” hear over and over again. Yes, there might be some truth in some of these ideas, but taken as a whole, they have replaced authentic, Bible-based Christianity and are allowing “another gospel” to takes its place.
- “You’re just being negative and critical! Don’t you have anything good to say? I can’t believe you’re criticizing (insert famous/popular Christian leader)! At least they’re trying to help-at least they’re doing something! Why can’t you be more positive? I only listen to positive Christians-not haters!”
Christianity is a specific set of beliefs that is based on one holy book: The Bible. “Sola Scriptura” is the Latin phrase meaning “Scripture Alone.” This principle was firmly established during the Reformation in stark contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, which claimed that church authority (the Pope) was equal to scripture.
Because we believe the Bible is God’s Word, we must also believe that some ideas are incompatible with the Bible and must be rejected as false. While it’s true that Christians should not be primarily negative and critical people, we should be willing to say negative and critical things about false teachings, because bad doctrine is very harmful-it leads people away from God. The painful reality is that false teachers are great manipulators and they know exactly what to say in order to keep your trust (and keep their money pouring in), so sometimes it’s necessary to say negative and critical things to confront them and their teachings. The Old Testament prophets, Jesus and all the Apostles did this.
We should not be primarily thinking “positive versus negative;” instead, we should be thinking, “true versus false.” The Bible is not always a “positive” book because it contains the truth that we need to hear. We humans are like disobedient children who need correction from our Heavenly Father, who loves us enough to tell us the truth.
In Matthew 23:27 Jesus says “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” Gee whiz, Jesus, that’s not very nice; at least the Pharisees were trying to do something…
- “But he’s really famous (he has written popular books, has a huge church, has a TV show, etc.), he must know what he’s talking about!” “That many people can’t be wrong!”
This exposes the common belief that “the group is always right” (my group!); which is like saying “consensus equals truth.” Christians say that they believe the Bible, but too often what they really believe is whatever their “guy” (local pastor, TV preacher, famous author/speaker, etc.) says about the Bible. On top of that, if a local pastor is actually doing a good job of faithfully preaching God’s Word, he’s often being over-ridden by the surrounding culture.
We have millions of Christians watching 10, 20 or even 30 hours of television per week, yet they don’t have time to read and study the Bible. But when the latest guru comes along with a new method of “hearing from God” they drop everything to “learn the secret;” yet, they’ve neglected God’s Word-the actual words from God. The situation should be seen as utterly absurd, yet since almost everyone behaves and believes this way, it’s been normalized. As a result, false teachers have free reign and a limitless customer base to promote their weird ideas and enrich themselves.
In Mark 7:7 Jesus says to the Pharisees (quoting Isaiah): “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” In Matthew 7:13-14 He says: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Jesus is warning us not to follow the teachings of men (even if it’s a NY Times Best-seller!), and not to “go with the group.” Psalm 118:8 “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.”
- “Judge not, lest you be judged.” (Similar to: “Who are we to judge?”)
Whenever a false teacher/prophet is exposed (because of unbiblical teachings, blatant sin, corruption/greed, prophesies that don’t come true, etc.) they can often maintain the unquestioning support of their followers by the using this verse (Matthew 7:1) taken out of context, of course. This verse is not saying: “don’t ever judge anyone ever!” In reading the whole passage, it’s easy to see that this verse is warning against unjust, hypocritical judgment in our personal dealings with others. It’s not about evaluating the teachings that are being taught by a teacher. Christians have been systematically programmed to ignore all scripture about the accountability of leaders… because their leaders said so. Ironically, the false teacher ends up judging his theological critic who is (supposedly) guilty of being judgmental.
In Paul’s letter to Titus (chapter 1) he rebukes false teachers saying: “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach-and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Wow Apostle Paul, judge much??
- “Don’t have a religious spirit!” “That guy has a religious spirit; he’s always quoting bible verses and talking about theology and doctrine-what a Pharisee!”
This is a pretty vague concept that really helps empower “super-spiritual” false teachers. Want to refute someone who is promoting sound, Biblical doctrine? Just accuse them of having a religious spirit. It’s much easier than searching the scriptures and seeking the truth. After all, “God doesn’t care about our doctrine, He cares about our heart.” That sounds really good, but it’s just another catch phrase, too.
Doctrine is important! Doctrine is just another word for “instruction” or “teaching,” and it tells us who God really is, and who we really are. The Pharisees were guilty of unbelief and elevating man-made laws over God’s Word, they were not guilty of being too focused on the Bible. The idea that focusing too much on the Bible will somehow cause us to “miss” God or the Holy Spirit is just crazy. This line of thinking is very similar to…
- “An experience is better than any doctrine!” “I don’t care about theology-I just love Jesus!” “It’s one thing to know the bible; it’s another thing to know the author!”
While it’s true that some people have very real and emotional experiences with God, this should not be where we establish our belief system-God’s Word does that. God has graciously given us the safe parameters within which we can understand Him-in His Word. But if a person depends on experiences they can easily become dependent on more experiences, which will usually escalate into an emotional train wreck. Just ask anyone who has left a Charismatic/Pentecostal church in a state of confusion, never to return.
Saying “I don’t care about theology-I just love Jesus” is a theological statement. It’s just a very weak one. We don’t see anything in the bible about “just loving Jesus” (as if our emotional feelings about Him were the key), but we do see many exhortations to have good, sound doctrine and teaching. Theology is a word that simply means “the study of God.” All Christians are theologians, whether they admit it or not. A solid theological understanding of God’s amazing grace is much better than any emotional experience anyway-because it never changes (unlike our emotions)!
By the way, theology is much, much more than a Calvinist and an Arminian arguing back and forth while confusing and/or aggravating everyone else. Good theology helps us to gain a correct and deeper understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
After His resurrection, Jesus met two of His followers on the road to Emmaus and didn’t reveal himself; He first asked them a series of questions to see what they knew and believed about Him. When they said that they basically didn’t know what was going on (even though the empty tomb had been discovered and angels had said He was risen).
“Jesus said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.” Luke 24: 25-26.
Question: If knowing God experientially is more important than knowing the Bible, why would Jesus do this? Jesus wasted all that time explaining the scriptures to them?? He should have been developing a deep and personal relationship with them! He must’ve had a religious spirit!
- “God offends the mind to reveal the heart.” (Similar to: “it’s all about your heart-not your head” or something like that)
Sometimes, this anti-intellectual sentence is used in a sermon as if it were scripture. It’s not-it’s just another (stupid) catch phrase. And it can be very manipulative and confusing. If anybody tries to be discerning (which involves using the mind) they can be dismissed with this Yoda-like catch phrase. God did not give us a mind and then expect us to stop using it. Ironically, when a false teacher says things like this, he is using a type of thinking to convince others to think a certain way. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and MIND.” There is no false dichotomy between our heart and mind in scripture-if anything, our heart is not to be trusted, but God’s Word is.
- “Don’t touch God’s anointed!” “You better be careful if you speak against prophet/bishop/pastor so and so!”
When false teachers can’t defend their beliefs in the clear teachings of the Bible, they use this (partial) verse as a rebuke. It’s taken completely out of context from the Old Testament and it refers to physicallyharming the Israelite king or prophet. This has nothing to do with questioning bad leadership or false teachings. It’s interesting to note that cult leaders often use some type of threat to maintain their authority-this is the lowest form of leadership.
In stark contrast, the Jewish believers from Berea in Acts 17:11, “were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” If it was good and noble for these Bereans to question the Apostle Paul (who wrote much of the New Testament!) and compare his teachings to scripture (which would’ve been the Old Testament), we can do the same thing with any teacher/pastor. Any pastor/teacher who demands special treatment as God’s chosen and untouchable authority is clearly not!
- “We only teach the Bible!”
Believe it or not, this is probably the easiest way to teach false doctrine. Most Christians will shut off any discernment once they hear a pastor/teacher say something like this. If he’s “just teaching the Bible” who are we to disagree, right? Once a pastor/teacher has gained your trust by saying this, he can easily stick a Bible verse wherever he wants-whether it actually fits or not. He could probably just make up Bible verses half of the time, since no one is checking anyway. If a teacher/pastor actually says, “we should never proof-text!” he might actually be making it easier to keep proof-texting; the key is to keep people comfortable and trusting.
By the way, proof-texting means using a Bible verse (or verses) taken completely out of context to make a point that it was never supposed to make. Basically, when a pastor/teacher wants to make his idea really convincing he can just dig up some Bible verse to validate his point (with all those crazy stories from the Old Testament you can prove any point!). Unfortunately, this happens a lot; and it really confuses people because it looks like the Bible teaches a thousand different and conflicting things from just one passage. This is not God’s fault-it’s the lazy, loose and wrong interpreting being done by the pastor. James 3: 1 says: “Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”
- “You’re putting God in a box! As soon as you think you’ve got God all figured out He’ll do something unexpected!”
This is a weird way to spiritualize false teaching, and cover it up under a cloud of supposed “mystery.” The truth is, God has made it very clear in His Word that we are to hold fast to correct doctrine. Period. While it’s true that no one can claim to have God “all figured out,” it’s not like God is always changing His ways to keep us guessing like some strange magician or devious leprechaun in the sky who enjoys confusing us. God has given us His Son and His Word because He wants to be known! In John 17: 3 Jesus said: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
- “Christianity has to adapt and change with the times or else it will die.” “Those discernment people are so old-fashioned and outdated-they’rethe problem!”
This idea is just plain false; it’s a pragmatic “let’s fix it ourselves because God needs our help” way of thinking. Think about it; are your religious beliefs so shallow and frail that they can’t stand up against whatever new trend is affecting society? God’s truth is above us, distinct from us and unchanging; otherwise it’s just something we’re making up as we go. Historically, the Christian church was stronger when it went against the cultural of the day. The early church began and flourished under the (sometimes very) hostile Roman Empire. But it was weakened and diluted when it became enmeshed with political and social power.
The constant striving to make church “relevant” is usually counter-productive, and the unbelieving world often views our attempts at “marketing God” as shallow pandering.
Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”