Are They True or False Teachers?
A couple threads back there were several comments discussing how we can know for sure when the Lord is showing us truth and how we can distinguish truth from error. If there is anything good that has come out of the light shone on the teachings of Mike and Debi Pearl and others within the patriocentric camps during the past few weeks it is that God’s Spirit is moving in the hearts of those who genuinely want to know His truth. I see and hear it everywhere. If you are asking questions and feel challenged that these teachings are not of the Lord, that is the first sign that you are a truth seeker, that you are already hearing from the Lord!
Today I am sharing a few of the things that I have learned I must consider when presented with any teachings and I would encourage you to ask yourself the same things as you try to sort through the agendas of various men and women who are presently having great influence within the evangelical Christian community. Note: These are especially important to consider in the homeschooling world and particularly are essential as the season of homeschooling conferences and workshops is beginning.
Does this teaching bring me closer to the Lord or not?
Does it bring me closer to my husband and my children, promoting a healthy, organic relationship with God and man? Does this teaching promote the one anothers in relationships? Or does this teaching place people into adversarial relationships? Does this teacher believe that all of us are part of a royal priesthood or that the Bible promotes a hierarchy within the Body of Christ? 1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are a royal priesthood so that we can all proclaim God’s glory, not the glory of man.
Does this teaching put the emphasis on God’s sovereignty or man’s ability? Is grace central to this teaching? Does your salvation depend on your works or on the finished work of Christ on the cross?
There is a difference between false teachings and a true difference of opinion on doctrinal issues. The main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things. How important is this issue? For example, the resurrection and the virgin birth are central beliefs of Biblical orthodoxy and must be believed. Mode of baptism or preferences of education for our children are not. Your warning system should go off when someone is presenting preferences as a “Biblical worldview” or as “essentials of the faith.”
How is Scripture interpreted by the teachers within this group? Is the Bible faithfully exegeted or do the teachers select Bible verses to support their own man-made ideas? Is the passage of Scripture prescriptive (a command for us) or is it narrative, telling something that happened? Context, context, context is everything!!!
Does the passage apply to all people in all times and in all places? If they are commands for us, they would have to apply to the women who live in the deepest, darkest parts of the Amazon rainforest, the children who are victims of the slave trade in India, the men who work on Wall Street, and all believers past and present. For one thing, this certainly puts a new perspective on what is ladylike Christian behavior doesn’t it?
Is everything taught from a paradigm perspective? Are you being taught that man-made rules are “non-optional principles for life” or “part of the grand sweep of revelation?” Does the teacher make promises and guarantees that doing things his way will produce things that only God can do? If so, you are being lured into idolatry. Remember Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
How motivated by money are those who are promoting the paradigm? Do they see their efforts as a ministry or do they see it as a business? Do they charge you for every bit of advice they offer, no matter how simple it is? Do they have a “donate button” on their “ministry” website but are not tax exempt? I challenge you to try it out. You may be surprised. Paradigm peddling is big business. Any group who claims to be a ministry with a .org web address ought to be tax exempt. If they aren’t, they are a business rather than a ministry and are not being forthright to the public. Also check out what money is used for in non-profit organizations, how much their officers make, etc. You will be amazed at some of the salaries! Remember the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “When a successful figure becomes especially prominent and conspicuous, the majority give way to the idolization of success. They become blind to right and wrong, truth and untruth, fair play and foul play.”
Do the teachings you are hearing inspire you to a greater faith in Christ and do they place within your heart a greater desire to love and serve Him? Or do they bring defeat, despair, and a sense of failure? Do you feel like you can never measure up or do you have the assurance of God’s grace in your life and the life of your family? One of the things I have consistently experienced since we have sat under the expository teaching of a Godly pastor has been the desire to be obedient to the Lord. It hasn’t come from any fear of punishment perspective but rather from a true desire to love God and to serve Him. There is no human effort, it is super natural. I believe this is what James calls “the perfect law of liberty.” (James 1:25)
Does it pass the test for being God’s wisdom or worldly wisdom? James 3:13-17 defines the difference for us: “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easily entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
In my most recent podcast, I go through each of those qualities of “godly wisdom” and look at the meaning of the words. Interestingly, the word “hypocrisy” literally means “role-playing.” How often do you hear teachers today talk about “the role of the godly woman””the role of the wife” “the role of the homeschooling father” etc.? I would encourage you to study this passage further and compare what Scripture teaches with what you are hearing or reading outside of the Word of God.
1. What do you mean by that? You want to get the teacher to define his terms and explain what he is saying. Many times you find out all you need to know about him or his ministry with this first question. My past experience has shown me that refusing to explain what he means is the first tip off that you are not dealing with someone who promotes Godly wisdom.
2. Where do you get your information? Be prepared for Bible gymnastics!
3. How do you know that’s true? This is probably the most powerful question of them all. It puts the burden of proof on the other person. It’s amazing how many of those “non-optional principles” vanish when Scripture cannot be produced.
4. What if you’re wrong? Many of the bad teachings over the past 20 years within homeschooling circles are coming home to roost. The case of Lydia Schatz is just one example.
How important is it to be a discerning Christian? 2 John warns us that false teachers will not hold to the teachings of Jesus and that we are to have nothing whatsoever to do with them. Does what you are being taught match up with the Gospel message? Does Jesus confirm these teachings? Abiding with a deceiver is dangerous and those who do often succumb to cultic teachings and behaviors.
What is the antidote for you if you have been influenced by any of these teachings and need a fresh perspective?
Read through the Gospels and the book of Acts, then the Epistles. What is Jesus saying? What is Paul saying? The other writers? Read as though you have never heard any of it before! You will be amazed at what the Holy Spirit will teach you! Keep a journal and notice what Jesus says and to whom he says it. Ask the questions the great evangelist Charles H. Spurgeon would ask: What would Jesus do? How would Jesus do it?
Get into a good inductive Bible study, even on your own. Precepts is a great place to begin. I would highly recommend Kay Arthur’s Lord Teach Me To Study the Bible in 28 Days. One of my sons and I went through this together and it was a terrific introduction to the right questions to ask and how to cross reference, etc. as you read and study.
Find a good, normal, Bible teaching church where the pastor frequently reminds you to be Bereans, to study the Word on your own, to be in a Precepts or other inductive Bible study, to challenge him if you think he is wrong. One of the marks of a good church is where the pastor preaches through the Word verse by verse (called expository preaching) AND where exegetical, inductive Bible study is encouraged for all, men and women alike. A good church will never consider theology as just for the men, but for all the women as well and you will know that is true when you see what the women are studying. If they repeatedly study “women’s books” or “women’s topics” rather than studies of books of the Bible, that should be a warning that an agenda is afloat.
Psalm 78 describes the rebellion of the children of Israel, how the Lord brought them out of Egypt and preserved them. It tells how He poured out tremendous blessing on them and gave them children to raise in the faith and yet verse 33 says: “In spite of this, they still sinned, and did not believe in His wondrous works. Therefore their days He consumed in futility and their years in fear.”
I believe we see this same situation today in so many homes where God has given us so many wonderful reasons to praise Him and has poured out His mercy and grace to us and to our children, and yet, we are not satisfied with Jesus. Instead, we want Jesus plus who knows what that some guru has to offer: a 200 year vision, a 7-step program of man’s principles, or some woman’s plan for a “heavenly marriage.” We scorn God’s grace and spend our days in futility and fear for the future. Our cry should be for more of Jesus and less of anything and everything else.
More About Jesus
by Eliza E. Hewitt
More about Jesus I would know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.
More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.
More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.
More about Jesus, in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in every line,
Making each faithful saying mine.
More about Jesus on His throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More of His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of Peace.