Someone shrewdly asked this question in the meta yesterday:
- Do you think that the "insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers" were Christians or false teachers?
Because a question like that deserves at least more than a one-line answer, I'm back today to give you some things to think about here.
So here's my first thought: the apostle Peter was a Christian man.
Now, I bring him up because, sadly for him, he went to
In that small respect, and for what appears to be a notable but brief time until Paul came around and fisked him publicly for it, Peter was a small-time false teacher. His actions and practices briefly taught others something which Paul said, in words to this effect, "voided the Gospel".
Peter did. And he was a Christian. It wasn't either/or for Peter, though we have to at least admire him for admitting he was wrong and repenting when he was rightly-ashamed for his cultural concessions.
What? Don't look at me that way. I'm talking about Peter.
So I use that Bible example to bring us to a contemporary example: John Stott is, unequivocally, a Christian man. And I can hear the wolves at the door already, but I can hold them off long enough to explain to you what I am saying and where I am going.
Stott is by almost any account a hero of the faith. His writing has been formative for many of us, and informative for many more, and he's also one of the better men among the Anglicans. D.A. Carson and J.I. Packer both speak highly of him, so F. N. Turk isn't going to try to pull the rug out from under those guys, who have probably thrown away better 3-pages essays than I have ever posted on this or any blog.
But as all the watchbloggers and discernment ministers know, Stott is sort of an unrepentant annihilationist. That is, he believes in a final judgment of the lost by Christ, and when Christ pronounces, "away with you - I never knew you!" to them, they are greeted with the momentary realization of what they have done, and then they are simply snuffed out of existence forever.
So John Stott, the Christian, is also a false teacher.
Now look: in one sense, this should be of no shock to you. Everyone reading this blog ought to believe some version of this:
- The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.
So you know about "mixture and error" in the church. But some of you fail to see that this is because every single one of us is also in the throws of mixture and error.
So in that respect, you're like John Stott, and nobody's running you out of the church yet, are they?
"But cent," says someone gravely concerned, and troubled, and deeply, deeply watchblogging, "are you saying that we should do nothing about someone like John Stott who is a leader in the church?"
I'm with Paul on this one, who instructed Titus to rebuke the ones who needed rebuking sharply. Rebuke the false teacher as one who is full of God's word and all the mature fruit of the spirit.
Peter needed a rebuke. John Stott prolly needs a rebuke. God knows that Frank Turk needs more than one rebuke -- all of them, for false teaching. That doesn't mean that any of them are not Christians.
Some false teachers are Christians. It disqualifies them as teachers, not as men or women who are being saved by grace. Some non-Christians are also false teachers. If we can keep that straight, we will avoid a lot of personal experience as false teachers.