02 July 2009

A Reasonable Question

by Frank Turk

Someone shrewdly asked this question in the meta yesterday:
    Do you think that the "insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers" were Christians or false teachers?
And my response was, "That's a great question."

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 Galatia Antioch (corrected, thx CB Shearer), and while he was there (this being the alleged holder of the keys to the kingdom of heaven as first Pope, they say), he decided he couldn't eat with the Gentiles because of the influence of some Jews among the Christians.

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.
Some of you have the "Synagogue of Satan" part there sort of printed in raised letters and highlighted with neon colors as if that was the point of this section of the LBCF, but the underlined part is actually the point: the church is not hardly perfect, but Christ will always have a kingdom in this world which he has called out to profess Him and make him known.

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?"

Well: No.

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.








65 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Good post Frank.

I've always wondered the same thing. I think you addressed it pretty well.

I'll give you another example that some may consider even more egregious than John Stott. Origen. He was an Early Church Father. But he believed in universalism. But if I recall correctly, he was excommunicated for being a heretic.

Now was Origen a Christian? I don't see how he could be otherwise since he's generally considered an Early Church Father. And was he a false teacher, a heretic? Yes, he held to universalism.

Now let's take this into an even more murky area which is generating some controversy today. What about those professing Christians who teach that same-sex behavior is NOT a sin (or not a sin in a committed monogamous relationship)?

Are they false teachers? Yes. Are they Christians (assuming they've made a credible profession of faith)?

You tell me. I know that some folks will adamantly insist that there are unrepentant, active GLBT Christians. And I know that some folks will adamantly insist that there's no way.

This is a tough area and I give Frank Turk kudos for attempting to tackle this subject in a biblically-reasoned way.

pax.

Joshua said...

Wow, this is really timely, as I have just been spending a lot of time reading and trying to wrap my head around the FBFI statements on "separation vs. limited participation". These issues are often presented as if they are simple, cut-and-dry application of some checklist, but you demonstrate that it requires a lot of wisdom and judgment.

Matthew Lautensack said...

Frank,
You wrote "Some false teachers are Christians. It disqualifies them as teachers, not as men or women who are being saved by grace."
Are you saying that either John MacArthur or R.C. Sproul would be a false teacher and disqualified from a teaching position since they have differing views on Baptism and Eschatology?

CR said...

Stott's heterodoxy of annihilationism is indeed troubling. Very troubling.

None of this diminishes the value of Stott's other writings that are not heterodox. I don't know what influenced Stott to say what he said on annihilationism.

A definitive answer as to whether Stott is a Christian - I do not have an answer. I am not a personal acquaintance of him nor have I had any personal interaction with Stott.

The ultimate answer of the genuineness of his faith and whether he is a (A)Christian but a (B)false teacher or (not A and B or A but not B or whatever combination) is ultimately and thankfully not up to me. We have Stott's writings, the apparent testimony of some of Stott's friends like Carson and Packer which Frank is telling us about.

I think CS Lewis is another example. The heterodox nature of some of his statements were VERY disturbing. Whether he himself resides in glory will not be answered for us until we ourselves are there. Again, thankfully, it's not up to me.

Origen's heterodoxy is another great example. Like Frank says, a church father. Was he a Christian? I haven't the foggiest clue. We do have his writings. Do we have any testimonies of Origen's contemporaries or friends or acquaintances that were orthodox in their that believed Origen to be a Christian. I do not know.

With Peter it's a simple no-brainer. We have the testimony of Scriptures that he was a Christian (and at the same time, a hypocrite at times, and at the same time, opened his big mouth when he should have kept it shut - the apostle Peter was classic Peter).

Given what Stott says about annihilationism we must of course cannot recommend his works without any qualifications - much is the same way for CS Lewis and much is the same for Origen.

For the apostle Peter's writings in Scripture (which I think is all the writings we have of him) we know we can trust them because they are inspired and therefore inerrant in spite of his downright hypocrisy at times.

I think part of the travesty in this is that people (some who are Christian) may change their view on certain issues or adopt some of these men's heterodoxy. I was stunned when a friend of mine told me he no longer believes in Hell and he told me Origen didn't believe in it either. Yet, Origen affirmed God as Creator, Christ as the eternal Son, he argued powerfully for the inspiration and authority of Scripture and yet some of his views led others into Arianism.

That is the danger of what some of these people do. Does Christ pay for the sins of the serious at best heterodox and worst heresies. I believe that Christ does. All those who trust in Christ alone, their sins are paid for.

But the serious gross heterodoxies by men like Stott, Origen and Lewis really highlight the fact that as Christians we are to put on the armor of God and one of those armor pieces is the belt of truth. If we don't, then we invite great harm into our lives including the grief of leading others astray.

CR said...

Matthew,

I would like to take a stab at this. Doctrinal error is sin. Obviously both MacArthur and Sproul both can't be right on baptism and eschatology.

Now, I believe the Bible's teaching on baptism (less so on certain eschatological themes) is as clear as justification by faith alone in Christ. Both camps do. But, I would still not classify the person's teaching who I believe is wrong as a false teacher.

I don't really have time to develop what is the difference between heresy, or heterodoxy or what is simply doctrinal error (important as it may be) but not really heterodoxy or heresy - and therefore not in the category of "false teacher" as the Bible was trying to get at.

Is one of them what they are doing in their doctrinal error, sin, well, yes, because the Lord, among many other things, is Truth. But it is sin in the same way like how our prayers are not what they should be or how our Bible reading is not what it should be or how our praying should be. But neither MacArthur nor Sproul could be classified as false teachers: (a)because in the essentials they agree and therefore not heretics nor are any of their theological positions heterodox.

Well, those are my thoughts. These are great questions.

CR said...

I wanted to follow-up on something I said earlier to Matthew's great question. What is the Bible's meaning of a false teacher. Is a false teacher someone who says untrue doctrine. Well, if so, then we have some big problems and you can include John Piper, John MacArthur, RC Sproul, Mark Dever, John Calving, Martin Luther, I mean all us. Because everything we do is stained with sin.

But I think the Bible's teaching on this (2 Pet 2:1ff) that there will be false teachers and false prophets that will bring destructive heresies.

Well, I suppose there are some people out there that think not having the right the position on baptism is a destructive heresy and I don't agree with them, but I'll tell you this, even if I did, it would be nowhere near destructive what Peter was doing in Galatia, because what he was doing was destructive to the gospel.

I mean if you think about it you're a Gentile in Galatia, converted, and you're sitting there eating pork chops with Peter and all of sudden Peter sees some Judaizers walking down the road and all of a sudden he drops the pork chops wipes the pork chop juice off his lips with a rag and makes a beeline out there.

If you're a Gentile Christian, and you witness this, you're crushed. You're like, what the heck is this? I thought the gospel was I didn't have to become a Jew to be a Christian or perform certain works.

As very, very important, baptism is, I think what Peter did was far more destructive than having the wrong position on baptism.

C.B. Shearer said...

Frank,

I don't know if you did this on purpose, but Peter wasn't in Galatia, but Jerusalem! Don't forget also that Barnabas also fell for the Judaizer heresy (Galatians 2:13), as did Timothy (Acts 16:3), only Titus and Paul avoided it. (Galatians 2:3) Barnabas and Timothy later went on to do great things. Timothy's Shibboleth

On Stott, if you've read his exposition on the Sermon on the Mount, you'd have a very hard time saying the man understands the Gospel. :-(

Maybe he ought to read the Epistle to Lystra, it's big against works-righteousness. Afterall, there is always room for repentance; Peter was the one who put an end to the Judaizer heresy at the Jerusalem council. (Acts 15:7-11)

Canyon

Stan McCullars said...

C.B.,
you'd have a very hard time saying the man understands the Gospel

Basic Christianity and The Cross of Christ should remedy that.

Matt said...

Frank, I really like your last line. I think a few may miss its pith, though...

Frank Turk said...

CB --

Thanks for the correction. The episode is mentioned in the letter to the galatians, but it occurs in Antioch; I have made the correction, and I'm grateful for it.
________________________


Matt --

Let it be written, so let it be done.

________________________

The rest of y'all:

I'm going to enjoy stopping by during the day today to see how many contortions the nay-sayers will go through to say that "false teachers" are only those who make such terrible errors that they disqualify themselves as Christians.

I'll have more to say after all that.

Michael Russell said...

Very good post, very good points, and quite heuristic. Likewise with most of the comments thusfar.

I'm wondering, though, if it is not possible as well as profitable to distinguish between someone who propagates false teaching from someone who deserves the label of false teacher. The former would include all of us, of course, since we all have holes in our theologies.

The latter, I would suggest, should be reserved for those who distort the gospel to the extent that the saving message is lost or seriously compromised. Many of us here, I think, would escape being labeled false teachers - although perhaps not all! (I include myself since I, admittedly, am only 80% Calvinist - that's 160-proof for you non-Baptists!)

Well, that's my recommendation. False teachings call for correction or even rebuke, but not removal from a teaching or preaching ministry; a false teacher, however, has no place in the church, let alone in a position of authority.

stratagem said...

Good points, Frank, as long as people reading this realize that the definition you are assigning for "false teacher" is different than the Biblical definition of "false teacher" (I think that is true, anyway). I say that because I can't think of anywhere in the Bible where that term is used for people who are just a "quarter-bubble off" in their teachings. It's generally used for people who are teaching errors that are fundamentally deleterious to people's salvation. Nevertheless, I think you've made a really good point here, in that we are all at least a quarter-bubble off in some aspect of the Gospel.

Chad V. said...

Well, a denial of hell isn't a "quarter bubble off".

Peter repented, Stott didn't, neither has Packer to my knowledge.

Frank Turk said...

Strategem:

You have to think harder about this than you are right now. You are using an assumption which is prevalent in our post-20th-century Christian buffet, which is this: I can be forgiven if I'm wrong about something, but someone else needs to be held to a higher standard and maybe disavowed.

Here's what I mean by that: someone has already asked the question about baptism and whether or not, for example, RC Sproul is a false teacher. Well, we like RC Sproul, so we think to ourselves, "eh. it's only baptism."

The problem is that "only baptism" is a direct indicator of "ecclesiology" and therefore how highly or lowly or incidentally one thinks of the consequences of the Gospel. "only baptism" is a great litmus test -- and Mark Dever gets this exactly right: the presbyterians must repent of their error.

You know: repent.

Here's where I'm going with this: we are either right or wrong about the Gospel in all its existential simplicity and in all is metaphysical complexity. We either know and say the right things about it, or we don't. And when we are wrong, we deserve a rebuke, not a wink.

It's evangelical/post-fundamentalist hubris, honestly, to think that our own errors are not as dangerous as anyone else's, and that somehow error is what makes us saved or not saved.

Christ's work is what saves us, and we are all intent on screwing that up if we can. May we all therefore see that we all deserve a rebuke and not a blue ribbon for what kinds of Christians we are.

Some false teachers are not Christians: no question. But some false teachers are Christians who need not to be teachers anymore -- who in fact need better teaching to help them out.

And some of them are us.

So spricht der HERR said...

Thanks for the post. Belief in an eternal, conscience hell is an essential doctrine of the Bible but not a prerequisite for salvation... though, it does still grieve me that John Stott would not repent of this.

Jude said...

Frank, I really enjoy your thoughts posts on Titus. A lot.

But I want to make sure I understand what you're saying. Are you saying that if I am a pastor that has a part of theology wrong (e.g. eschatology or the my interpreation of Song of Solomon) that I am a false teacher and should repent of sin and resign because I am not qualified to teach.

Is that what you're saying?

CR said...

Frank,

I don't know that you have defined what a false teacher is in your post. You have given examples, but no definition. And I think it's causing a bit of confusion.

2 Peter 2 defines what a false teacher is: just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. It also gives the consequences or implications of these false teachers actions: And many will follow their sensuality and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.

So, there is our objective standard.

CR said...

Maybe your intent wasn't to define false teachers but to see if we could from the Bible.

Mike Riccardi said...

Frank,

This was very helpful. Thanks.

David said...

The Didache is pretty instructive in this stuff (though of course it's not scripture, so don't get after me like I'm saying that it is). But the stuff it throws down would pretty much get rid of many of the problems we see in contemporary evangelicaldom. Like, if the preacher doesn't walk what he talks, treat him as a false prophet. If he asks for money for himself, he's a false prophet. If he teaches things that have been said before, he's good. If he has something new, throw him out.

Like I said, not authoritative, but very instructive.

Frank Turk said...

I don't see the word "resign" anywhere in my post.

Did I use the word "resign" someplace? I said "rebuke" and "repent".

DJP said...

Yes, but put "rebuke" and "repent" together, and you have three of the letters of r-e-s-i-g-n.

We have some very fastidious readers. You must pay attention to little details like that, Frank.

stratagem said...

Frank
You said a lot of words there, but at the end of the day its hard for me to tell what your point is. And it also appears you have completely misunderstood mine, in that I don't consider baptism to be a minor issue (for example). Since neither of us have the time to resolve the fact that we're not communicating with each other, I'll just let it lie where it is. Your answer may have helped someone understand you, and if it has, I'm satisfied. Thanks.

So spricht der HERR said...

2 Timothy 2:24-25 says,

"The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all... patient when wronged... with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition..."

I love Phil Johnson and I love this blog (now you know something is coming) but for a long time I've wanted to ask why it is that every time I peruse this blog, those who ask questions or oppose what is said are responded to with mockery and witty sarcasm?

candy said...

"teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach."

I think that statement is important in this issue. I have known many Christians who have gone from church to church preaching false doctrine, and most of the time it was for their own gain, recognition, and to stir up strife. Once the pastor caught on to what was happening, the person was rebuked, or asked to leave. Sometimes it would take quite awhile. They just went on to the next church and did the same thing. The rebukes did not seem to change their way of thinking. If a person did not heed instruction, or rebuke, I think they qualify as a false teacher, their hearts hardened against correction. But...are they Christians? I know a diehard Pelagian (believes in personal holiness onto perfection and that there was no original sin) and I think he is a Christian, but he has never fit into a church. Even the Nazarene Church. :) He is actually not even the exteme example I have observed in the past. There have been many who have wandered from church to church and are well known in the area for their "shameful gain".

Jude said...

Oops. My mistake. Sorry about using the word "resign."

However, you are saying that if I am a pastor that has a part of theology wrong (e.g. eschatology or the my interpreation of Song of Solomon) that I am a false teacher and should repent of sin. And this is what Paul is talking about.

It's my understanding that John Piper and John MacArthur (I could be wrong) have different views on the spiritual gifts and the end times. Which one of these men is wrong (if not both) and unfit for any good work? Which one is insubordinate and needs to be silenced?

Pastor Brian said...

I had someone at my church ask this question when teaching through Galatians last year. After doing a study of the term "false teacher" and "false teaching" (the psuedo- kind) I concluded that nowhere in the New Testament are those terms used for men who the writer of Scripture deems saved and believing. On the other hand, the "strange doctrine" teachers (the heteros- kind) are simply commanded to be silent on the matters of their "heteros doctrine" so they do not upset the faith of others. Yet it seems their saving faith is considered intact by the biblical writers.

There actually aren't as many passages to consider as you might think. Look them up.

I would love to have any thoughts or corrections forwarded on. I was teaching it the way you outlined it, and a careful question by a Berean at my church caused me to think carefully (and studiously) through the issue.

Brian Sayers
http://cafebiblia.com

Terry Rayburn said...

Frank,

Thoughtful post on a seldom-discussed subject.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Howard Hendricks:

"A good friend is someone you can share your worst heresies with."

Doesn't the Berean spirit really just boil down to "eat the [biblical] meat and spit out the [unbiblical] bones"?

Haven't we all learned *something* from teachers we know have error?

Examples include old dead Roman Catholics (Fenelon & Brother Lawrence come to mind) who seemed obviously to know Christ intimately. A.W. Tozer pointed to many of them, his favorite I think being The Cloud of Unknowing, a pretty spooky book in places (Tozer himself, of course, now being an old dead brother).

We even sing "O Sacred Head Now Wounded", written by a genuine Inquisition-type heretic, but stirring our hearts with truth from the Cross.

It's about Jesus Christ, and theology should center, in order of importance on 1) Jesus Christ Himself, 2) His inerrant Word, and 3) the writings of uninspired men who, though imperfect, are ordained by God to teach.

Ironically, it is actually unbiblical to say, "I'm sick of imperfect teachers! I abandon all teachers, and only go to the Bible!", since the Bible makes it clear that God has given some as teachers.

Still, I wouldn't be interested in a book Gleanings From The Heretics :)

DJP said...

That wasn't one of the suggested titles for my first book, was it?

/c:

Frank Turk said...

See: this is why it doesn't really pay to blog.

I'm thinking that if, for example, Jude was really reading what I wrote as an answer to the question here which was asked, he'd be wondering about further questions like this:

"When I look at someone who teaches something I disagree with, do I automatically assume he's not a Christian?"

"When Paul is instructing Titus, is he talking about people who are useless and fruitless but inside the church, or is he talking about unbelievers who are working from outside the church?"

"If I am in error, am I am unbeliever and a non-Christian, or do I just need to be open to meaningful and clear rebukes?"

"If someone is a false teacher, does Paul here instruct us to first consider them an unbeliever, or does he first ask us to consider him to be someone who should respect the authority of the Scripture and of the church?"

How John MacArthur and John Piper make their way into this discussion is pretty much beyond me. This is not about them. This is about you.

You need to think about how quickly you're willing to pull the "not a Christian" level. You need to see some kind of connection between the sufficiency of Christ and the depth of the sin of the people around you.

Every false teacher is not an unbeliever. Some false teachers are us. That's the problem which blinds us from seeing the second problem: we're not the only one who should be handing out the rebukes -- we actually need some rebukes.

So at your desktop there, or on your laptop wherever you are, or via iPhone, don't ask any more questions about who you should rebuke in reference to this post. Start asking yourself questions about when the last time was that you needed and received a rebuke in order that you would not be a vile beast and a lazy glutton.

Carry on.

Frank Turk said...

And note for the eternal record:

Terry Rayburn, with whom I have a lot of disagreements, gets this one right.

God bless you, Terry, for seeing exactly what I am saying.

Morris Brooks said...

Apollos would be another example as well. He was mighty in the Scriptures, however, he was not acquainted with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but only with the baptism of John; and had to be taken aside to have the way of God explained to him more clearly.

There is not one of us, any of us, who have preached and taught, that have been perfect in our handling of the Scriptures. However, the occasional saying something wrong/false does not make one a false teacher. A false teacher is one who consistently teaches wrongly; and he/she may or may not be a Christian. They need to be taken aside, reproved, rebuked, exhorted, and have the way of God explained more clearly.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Terry,

I would be interested in a book Gleanings from the Heretics because every heresy that has legs has some amount of truth in it.

To my mind, the most useful responses to heresy take the form of "affirmations and denials" - saying what the heresey gets right (which we can confirm) and what it gets wrong (which we reject).

Would this be called "rightly dividing the word of error"?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

So spricht der Herr: "I love Phil Johnson and I love this blog (now you know something is coming) but for a long time I've wanted to ask why it is that every time I peruse this blog, those who ask questions or oppose what is said are responded to with mockery and witty sarcasm?"

At least it goes both ways. People who dish it out certainly take it too.

Don't they?

Frank Turk said...

So Spricht --

I'm reviewing the thread up through your post now, and I'm asking myself:

"Frank, what is this anonymous poster talking about?"

I'm curious: what are you talking about?

The Blainemonster said...

CR - Pardon me, my ignorance is showing, and I don't want to stray too far off topic, but...could you clue me in as to the questionable beliefs of Lewis? I've read Lewis, though not in a while, and not in toto . I'd love to be enlightened :) Thanks.

CR said...

Blainemonster - Sure. CS Lewis did not believe in Hell and he believed in purgatory. CS Lewis was heavily influenced by his friend JRR Tolkien (who wrote Lord of the Rings) a Roman Catholic and he was also influenced by the writings of GK Chesterton, another Romanist.

Tolkien was disappointed that CS Lewis moved from his atheism but not to the Roman Catholic Church. Lewis was sort of "Anglo-Catholic." Anyway, Tolkien's influence on Lewis may explain Lewis' heterodoxy.

Chad V. said...

Final comment by me on this,

Frank

To say that a christian with imperfect doctrinal understanding is just like John Stott is plain irresponsible.

There is a huge difference between someone who is growing in their knowledge of the Lord and learning sound doctrine and some one who promulgates heresy. Especially when that person's vocation is to be a minster of the gospel.

Joshua said...

Terry, Mark -- That reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said, I believe in the forward to "Screwtape Letters". He said something like, "I fancied the idea of writing a book enumerating all of the errors that lead people away from Christ, but I found that it was way too easy, and very depressing".

I thought the same thing when I read Iranaeus's "Against the Heresies". It's amazing how new variations of the same old heresies keep popping up. It's like the hydra: every time you chop one head off, two grow back.

Speaking of the Catholics, I have recently read 6 books written by Pope Benedict XVI (from when he was writing as Ratzinger, I think). To be honest, I have been shocked at how good they are. You need to set aside the random questionable doctrine statement, just as with C.S. Lewis, but the books are, for the most part, way more orthodox than I was led to expect by my upbringing. Considering myself to basically be a Calvinist, I find that a little bit frightening.

Joshua said...

@Blainemonster - to add to CR's comments, one example is from "The Last Battle" in the Chronicles of Narnia. At the end, when Aslan is passing judgment on everyone, he leaves the dwarves in purgatory, and more strikingly, he lets a worshipper of Tash (Satan) into heaven, claiming "your service to Tash was as service to me".

I believe that Owen Barfield was also an influence on Lewis. Barfield was an inkling, and wrote some of the best treatments of idolatry, semantics, and philology that I have ever read. Over time, Barfield became more enchanted with Steiner, and eventually slipped into theosophy and belief in reincarnation.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Chad V: "Frank

To say that a christian with imperfect doctrinal understanding is just like John Stott is plain irresponsible."

Chad, that's why this topic is a difficult one to get stark clarity on.

For example, there was a recent Pyro post about N.T. Wright. And N.T. Wright considers Marcus Borg (who denies the divine nature of Jesus) a genuine Christian.

Now I can imagine N.T. Wright employing the same logic as Frank Turk's with regards to Borg.

Hypothetically, N.T. Wright might be thinking: "Borg is a false teacher. But not all false teachers are unbelievers. So I'll assume he is a Christian and I'll inform others that I think he is a Christian even though I don't condone some of his teachings."

And of course, the same thing can be said of N.T. Wright himself who fully supports egalitarianism and women's ordination, and the New Perspective on Paul.

I.e., N.T. Wright is a false teacher, but he's a Christian.

Frank Turk said...

Chad V. --

Is it the elders of the church Paul is telling Titus to admonish because they rude beasts and gluttons?

Because it seems to me that it's the not-elders whom the Elders about to be established are being established to rebuke.

It's funny, really, that this discussion wants to go after everyone but the reader-centric "me". Titus wasn't instructed to round up some new elders because the older elders turned into John Stott or Francis Beckwith or Clark Pinnock or Gene Robinson.

In that, which is in the context of the question asked originally, which is about whether Paul is talking to Titus about "false teachers" or "christians", it's clear that there are false teachers among the Christians who aren't good for anything. Hay stubble and straw, as Paul says elsewhere.

If you think I'm about to say there are no heretics in the world, or that we shouldn't have a church which can do anything about them locally, for the sake of the flock, go check out the current D-blog exchange in which I have been drafted to talk sense to an anti-trinitarian Oneness pentecostal. We're going to find out in a few questions over there that this guy doesn't even believe in the Gospel, so his opinion about the Trinity is absolutelt moot.

So let's look at our thread here, think about what we're saying in it, and realize that we're the problem that requires elders who must teach and rebuke -- we who are Christians. We are full of it -- where "it" is not a cuss word but sin and error which does hard to families and makes a mockery of the Gospel to the world.

CR said...

TUaD - I think part of the difficulty is that Frank has not defined what a false teacher is. He's given examples but I'm not sure he's defined it. I think 2 Pet 2 defines a false teacher pretty comprehensively.

But whatever ones definition of false teacher is, I think Frank's point is that they should be rebuked, even harshly rebuked, but then it stops there.

Jude (book of Jude) reminds us that Michael the archangel was so concerned with blasphemous judgments, he merely when confronting Satan, said, the Lord rebuke you.

I think that's where Frank is going with this. He saying don't pronounce judgments, but definitely rebuke. If that is what he saying, then I think it is wise counsel.

CR said...

By pronouncing judgments, I mean calling a false teacher a non-Christian. I think that's where he is going with this.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

CR: "I think Frank's point is that they should be rebuked, even harshly rebuked, but then it stops there.

I think that's where Frank is going with this. He saying don't pronounce judgments, but definitely rebuke. If that is what he saying, then I think it is wise counsel."


If that's Frank's point ("Rebuke False Teachers, but don't judge their salvation"), then I'm left wondering about Paul's writings about those who teach another gospel and may they then be accursed or anathema.

donsands said...

"Stott is sort of an unrepentant annihilationist."

"Writes Stott: “I question whether ‘eternal conscious torment’ is compatible with the biblical revelation of divine justice, unless perhaps (as has been argued) the impenitence of the lost also continues throughout eternity.”"

"Said John Stott:
Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal conscious torment] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterising their feelings or cracking under the strain. But our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it . . . my question must be — and is — not what does my heart tell me, but what does God’s word say?"

"When John Stott urges that “the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment,” he asks too much, for the biblical foundations of this view prove on inspection, as we have seen, to be inadequate. But it would be wrong for differences of opinion on this matter to lead to breaches of fellowship, though it would be a very happy thing for the Christian world if the differences could be resolved." -John Stott

Jesus said to Judas, "You'd have been better off to have never been born."

I have to be of the mind that hell is for souls who deserve it, and we actually all deserve it, though I would guess not one of us thinks we deserve it.

Deep subject hell. Sorry for the rabbit path, but I think it is in within the subject at hand.

Your thoughts on false teachers was very good Frank. Thanks.

donsands said...

Sorry, that last quote was from JI Packer.

CR said...

Good point, TUaD. I could say more on that, but don't have time.

The Blainemonster said...

CR - Thanks, you're absolutley right; just needed my memory refreshed.

Joshua - Now that you mention it, I do remember reading that bit in "The Last Battle" and going "HUH?" :)

christianlady said...

So how does this apply then to what a "watchblogger" type should do as a congregant when their pastor is teaching false doctrine (say the current attack...hybrid emerging or seeker friendly contemplative stuff). I bet you link me to older posts on this one....

Gary said...

context context context:

"Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith."

The goal of the rebuke is to strengthen and correct their faith. Clearly this is not a rebuke to correct those who have NO faith in the gospel (e.g., the apostate). This is rebuking Christians.

David Rudd said...

i think what frank is trying to do here is make the point that the work of the pastor is largely concerned with the regenerate.

thus the "gainsayers" (ha. old school) here are those within the church, not those outside the church.

it seems like this post is primarily intended to make the point that pastors rebuke Christians, not non-Christians...

i think if you read this post in light of the last, it is easier to see that this is his direction.

or i might be wrong.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gary: "The goal of the rebuke is to strengthen and correct their faith. Clearly this is not a rebuke to correct those who have NO faith in the gospel (e.g., the apostate). This is rebuking Christians."

This merely begs the question. One still has to judge who is a Christian and who is not. To see who gets rebuked according to your argument.

Also, if I understand you clearly, the Christian is not to rebuke the apostate? And it's also okay for the Christian to judge who is apostate, right?

David said...

There is a tendency with doctrinal error to try to define people out of the kingdom.

As long as we're arguing about how many Baptists can dance on the head of a pin, we're going to try to bump off the ones that we think shouldn't be dancing with us on the pinhead. The last one dancing on the pinhead gets to go to heaven.

Or we can believe the doctrines of grace, correcting and rebuking as we are given authority to do so, and accepting correction and rebuke as we go along, confident that our Lord will see us through the process to perfection in Him.

David Rudd said...

baptists dancing?

now that's just silly...

David said...

D'oh! I knew there was something wrong with that illustration!

Gary said...

"...the Christian is not to rebuke the apostate?"

When did I say that? I said in the context of the passage Paul is speaking of rebuking Christians for the purpose of building up their faith. Nothing more, nothing less.

Joshua said...

Also, if I understand you clearly, the Christian is not to rebuke the apostate? And it's also okay for the Christian to judge who is apostate, right?

Yes, we are commanded to judge whether or not someone is a false teacher.

Christians often say "judge not", and "turn the other cheek", and so on. But we are actually called to judge and rebuke other Christians in specific cases. For non-Christian swine, we're told to just leave them alone and stay away.

David Rudd said...

Joshua:

For non-Christian swine, we're told to just leave them alone and stay away.

Really? Where's that in the Bible?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I said in the context of the passage Paul is speaking of rebuking Christians for the purpose of building up their faith. Nothing more, nothing less."

Again, it begs the question. In the context of the passage, Paul must then have been judging who is a Christian and who is not.

Gary said...

The rebuking here is in the context of a church. Who joined the church? Those who were repentant. Paul is speaking rebuking those who had a credible profession of faith, but still had some error in their thinking, teaching, or actions. The rebuke is designed to strengthen and correct their faith. If someone was way off on a topic of import, then they might fall under church discipline. If during the course of this, they remained unrepentant and left the church, well, they went out from us because they were not of us.

I don't think the point of the passage is to call out Christian vs non or label people as apostate or heretics or whatever. The point is that a pastor is charged with correcting the error of his flock. That's what the passage is about. If you want to talk about the other stuff then we need to go to other passages.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"The rebuking here is in the context of a church. Who joined the church? Those who were repentant."

That may or may not be the case. Either back then or in today's church.

For example, I have heard John MacArthur preach several times during his sermons where he has said that there are some people who have joined the church, even his church, and that they probably won't be going to heaven since they're not Christians.

Joshua said...

@David: Matthew 7:6 implies that you are able to exercise good judgment about who are dogs and swine. "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."

Bryan said...

Frank, you did not use the word resign, but how is that not an implication of what you have said? If you call on a teacher, who is teaching what you believe to be false, to repent and he doesn't would you not eventually call on him to resign becasue he is unrepentant?

Eventually after he is rebuked again and again (assuming he doesn't repent) those rebuking him will have to call for his resignation as someone unfit to teach becasue they won't repent.

Is there a way around this? In practice Baptsits and Presbyterians don't do this (most of the time) but it seems to be the logical conclusion of calling a teacher to repentance over doctrine doctrinal disagreements.

Frank Turk said...

Please. Just STOP.

I will post an update later tonight about "what I really meant", and that's it. If you can't hear it, it must not be meant for you.

Thread closed.