29 August 2006

Terrorism in church

by Dan Phillips

Preface. A remark of Spurgeon's from yesterday's weekly dose started me thinking. CHS wrote, "Avowed atheists are not a tenth as dangerous as those preachers who scatter doubt and stab at faith"—though my thinking went in rather a different direction than the great man's.

Colors. Lately I've been exposed to a lot of WWII-ing. My Josiah (10) recently studied it, so we've watched a lot of the classic movies together ("Sands of Iwo Jima," "The Longest Day," etc.). Also, I'm making my way through Band of Brothers.

World War II was classic warfare, you might say. Opposing forces by and large were clearly identified, and identifiable. Soldiers wore distinctive uniforms, they had headquarters and unit locations, they had weaponry which could often be identified by sound. Though war always brings collateral damage, the soldiers of each army looked for warriors of the opposition, and concentrated fire on them.

Terrorists today operate in an almost precisely opposite fashion.

I thought this recently as I heard a terrorist representative taking a predictably-sympathetic MSM reporter on a guided propaganda tour of residences the Israeli's had allegedly targeted and destroyed. "Look at this building. Is it a military base? Or just civilians living in this building?" he whined. The reporter/mouthpiece affirmed that it they just looked like civilian housing to him, "no evidence apparent of military equipment."

My immediate thought evidently escaped the "expert" reporter on the scene: "Tell you what, sport: you give out the location of your army and its headquarters, describe your uniforms, and separate yourselves from civilians, and I'm sure the Israeli's will be happy to target them exclusively."

Because this is precisely what terrorists don't do. Instead, they disguise themselves as innocents, they hide their arms in non-combatants' homes and hold the residents hostage, they use civilians to carry their weaponry—and then they cry bloody murder when their deliberate tactics get non-combatants hurt and killed.

By contrast, it is their precise method to target non-combatants. They exult and celebrate when they kill, maim and wound scores of their target-country's civilians. Remember: 9/11 was not a "miss." Nearly three thousand moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons and daughters were murdered as they went about the course of their daily, productive, non-military lives. It was no mistake. It was a direct hit.

But wait—terrorists in church? The parallel between these terrorists and our Enemy's tactics rather stands out to me.

Now, in classic warfare style, Satan does still have his standing armies who fly clear colors. The more apostasy spreads, and compromise is embraced; the more error is tolerated, the bolder they can afford to be. Even the most weakly-professed Christianoid cannot sanely look at organizations like NAMBLA or American Atheist and think, "Ah, another Christian organization doing the Lord's work!"

But he also schemes as the terrorists do. Remember that Paul speaks of arrogant, apostate traitors as
holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away. 6 For of these are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, 7 ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:5-7)
Note that these false teachers are not targeting pastor-teachers. They themselves pose as pastors, teachers, prophets (2 Corinthians 11:13; 1 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:1). They are on TV, or going door to door, focusing on those we might think of as non-combatants: vulnerable women. Ther goal is to have their talk spread like gangrene (2 Timothy 2:16-18). In this way, they sneak in, and ultimately overturn whole households (Titus 1:11). Although may be a strategic bonus to take out a shepherd (cf. Zechariah 13:7), the more mayhem done to the sheep, the better (Acts 20:29).

Is the church today in good shape to keep an eye open for these terrorists? Good heavens. We don't display the collective discernment to spot a wolf in wolf's clothing, let alone sheep's. "Evangelical" organizations, institutions, denominations, are not distinguishing themselves as able and willing to identify, isolate, confront, counter, and if need be remove even the clearest false teaching.

Let one person muster the courage to rise up, point, and cry "Wolf!"—and he's instantly surrounded by sheep disapprovingly baa-ing and bleating about how ha-a-a-arsh, and judgme-e-e-ental, and divi-i-i-isive, and cri-i-i-itical he is being.

This is why it falls to the under-shepherds to show discernment and stand watch, regardless of the cost. They most certainly are to "profile," cautiously but vigorously (cf. Acts 20:28-30; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 1:9-11). They must warn the sheep, and sharply direct them away from error and towards healthy teaching (Titus 1:13-14). They must counter the spiritual terrorists, silence them (Titus 1:11), and expel them after two warnings (Titus 3:10-11). They must do this even when God's professed people adore the false teachers (cf. Jeremiah 5:31; Micah 2:11; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Pastors, you might not be thanked now. You might even be criticized, shunned, disdained. Worse.

But which report would you rather bring your Commander in Chief? "Sorry, Sir; they didn't what to hear it, so I..."?

Or "Sir, they didn't want to hear it, but they needed to hear it, and You told me to tell them—so I did my level best"?

Dan Phillips's signature


Ray said...

Coming from a small church, where many of these types like to 'infiltrate' -- we have had our share.

To my shame, the first few were tolerated far too long, but as time went on, the leadership took a firm stand, and exactly what you described took place: At first, we were taken to task for our 'unloving' stance, and some people left. Some of these same folks have returned and thanked us for taking a Christian position.

What is really illuminating is that they targeted the exact people the Bible refers to -- women who were struggling with sin. And this includes both genders, whether they were male or female wolves, they targeted these women.

I do not think the tenor of this post is too severe, having lived through several 'sneak attacks', I would say that pastors need to keep their eyes open!

Carrie said...

and he's instantly surrounded by sheep disapprovingly baa-ing and bleating about how ha-a-a-arsh, and judgme-e-e-ental, and divi-i-i-isive, and cri-i-i-itical he is being.

Amen! I think our liberal culture has made the enemy's job much easier since we are not allowed "to offend" anyone.

Great post!

Martin Downes said...


Good post. It's like "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" approach to opposing the gospel instead of "The War of the Worlds". Heresy is really philosophy doing an inside job.

We really need to cut through the rhetoric that fills the air and get down to the real arguments. John Owen and John Biddle (then English Socinian) both regarded each others convictions to be Satanic deceptions. And after 700 pages Owen proved his point.

DJP said...

Thanks, guys.

Martin -- It's like "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" approach to opposing the gospel instead of "The War of the Worlds". Heresy is really philosophy doing an inside job.

That's great; so well put. Or like "The Thing" (the original "Who Goes There?" storyline).

Martin Downes said...

I guess we can be polemical out of bad motives, but seeing polemics as bad in itself really won't do. If there are wolves in sheep's clothing we can hardly expect them to be nice to shepherds.

Jon from Bucksport said...


A big hardy "Amen!" Although, I must hasten to add that you are in real danger of sounding like a "Fighting Fundamentalist!" I say that tongue in cheek and please no one (from either side) start ranting about it. Truely though, one problem in Evangelicalism is that some ran so hard to get away from Fundamentalism that they stopped warning the sheep. We must be lovers of Truth more than lovers of men. But lovers of Truth will always love men and seek to warn them from destruction.


philness said...


Great post. Outstanding soilder. You are on fire.

I like the SHEEP in wolf clothing tactic myself. On the outside I look just like one of them, yet there is something peculiar and deferent about me, and when approached I fan the flame of the gospel on them.

Gordon said...

I am pretty sure that Osam Bin Laden's nephew tried to infiltrate the first church I pastored. ;)

This was a great post. Thanks for the exhortation.

FX Turk said...

Two things:

[1] Christ will say "well done, you good and faithful servant." Not, "Well, you intended the best, didn't you?" So there's doing to be done.

[2] I am almost finished with Iain Murray's Evangelicalism Divided, and he makes exactly the point you are making here (in different terms). His view is that if we were serious about Satan and not just somewhat sad about "the problem of evil", we would not have the problems we have in the diluding of the Gospel today.

Steve said...

Dan said, "Let one person muster the courage to rise up, point, and cry "Wolf!"—and he's instantly surrounded by sheep disapprovingly baa-ing and bleating about how ha-a-a-arsh, and judgme-e-e-ental, and divi-i-i-isive, and cri-i-i-itical he is being."

Well said, Dan, and you're definitely not overstating the case. It's amazing how widespread this problem is in the upper echalons of some professedly Christian organizations that have a lot of influence. Even within the Christian apologetics community, of all places, there are key individuals who have been deluded by wolves in sheep's clothing...and who have laughingly dismissed those who summoned the courage to point and cry, "Wolf!"

I marvel at God's patience with those who serve as gatekeepers in the Christian community, and I'm not talking just pastors here.

LeeC said...

I praise God that He has given me a church with elders that truly watch over His flock and protect it.

My old church was classic American Baptist congregational. It broke my heart to see things going on that could not be stopped because you could not get a majority vote to act on it, and the vote of sinning brother, or the wolf in sheeps clothing both had the same weight as the pastors.

I am far less worried about Marylin Manson than I am the person in the two piece suit covering up a black heart. I know wherethe former stands.

This also touches on a topic dear to me and that is fellowship and transparancy. One of the best ways we as a body can help those over us is if we are all discipling and being discipled, and striving to be transparent to one another.

Practice hospitality, let others come to your house and let other see us as we live the other six days of the week.

The terrorists will still try to hide, but that doesn't mean that we should make it easy for them by creating concealment for them by each of us being inscrutable islands.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for this post. Well done, and ver timely.

I wonder how many of those in ministry today, if they stood before those to whom they ministered, as Paul did in Acts 20, could, in all sincerity, say that they are "innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." (v. 26-27)

May we be bold to faithfully carry out our ministry, not cater to the itching ears of our day.

Lee Shelton said...

The wolves have indeed infiltrated the flock, and too many sheep are blind to that fact. The corruption extends not just to theology, but to all areas of life: politics, social issues, etc.

Kim said...

Dan, do you think it's possible for someone to come into the church, and be a wolf in sheep's clothing, and not realize it? I mean, do you think that they come into the church without motives, but then kind of adopt them as time goes by?

DJP said...

Well, Kim, I doubt anyone thinks of himself as a WISC, if that's what you're asking. That's long been a scary reality to me. Adolf Hitler did not get up every day, thinking, 'I'm a bad, bad man."

Similarly, Benny Hinn doesn't wake up every day thinking, "I am so full of cheese, I should open a factory."

Before they deceive anyone else, they deceive themselves. Paul speaks of "evil men and impostors" as "deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13).

Martin Downes said...


Is it not the case that some know what they are denying even as they are asserting some new thing as really the gospel?

Learning Grace said...

The problem is that Church Terrorist send their WMDs into the congregation in free mail-outs. These books and pamphlets that come out of Christian TV-land... oh, my... 30-40% of your church can have already read this drivel before any of them even bring it up in conversation around you. And then good luck trying to show people why this stuff is wrong... they don't want to hear it.

I don't get it. They will listen to these guys on TV and remember everything that they say, even when it contradicts something they just got taught by their own pastor that sunday... yet they can't remember what the mid-week bible study said on a verse they've known for years.

DJP said...

Martin, of course I'm not the One who searches the hearts and minds, so I don't know everyone's motivation. I do know that, to me, the human capacity for rationalization is our most terrifying trait.

Do you have a for-instance in mind?

LeeC said...

I would think Benny Hinn would fit Martins description in the extreme if I understand him. Hinn KNOWs he is selling snake oil as salvation.

As far as deception goes yeah, I think even Satan himselfs biggest deception is on himself.

He knows the Scriptures, but I get the feeling deep down in his hubris he thinks he can still win. Oh the justice the Lord will mete out when Satan fully realizes that all he has done God was able to use it for our good and His glory!

Self deception is yet another reason we need to be transparent to one another. Manys the time I have asked a brother to evaluate where I am at, knowing full well how prone my own flesh is at slanting my discernment.

donsands said...

Another fine post. Very true about these terrorist, who continue to kill innocent people, and hide behind the same.

And quite on the money with how it relates to the body of Christ.

I pray the sheep would wake up and face the music. I mean the wolf.

BTW, I love old WWII flicks. The Longest Day is one of my favorites.

lanae_gray said...

So as a single, young woman in my church how do I respectfully call out against the wolves? I guess I just dont' want to overstep biblical bounds of church authority?

Is that a silly question to ask?

DJP said...

I don't think it's a silly question at all, Lanae.

It depends on what level we're talking about, in part. There's a lot any church member can do that simply an expression of healthy body life. I think most immediately of Hebrews 10:24, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works." The single word translated "stir up" denotes something like a sharp jab. Or again there's Hebrews 3:13, that we should "encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin's deception."

So if any church member simply sees another getting off the track, (s)he's the person on the scene, and should simply speak the truth in love to that person.

Now, if we're talking about church leadership, it can get more complex. If, for instance, it's your Sunday School (or other Bible study) leader, I'd still say to talk to that person first. Patience and persistence can win out: "By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, And a soft tongue breaks the bone" (Proverbs 25:15).

Does that help?

Martin Downes said...


Liberalism has a strong tradition of lying through the teeth to congregations. Same old Christian vocabulary but totally different meanings. And they knew that the were doing it.

northWord said...

Satan rules our world? Yes.
Terrorism in the church? You bet.

Your observations and connections are especially astute (as always)....in the bigger picture, the battle of good and evil is palpable everywhere.

I really appreciate this post Dan, especially in light of the arbitrarily held beliefs surrounding the global war on terrorsm and the terrorists themselves. I absolutely for the life of me cannot understand how it is that people just do not see, the obvious.
But then..
Sadly, many people are not given to educating themselves on the issues and therefore (and in preservation of their liberal..ness), are easily swayed by the "talking heads".
This speaks also to how christians can be easily swayed from what is sound.
The bottom line is that our handbook for life, the bible, is being ignored and replaced by the ideas/resources of "man". When we stop regularily checking our plumbline -Christ through His word, then the foundation goes off center, followed by the whole house. So, we have to keep [get] snapping.
(forgive me if I've rambled )

I do so appreciate the posts here as they foremost rely on knowledge through scripture.

Grace and peace ~

Jay T said...

I know this isn't my blog. But speaking up for lurkers everywhere, we'd appreciate it if you'd show us the courtesy of obeying Rule #3.

Antonio said...

Jay, I read the post and believe I was responding to it. Mr. Phillips has one idea of who these wolves are, and I have another.

Antonio said...

I humbly request a reason for the deletion of my comment.

I just re-read the rules for commenting on this blog and am not under the impression that I have broken any of them.

Is it reasonable to silence those who disagree with you? Why was my comment deleted?

I responded to the post with my convictions. They don't align with yours but that is no cause for them to be deleted: because you don't like them.


Phil Johnson said...

Antonio, I deleted your initial comment because it was indeed several hundred nautical miles off topic, and therefore it was a rather clear violation of rule 3. I appreciate lurker Jay's very kind attempt to point this out to you.

I realize you are not a man who is easily persuaded, and you're probably going to want to continue the dispute you began with Jay, regarding whether your remarks were really off topic or not. My advice: don't bother. Using your "logic," nothing could ever be deemed off topic.

And make a note of this: cheap-shot attacks on my pastor will never be given the benefit of the doubt here. If you have a beef with him, take it off my blog. That's not what the comment-space on this blog is for; hence, all such remarks are always off topic. If you want to pick a doctrinal fight, man up and pick your fight with one of us, dealing with what we post here—and leave our friends, families, and pastors out of it.

I've made this point several times on the blog. That's one discourtesy I will not tolerate and will not debate about.

Besides, you already have your own blog on which to attack the perseverence of the saints. You've been doing that for many months and have been soundly refuted so many times it's not interesting any more. Still, you can write whatever you like over there. Keep it out of our meta, though.

Incidentally, while you are contemplating our blogrules, let me also call your attention to rule 5.

Antonio said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Antonio said...

Phil, I guess I just posted the comment while you were posting your last comment.

This is your blog and I respect your wishes, even though I do not agree with them.

It is sad that in the arena of Christian ideas that my articulate comments must be deleted. I have not made any disparaging comments against anyone, but merely against doctrines.

I will personally delete my comment.

For anyone wishing to read my comment to this post please visit my blog that can be accessed through my profile.



Taliesin said...


Thanks for the good thoughts. In a bible study tonight we were studying Galatians 4:1-20, where Paul is warning the Galatians about the false teachers there. In verse 17 he gives three characteristics to identify false teachers:

1) They butter you up
2) They isolate you (from other teachers and ultimately from Christ)
3) They expect your unquestioned admiration

I don't think this list is exhaustive, but if any of these are present we should be cautious. A true teacher will do the opposite of each of the above:

a) They preach the glories of Christ in the face of your sin (HT: Even So)
b) They encourage you to learn from all who faithfully proclaim the gospel (e.g. Peter's commendation of Paul)
c) They point you to Christ and not themselves.

Sparks said...


Excellent post sir!

DJP said...

Well, Taliesin, there you go again -- profiling!


KCBill said...

Dan it is interesting that you included the 9/11 tragedy in this post about deception and pointing out those that deceive the brethren. It is our duty to stand for the truth of God word. It is our duty to abhor that which is evil and cling to that which is good. Knowing that every lie is the fruit of the wicked one, the father of lies, what then do you do when you find out 9/11 could not have been anything but an inside job? That as much as we are being deceived inside the church by leaders, we (and I count many pastors supportive of President Bush in this) are equally deceived about the terrorism issue in America. Do they exist - sure they do. But did they really pull off 9/11? When you look at the details and consider the facts, lest you be swayed by the media and politicians (liars of the highest order), an objective analysis brings you to one conclusion. It was self-inflicted to inflict terror for many possible reasons. I submit to you: http://www.physics.byu.edu/research/energy/htm7.html

MacArthur's sermon on Romans 1 recently should alert many that the signs are clear that God's hand has been removed from this nation.

How discerning will our leaders be when it comes to discerning the "Right" in this nation? I am as conservative as they will ever come, but unfortunately the "conservative" power remains with those who have the issues and not to those who solve the issues. Thus abortion remains legal, schools continue to decline in value, governmental influence continues to increase as freedom is trampled under foot, etc...

Final note: Should we pray for the President - of course we should. Should we pray for the country, indeed. But in spite of what comes we must glorify God and that requires a mind, not for this world but for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

KCBill said...

I want to add one thing to the previous post - it is not my intention to take this off-topic but rather to consider how our solid church leaders will react when it comes to discerning the government and the "terrorism" outside the church, be it self-inflicted or the Islamo-fascists, or the liberals. I certainly do not intend to imply any will react in any given manner - simply considering the thought - publicly.

Martin Downes said...

I once asked the Baptist Church historian & minister Robert Oliver if he could think of any organisations or denominations that had successfully kicked out the false teachers. He paused, for a long time. The only example that he could think of was the Southern Baptists. Is that right? Is it usually the case that those holding to the truth have to pack their bags and start up something new? Why do the terrorists seem to win?

Char said...

This is such a timely post, great analogy.
When I look at our Church, I too feel that we need leaders today who don't view "polemic" as a negative thing-some teachings (and teachers) in the church need to be attacked, though it is difficult. They usually make themselves more obvious than they realize anyway.

I do have a bone to pick with this post though. This is The Duke. :-p

Craver Vii said...

I saw a sign that said, "Quality, Service, Low Price. ...Pick TWO."
I chuckle at that, but doesn't it seem that it is too common for people in the church, whether pulpit or pew, to come across as if they are saying, "Grace. Truth. ...Pick ONE."
It shouldn't be that way, but both-and! Love God with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. And on top of that, love one another as I have loved you.
If it was supposed to be easy, anybody could do it and then it wouldn't necessarily be the identifying marks of a Christian, right?

mbuckl1 said...

from Perry Bible Fellowship:

wolves in sheep's clothing

(beware the rest of the comix)

Mark B. Hanson said...


The only other denomination I am aware of that successfully turned back the liberals is the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in the 1960s. The conservatives took back Concordia Seminary (the liberals formed a short-lived "seminary in exile" called Seminex).

DJP said...

Martin and Mark -- that's the only other one I had in mind as well, from Lindsell's discussion in Battle for the Bible.

Mark B. Hanson said...

As for why the terrorists win, they do not allow themselves to be limited by such ridiculous things as truth, charity, unity, logic, etc. - the other side is wrong, hence evil, hence must be resisted at all costs and by any method possible.

Study the two cases of reversal, and the accusations published by the liberal side. It really puts the lie to the idea that the conservatives are the shrill ones.

Mark B. Hanson said...

The de-frocking of J. Gresham Machen is another case in point.

Martin Downes said...

Sadly Machen had a vebal beating from his president at Princeton for being harsh and intolerant.