Defending from the Wolves

wolf

There is a popular movement in the larger body of the Church to set aside doctrine. Doctrines are seen as unnecessary and divisive. You might hear that “Doctrine divides, but love unites”. If you do talk plainly about doctrines, fellow Believers will challenge you and may even attack you for not keeping the focus on God’s love for us. This sounds very convincing by itself for truly God loves us and His love for us, particularly as found at the cross, is the central theme of Scripture. So what is the problem?

 The problem is that false teachings about God and His love distort the Gospel, rob people of their joy in Christ, and may even lead to their destruction. False teaching and teachers are directly addressed throughout the New Testament epistles. The dangers of false doctrine and the importance of sound doctrine are repeatedly stressed.

The Great Commission may be the place to start:

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” – Matt 28:18

Part of the Great Commission is teaching. That teaching includes ALL that Jesus commanded the Disciples. Most would conclude that the Disciples were not baptizing unbelievers, so from this structure it appears that the teaching was to occur to the baptized Believers. We are commanded by Jesus to not only spread the Gospel but to teach Believers.

In addition to the Great Commission it is useful to look at the tasks that are assigned to an Elder.

“For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons’. This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.” – Titus 1:7-14

Allow me to recap from this passage, an Elder is instructed by Scripture to:

  • Give instruction in sound doctrine;
  • Rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine even “rebuke them sharply”; and
  • “Silence” those who teach falsehoods.

 Silencing others, even false teachers, does not sound very “politically correct” or “loving” by our societal standards. I believe that the way we are supposed to silence is not to talk over them, or force their silence, but rather to remove their influence by rebuking the falsehoods and instructing others in sound doctrine.

 Learning sound doctrine, teaching sound doctrine, and rebuking false doctrine are not negative characteristics that are associated with Spiritual arrogance. They are not interfering with Christian unity. They are commands to Elders given directly by God.

Paul instructs Elders to “silence” false teachers. John uses similar strong language when he instructs not to let the false teacher into your house.

“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” – 2 John 1: 9-11

 It is likely that John was not discussing hospitality, but rather the acceptance of a false teacher into a circle of believers meeting in the home. The command was about protecting the flock from being exposed to someone who was known to be a false teacher.

 We can also look at the commission Paul gave to Timothy, because that instruction is not limited to Timothy but is given, by extension, to all who have been called to the role of teacher.

 “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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 Tim 4:1-4

 This list is remarkably similar to the list given to Elders in the book of Titus:

  • Preach;
  • Reprove;
  • Rebuke; and
  • Exhort

Paul’s idea of a rebuke was not necessarily gentle, but it was loving.

“I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” – Gal 5:12 

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” – Gal 1: 

How can one conclude that this is loving? Because these words from Paul are Scripture meaning that they are God-breathed. So these words accurately reflect the love of God. Confused? Consider it from another perspective, how “loving” is it when the shepherd slays the wolf? From the standpoint of the wolf, it might not seem very loving. But from the standpoint of the sheep who are being kept safe from the wolf, this is certainly an act of love.

 Acting in love requires defending the sheep from wolves.  Exposing and rebuking false doctrine is an act of love.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://blog.lifeassuranceministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Rick_1_5x2.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly FAF Bible study for former and transitioning SDAs in the Dayton, OH area. Information on this FAF meeting can be found at www.gracediscovery.org. Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. He served on the staff of the Thomas Bilney Institute for Biblical Research and is an active member of his local Lutheran church. Rick was a volunteer on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website for 6 years and remains a participant on the discussion boards. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the SDA chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington Ohio churches.[/author_info] [/author]

Rick Barker

Rick Barker

Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly Bible study for former and transitioning SDAs in the Dayton, OH area. More information on this study group can be found at www.gracediscovery.org. Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. He previously served on the staff of the Thomas Bilney Institute for Biblical Research and is an active member of his local Lutheran church. Rick was a volunteer on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website for 6 years and remains a participant on the discussion boards. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the SDA chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington Ohio churches.
Rick Barker

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5 comments

  1. Rick,

    Just a quick two questions, and some guidance:

    Is this article merely a general, teaching article, or is there something subterranean and specific that you are addressing in a general way at the surface level?

    If subterranean, is it mainly confined to the USA?

    JohnB

    1. John,
      I can’t comment on how widespread the movement is outside of the US, only on what I experience here. The church is increasingly following the culture, specifically in the area of being “politically correct”. Several widespread movements have openly denounced doctrine as being divisive, insisting that all that matters is that we love God. This is a dangerous movement within the church, irregardless of SDAism. That is the first and primary purpose in this article.

      The article also serves a secondary purpose. Those of us who are actively critical of SDA doctrine are routinely accused of being mean-spirited and unloving for publishing these articles. I believe just the opposite, remaining silent in the face of serious errors is unloving.

  2. Rick, excellent blog. Just yesterday we heard a powerful sermon by Gary Inrig on 2 Timothy 4:1-8. Preaching the word expositionally is falling out of style, yet the pure word of God is the only thing that protects us from deception. Substituting the fruit of the gospel (social concerns) for the gospel itself, “Christian mysticism” including contemplative prayer and immersion into spiritual formation/disciplines, the pursuit of charismaticism—in short, anything that takes our focus off God’s word to us and the completed work of the Lord Jesus which is all we need for life and godliness—weaken the church and do not offer life to unbelievers.

    A friend of mine recently said to me, “Perhaps the lack of desire for the word to penetrate the core of one’s being is inner evidence of a tendency toward apostasy.”

    I agree.

  3. Rick,

    Thanks for this. It helps shape my answer below. And I apologize in advance for its length.

    From what you have described, while the phenomena is rife throughout Protestantism worldwide, over 80% of the problem is confined to the USA – and thus your experience. As you would be aware, over 75% of all schism within the Church since 49CE and the Acts 15 Council has found its origins in American Protestantism since the arrival of the Mayflower. And a further 10% of schism came from UK Protestantism.

    And within this mass schism, we have distinctive hermeneutics for each of these schismatic movements (“churches”?) which in turn generates its own versions of “expository preaching” and thus “doctrine”. While much of the American disdain for “doctrine”, as you rightly observe, does come from “political correctness”, this is not the whole answer. In America, it is as much a “pox on all your houses” in response to the plethora of competing “doctrines” in the American Protestant marketplace of ideas.

    In Europe, we have a similar downplaying of doctrine, but for vastly different reasons – not all of them Liberal. It has affected all the Latin and Latin-derived four major branches of the Church such as Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism and Anglicanism, in both their home countries and in their respective diasporas in North America, South Africa, Australasia, etc.

    To cut a very long and complex story short, it arose in the wake of WW2 and the Nazi horror. Without resorting to simplistic mantras and facile solutions, these four strands of the mainstream Latin west undertook the most profound re-examination ever of their theology, ecclesiology, hermeneutics, and thus doctrine. The more responsible elements of American Protestant Zionism joined this re-examination.

    In the Roman Catholic Tradition, Papal anti-Semitic “Doctrine” led to Papal-Nazi collaboration.

    In The Lutheran Tradition, the “Ordnung ist Ordnung” hermeneutic and thus doctrine led them to be too sleepy to challenge the rise of the Hohenzollerns, Bismarck, Kaiser Willem II, and finally Hitler. Only the fringe Pietists resisted – thus Martin Niemoller.

    In the Calvinist/Puritan Tradition, their sheer cerebralism and intellectualism, coupled with their “doctrine” of the “godly-magistrate” generated their “sleepiness” towards Nazism. In addition, this Tradition was the purest form of the highly secularising, anti-pneumatic and thus anti-contemplative humanism of Desiderius Erasmus. This Tradition was also primarily responsible for pushing the Eucharist from its rightful central place in Church Worship – since the beginning, and illegally making the Sermon (the delivery-vehicle of “doctrine”) central instead.

    In less than 300 years to the end of WW2, (1) the reaction to Calvinist “doctrine” and (2) following heavy Calvinist de-Christianising practice: Switzerland, Huguenot France, the Netherlands, Puritan England and Scotland – all one-time Calvinist strongholds, became the most heavily secularised parts of Europe.

    This obsession on Calvinist Evangelical, “preachifying doctrine” in Australia since 1788 led to over 90% of Australians being resistant to any stress on “doctrine”. And where for the hapless convicts, having to endure a Calvinist “doctrinal” Sermon (normatively more than 60 mins in length), given by Chaplaincy-era Anglican Evangelicals, was considered to be part of the punishment!

    The Anglican tradition was caught up in the three-way debate between its Catholic, Liberal and Evangelical wings, and only the Puritan/Evangelicals obsessed with Sermons, and thus doctrine.

    The following helps to explain the de-emphasis on traditional “doctrine” in Europe and elsewhere:

    Why the significance of the end of WW2? During the Nuremberg War Trials, as evidence tumbled out of the assorted Nazis and their hangers-on; the churchmen, the theologians, the ecclesiastical historians began asking the question:
    “How was it that in a nation supposedly so “civilized” and “christian” as Germany at the time supposedly was in 1933, could the church – both Roman Catholic and Protestant either (1) be so asleep as not to notice, or worse – (2) be so complicit, in the Nazi horror?

    This was immediately followed by:
    “What was it in the philosophical and theological DNA of the church of Germany that could and did to lead to this horror”

    and
    “Why was Hitler able to claim with much justification that he was merely “carrying out the work of the church”?

    And thus:
    “Why could the Church have nothing to say to rebut this Nazi claim?”

    Then:
    “Why was this “spiritual” DNA not restricted to Germany, but was also in Russia and elsewhere – what was the common factor?

    And finally:
    “Was there another Christian Tradition which did not lead to this outcome?

    This led to the 20th Century “Rediscovery” of the Johanine/Arimathean Tradition. And its release from a heretofore supposedly “Gnostic” embrace. These led to a radical re-visioning of Church history, theology, doctrine and ecclesiology. And re-posed the question:
    “What and when was the greatest schism in Church History?”

    When all the schisms of the Gentile Church were reviewed, there was one schism greater than that between East and West in 1054, or that of 1517 in the Latin West which gave birth to Protestantism, or the Old Believer schism in Russia. And it was precisely this schism and none other which gave birth to the Nazi and earlier Romanov anti-Semitic horror

    It was the Schism between the Pauline church and the Synagogue! Both Messianic and non-Messianic alike.

    Derivatively, it was also the schism between the Celtic Church and its Pauline, Imperial Roman challenger.

    Finally, it was the usurpation of the Feminine by the Masculine, with tragic and evil consequences.

    There were eight paths of the 20th Century “Rediscovery” of the Johanine/Arimathean Tradition – after WW2 (1945CE):

    1. Syriac Studies – the Syriac family of Liturgies, and the underlying theology of Semitic Liturgy,
    2. The revival of the eastern Semitic Christian Via Contemplativa – bypassing the cerebral Papal Thomism and Protestant Calvinism, and the Hellenised “desert fathers” of the Nile valley and Mt Athos; and allowing true Contemplatives to pick and choose from the Nile Valley and Mt Athos what is best and rejecting the rest,
    3. Qumran – the true “desert mothers and fathers”, and the revelation of the Hebrew / Aramaic Semitic Yeshua – stripped of all trace of Pauline Hellenism,
    4. A renewed appreciation and appropriation of Semitic feminine Yahwist Spirituality in the Holy Spirit,
    5. Nag Hammadi – challenging the Hellenistic Athanasian “Canon” of Scripture – both OT & NT alike,
    6. The content of the Gospels of Mary Magdalene, Thomas nd Phillip – all interpreted in a Semitic way with Semitic tools,
    7. Celtic Studies and Celtic Church Poetry – and the re-legitimation of the pre 597CE Arimathean Church in the British Isles,
    8. Far Eastern forms of Christianity, central Asian “koans” and Chinese “Jesus-sutras”,
    – ALL free of the influence from the ellenised Nile valley and Mt Athos,

    From these paths the same Wisdom-Tradition sophiological (hochmah / Shekinah / Ruach) message emerged. A message wholly free of all Latin-based schisms and their derivative “doctrines”.

    It also led to a radical re-visioning of where the principal “centre of gravity” for teaching and doctrine should be located: it shifted from the cerebral Sermon and returned to the Liturgy, Icons, and the Sacraments and Sacramentals; and the associated Liturgical elements of Lectionary, the ever-changing Collects and other prayers, and Liturgical “ambience” with candles, incense, vestments etc. It also returned to recalling the “lives” of the Saints and their oft-time martyrdoms – as an example for today’s Christian Living.

    While more could be said, I hope that this gives the broad contours as to why focus on “doctrine”, and even its contents has undergone such radical change since the end of WW2.

    Blessings in Christ,
    JohnB

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