Why We Name False Teachers by Name

Why We Name False Teachers by Name September 21, 2017

One of the more unfortunate sentiments in the modern church revolves around the idea that it is unkind for an individual, or collective group, to call out false teaching and false teachers. Often, even many orthodox Christians decry this practice, indicating Christians ought to be known more for what they believe than what they don’t believe. On the surface this is a laudable statement, yet it seems Christians ought to be known inasmuch for what they do not believe. It is equally as important that they be known for what they do not find acceptable behavior.

While it is important to distinguish between positive and negative theology – there is ample evidence to suggest the broader church has done both fields of theological study. They not only affirmed what they did believe (positive theology), but rejected what they did not believe (negative theology). This is also the precedent Scripture often embraces, perhaps illustrated best by the Corinthian slogans in 1 Cor. 6:12-20. The pronouncement of judgment upon false teachers often accompanies the practice of negative theology.

The Scriptures know nothing of the notion that we ought not to use strong language in condemning false teachers and false doctrine. Make no mistake – I am not advocating one be without charity entirely, but there is a point when charity is no longer due. The longer an individual resides in teaching falsehoods, the more severe the warnings need to be. The more severe these falsehoods are, the more severe their warning and the quicker such warnings must come. In some cases, I fear we use the word “heretic” too quickly. In others, I fear we are far too reluctant to use the word at all.

The Problem of “Niceness”

The social convention of “niceness” often cited in defense of dumbing down a rebuke proves incredibly problematic. Surely, one’s default mode shouldn’t be devoid of friendliness. Yet the convention of “niceness” seems to play first chair; we dare not say anything construed as unkind. God forbid we are so bold to cut the formalities and swiftly pinpoint the issue at hand. The idea I am driving home here is that there is a fundamental difference between loving, gracious, and edifying speech – and speech that is simply “nice”. We can “nice” someone to straight to hell. We can also artfully use strong language in a God-honoring manner in order to incite a reaction.

Remember the Proverb: faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Others see such division fraught with perils. Dividing over doctrine, they say, is why so many are leaving the church. Yet Scripture is quite candid in divulging how we are to deal with false teachers. We first must test teachers to ensure they are not bearing false witness (1 Jn. 4:1-6). If they prove to be false teachers, we are to expose them (Eph. 5:11), rebuke them in the presence of everyone (1 Tim. 5:20), and judge them with proper judgement (Jn. 7:24).

If they remain unrepentant, they must be excommunicated from the church, as their condemnation has already been decided (Matt. 8:15-20; Jude 1:4). Once this process is complete, the entire church body is to shun them, meaning they do not greet them, welcome them into their homes, and avoid them entirely (2 Jn. 1:10; 2 Tim. 3:5; Rom. 16:17-18).

The church is called to do these things by virtue of what these false teachers truly are. They are disguised as servants of Christ, yet cause divisions and create obstacles to true doctrine, harming the faith of genuine converts (2 Cor. 11:13-15; Rom. 16:17-18). These people will not spare the flock, as they are ravenous wolves seeking to devour the sheep (Acts 20:29; Matt. 7:15-20). They pervert the grace of God by preaching a false gospel; they devote themselves to the teachings of demons and deny our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 4:1; Jude 1:4).

There is no shortage of devastation these teachers will do because they are not simply ignorant; they are obstinate in teaching falsehoods because they are busy doing the work of their father, Satan. It is of little wonder such teachers were likened to “pigs” and “dogs” by Peter. If one travels to the OT for a season, the case can surely be made for mocking such men, and even those who flock toward them. Yet if we are honest, our modern sensibilities twinge at the thought of doing such a thing.

In this process, the church must remember there is a cleansing that takes place as these wolves are forcibly removed from her midst. It is an act of judgment pronounced upon the wolf, yet it serves an equally important purpose as it separates the goats from the sheep. The startling reality is that these false teachers do not build themselves up, but are heaped up by those who desire false doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3).

We ought not to be dumbfounded when a man or woman becomes famous for their heretical teachings. This happens precisely because of those who claim Christ, yet cannot endure sound doctrine. This likewise happens for unbelievers in general who laud key figures confirming what they wish to hear. Yet the truly pernicious thing is when biblically faithful men and women remain silent as fools leap headlong into folly. What measure of love is this that allows another to go unchallenged upon the path to hell?

A Final Aside

In the broader culture, there is no such beast as “unbelief” residing in the hearts of mankind. Rather, all men worship. The key difference is what the object of that worship is. For most, the prominent object of that worship is self. Is it truly shocking to see the natural conclusion of self-worship being a god concocted in the image portrayed by the false teacher? No. Is it even shocking when lovers-of-self flock to such a contrived, false god? Not in the least.

Regardless of one’s disposition, the church is called to be a voice of reason and truth in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. We do so with much grace, knowing those whom we speak to are blinded by sin – yet in some cases, we do so with firmness and without apology. Unrepentant, false teachers are due no measure of “niceness” as they seek to destroy the household of God.

At some point we must realize no measure of “niceness” will turn about people’s opinion of us as we hold firmly to sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is itself a stumbling block to many. It is repulsive to those who love falsehood. It is repulsive to the broader culture. I continue to ask in all of this why some of Christ’s bride continues to entertain the wolf. Many sound teachers have no qualms in naming names, yet you’ll find their books in congregant’s homes. False teachers pervert the grace of God, preach a false gospel, devote themselves to the teachings of demons, and deny our Lord and Master. Call. Them. Out. Have nothing to do with them.

Even if a broken clock is right twice a day – why not simply buy a new clock that functions in the manner intended?

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  • Tianzhu

    Great Lewis quote about Christ:
    “He was not at all like the psychologist’s picture of the integrated, balanced, adjusted popular citizens. You can’t really be very well ‘adjusted’ to your world if it says you ‘have a devil’ and ends by nailing you up to a stake of wood.”

    Jesus definitely did not institute a Cult of Niceness.

  • bmayer504

    I affirm that those who do not affirm orthodoxy should be named and specific reasons should be given as to why those individuals should be given that label. At the same time, what is the boundary between legitimate disagreement and false-teaching? I have seen individuals described as false teachers because they affirm amillennialism as opposed to premillennialism. That is ridiculous and to the point where things can turn into a witch-hunt. When things like this happen, it is not pretty. It is harmful to the church and to fellow believers.

    • bereanresearcher

      Easy to settle. Forget the “dispensations” <= not Biblical. (not even mentioned in the Scripture).
      And go with The Covenants that IS Biblical.

      I personally am a "pan-millennialist"

      I will wait as Jesus Iesous Y'shua told us to do in John 17.
      Meanwhile read the last Chapter of Revelation.

      Let's see how this pans out shall we?

      We will be going through more than just discrimination we will be persecuted and perhaps martyred.
      The preachings of the love of money Darby and Scofield started in the 1800s is effecting in a damaging way the church's following heresy.
      The easy way out.

      Fortunately one of the greatest of theologians, the contemporary of Darby and Scofield, was against their lies — C.H. Spurgeon.

  • rtgmath

    “Scripture is quite candid in divulging how we are to deal with false teachers. We first must test teachers to ensure they are not bearing false witness (1 Jn. 4:1-6).”

    Which is much more than just a cursory “listen” to see whether it agrees with your understanding. Testing teachers is also testing yourself. Perhaps you don’t know as much about Scripture as you think you do? Jesus was called a heretic and blasphemer when his doctrine deviated from that of the scribes and pharisees.

    I, myself, consider Calvinism to be a serious heresy. Of course, in the bloody wars that ensued, Calvinism was able to forcibly assert its stance and decry other positions as heretical.

    So here’s the question. Can one be saved if they believe “wrongly” about some things? For example, I believe that Adam and Eve were archetypes and metaphorical, not literal. Yet I believe in my personal sin, my need of a Savior, and the sufficiency of Christ. By my account, I have been and am now “saved.” By the standards of others I am a heretic with a destiny of hell fire.

    I fear that heretic hunting will do little more than burning believers whom Christ has saved — and put to disrepute the (actually heretical) orthodoxy of the ones trying to assert their theological power.

    • Karin Isbell

      If you seriously studied Calvinism, you’d change your mind. Calvinists are descendants of those, called Puritans, who left monarchic faith-suppressing England in order to be able to serve God, in a considerably small boat, called the “Mayflower”.

      • Bill Scudder

        Puritans also hung a lot of women as witches and were very cruel to those that did not follow their rules

        • Robin Warchol

          The Salem witch trials ought to be a total embarrassment. They had though a warm up trial that resulted in the death of an innocent woman named Ann Goody Glover. She was a Irish Catholic that could barely speak English and was a captured slave (yes those Puritans also owned slaves/servants) and was accused of being a witch because she was Catholic and refused to renounce her faith. Cotton Mather harassed her while she awaited trial. Because she could barely speak English and recited the Lord’s Prayer with a mixture of Gaelic and Latin, they killed her for being a “witch”. Nice people, great Calvinist role models.

      • Robin Warchol

        Correction please. The Christians on Mayflower were not Puritans but Separatists and wanted nothing to do with the Church of England. They were not Calvinists as you are claiming here. The Puritans who followed after the Pilgrims became the dominate force in Colonial America. If you are proud of them, God help you because Increase and Cotton Mather ought to be an embarrassment in more ways than one.

  • The Old Testament gives examples of false prophets who propped up an evil and deceitful ruler, claiming that the deceitful ruler acted in the name of God. If we follow the arguments from the Old Testament, we don’t just focus on doctrine but on political manipulations, on those claiming to act as voices to support ungodly rulers. So in the USA we must call out religious leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Robert Jeffress, James Dobson and others who bend scriptures for their own political gain and tell Christians they should support Trump. False prophets may *pretend* to follow a certain orthodoxy while bending it to their own political gain and so making a joke out of the Gospel of Christ.

  • bereanresearcher

    False “liberation theologists” who follow their father of liars, thieves, and murderers.

    Look at the Opening Page Dedication!

    Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky

    http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/communism/alinsky.htm

    Quotes and Excerpts from Rules for Radicals By Saul Alinsky – 1971 [See the article]

    “…
    Opening page – Dedication

    “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history… the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”

    Prologue

    “The Revolutionary force today has two targets, moral as well as material. Its young protagonists are one moment reminiscent of the idealistic early Christians, yet they also urge violence and cry, ‘Burn the system down!’ They have no illusions about the system, but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world. It is to this point that I have written this book.”
    …”
    We now see yet another generation who has fallen for this social-injustice falsehood.

    It’s time to be Biblical Christians to expose post-modern “church group thinking” that has crept into our churches.

  • Lynne Douglas

    There is an abundance of false teaching going on these days, and some of it from the mouths of preachers right in church on Sundays! Far too many ministers/priests/pastors are
    revisionists, “revising” the Bible to conform to their own political agenda. Having a homosexual sibling who “marries” a same-sex person is no excuse for telling a congregation that
    the latest Supreme Court ruling validating same-sex “marriage” must be condoned. One can love a sibling without celebrating the sin. This politically correct nonsense has entered
    the realm of insanity, and needs to be gone. “Tolerate” is not a synonym for condone, either. We desperately need a dose of reality and plain old honesty.

  • David_Troughton

    What about Franklin Graham and genocide?