Discernment: Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth or Theological Hair-Splitting?

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.  [Matthew 7:15-20]*

These (those in Berea) were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things [taught by Paul] were so.   [Acts 17:11]

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and discernment,

that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.  [Philippians 1:9-10]

Test all things; hold fast what is good.  [1 Thessalonians 5:21]

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false spirits have gone out into the world.   [1 John 4:1]

According to A.W. Tozer, the biggest need for the Church is for the gift of discernment.  (K. Neill Foster, The Discerning Christian, Harrisburg: Christian Publications, 1981, p. 11)  I’m not sure if I agree.

To be more specific, I’m not sure that I agree with Tozer referring to discernment as a “gift,” which implies that some believers may have it and some may not.  In 1 Corinthians 12:10, Paul writes about “discerning of spirits” as a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit.  Such manifestations are occasional, not general, sovereign manifestations of the Holy Spirit, “distributing to each one individually, as He wills.” [1 Corinthians 12:11]  The Bible Knowledge Commentary suggests as the application of this passage, that such manifestations are so that congregations can tell whether or not someone speaking to them is teaching truth or error. (Vol. 2, p. 533)

Such an interpretation ignores not merely the immediate context, but the broader context of the canon of Scripture.  I believe the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary more accurately defines the manifestation as the supernatural ability to determine whether other supernatural manifestations originated with the Holy Spirit or demons. (p. 458)

I believe it is more appropriate to say that the biggest need for the Church is the DISCIPLINE of discernment.  Or more succinctly, God, speaking to us through His word, requires all believers be more obedient in exercising discernment. This is not an occasional manifestation of the Holy Spirit, but rather an obligation which every believer should be expected to develop and utilize on a consistent and continuing basis.

Unfortunately, we live in an age, as I noted in a previous entry, where believers take the easy way out.  Instead of being Berean believers, who check out everything to be sure it lines up with the word of God, the Church has become, for the most part, a gaggle of itching ears waiting to be tickled by the latest theological whim.  We could rightly call this the flavor or book of the month club.   One month the trend will be why Christian leaders should be modeling the seven habits of effective Mormonism advanced by Steven Covey.   The next month we will be seeking to find our purpose in life from that surfer-guru Rick Warren.  Following that we will chant the mantra of Jabez while the women folk are downing a dose of name-it/claim-it denial of the Gospel from theological/intellectual lightweights like Joyce Meyer/Beth Moore/Gwen Shamblin.  The pretty package of theological apostasy is wrapped up in the ecumenical syncretism of Promise Keepers and Women of Faith with no clear proclamation of Biblical truth.  The bow is provided by Benny Hinn’s denial of the Triune nature of God and the package is placed under the tree of “Contemplative Spirituality/Spiritual Formation”–a bastardized syncretistic blend of Hinduism and Christianity promoted by Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, with the help of Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Brian MacLaren, and a host of so-called Bible colleges and seminaries [such as my alma mater Lincoln Christian University].

In 2007, in a Sunday school class I attended at the time, I almost lost my breakfast when some woman who must not have a neural synapse functioning said that the way to deal with temptation was to chant the name of Jesus over and over–like it was some sort of mantra that would magically protect her from harm.  The spiritual nausea increased when the Sunday school teacher, an elder in the congregation, did nothing to correct this heresy.  I repeat, an elder, one who has been charged with the responsibility to protect the congregation from error, did absolutely NOTHING to rebuke this promoter of heresy.

I quickly jumped into the fray with the comment that the Biblical standard for dealing with temptation is to flee the temptation, but the elder quickly spun this to a rather anemic, “Well, that might work for you. . . .” In other words, the elder held that the ultimate standard for theological orthodoxy and orthopraxy was pragmatism, not the Word of God.

Where did this woman learn this heresy?  She was proud to admit she learned all her spiritual disciplines from that Jezebel of apostasy Joyce Meyer.

It is interesting to note that many of the false teachers I have named have a uniform reaction to any Biblical examination of their pompous posturing: shoot the messenger. Most of the time it is to proclaim a curse against dissenters by claiming “you shall not touch the Lord’s anointed.”  Their followers manifest the same sociopathy.  If you disagree with their dogmatic assertions, it is because you are a “toxic person,” and “chronic whiner,” “a cancer within the church,” or some other such pejorative intended to demean those who oppose them.  In other words, they claim to be above examination, immune from any need for correction—an arrogation of Divine prerogative that not even Peter or Paul were presumptuous enough to claim for themselves.

It isn’t enough that Christians practice discernment. We must be prepared to implement discipline whenever, wherever, and upon whomever it is necessary.

If churches insist on promoting heresy, whether it be pro-homosexual antinomianism, the syncretism of Renovare [the organization for which Richard Foster and Dallas Willard are spokesmen], the cheap grace pelagianism and universalism of Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, or the polytheism of Benny Hinn, we must not only be prepared to denounce it in clear, unequivocal [and if necessary, public] terms, but to seek to have the congregational leadership promoting the heresy removed.  Failing such measures, Christians should abandon such heretical congregations for churches which honor and teach the pure Word of God without the accretions and corruptions of men.

If so-called Christian bookstores insist on promoting and selling heretical materials such as the whole Purpose-Driven cult paraphernalia of Rick Warren, or the whole Beth Moore syncretistic blend of name-it-claim-it/spiritual formations garbage, Christians should be prepared to boycott those stores until they remove the refuse from their shelves.

Unfortunately, as I noted earlier, the responses in such churches is the familiar tactic known as “shooting the messenger.” In debate, this is known as an ad hominem (“to the man”) argument.  When one cannot disprove one’s opponents logic or facts in a debate, the tactic of last resort is to attack one’s opponent personally.  Those who use it usually lose the debate because judges recognize the ad hominem argument for what it is. False teachers, not having any solid basis in Scripture for their heresies, always attack their critics personally.  Benny Hinn, promoting his heresies courtesy of sycophant and crony Paul Crouch and his TBN satellite network, announced his desire to kill his critics.  Steven Strang, publisher of the pseudo-Christian tabloid Charisma, has echoed the same unBiblical sentiments.

Rick Warren sends out people to train congregations embarking on his “Forty Days of Purpose” nonsense to identify and weed out congregational members who oppose the agenda and to train congregations to marginalize those people who have discernment and drive them out BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY.  Documents prepared by Warren and his cult encourage congregations to even use slander, and intimidation to eliminate opposition to Warren’s cult and his agenda of perverting the gospel.§

Of course this pattern follows Bible prophecy, which states that as the time of the end draws closer, people would love falsehood more than truth and that they would not endure the teaching of sound doctrine and would instead prefer the teachings wrought by deceiving spirits. [1 Timothy 4:1-32 Timothy 4:3-4]

We are called to reject such. [Romans 16:17;  2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14Titus 3:102 John 10]

*Unless noted otherwise, all Bible references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

§See the following articles:





About davestheology

I found a book that was kind of worn, But to my surprise, not a page was torn; It had a title, that I could not read, "Red Letter Edition" was all I could see.
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2 Responses to Discernment: Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth or Theological Hair-Splitting?

  1. Vicky says:

    What is the true heresy? I have recently discovered a new book that exposes a heresy in the early days of Christianity. In his new book,Cover-Up: How the Church Silenced Jesus’s True Heirs , Lawrence Goudge proposes that “Today’s mainstream church is the true heretic since it adopted the new religion of the dying God which arose from Paul’s visions. Peter James and John and their heirs, the Jewish followers of Jesus rejected it. Preserving the beliefs and practices of Jesus. they strove to create the kingdom of God here on earth. A new book, Cover-Up: How the Church Silenced Jesus’s True Heirs, exposes the church’s hypocrisy in first silencing those who truly followed Jesus and then exterminating them, just as they did the Cathars. Mr. Goudge does the world a service in revealing who to followers of
    Jesus were. Then I found the book at: http://tinyurl.com/69cazll.”

    • In looking at Goudge’s credentials, there is nothing in his academic background which qualifies him to be taken seriously. In the first place, he has no academic background beyond a bachelor’s degree in journalism. That right there shows that his academic background is not in anything requiring hard research of the nature required to earn advanced degrees–especially in more intellectually rigorous fields such as archaeology, cognate languages, and systematic theology.
      Secondly, his employment background is for some third-rate newspaper in Scarborough, Canada–he has no credentials recognized by any news organization with a solid reputation for investigative journalism such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or the Washington Post.
      More importantly, many of the so-called “evidences” he prints, are merely repeated arguments plagiarized from the already discredited Jesus Seminar.
      If you are truly looking for truth–you need to read writings from people with established credentials in the field being addressed and not dilettantes who claim scholastic credentials but who, in reality, have none.
      I would suggest you read from people who have done first hand research in the field such as The Word Became Flesh by Millard Erickson, What Have They Done with Jesus by Ben Witherington III, The Jesus Quest by Ben Witherington III, along with The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament edited by Daniel B. Wallace, and Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture by J. Ed Komoszewsky, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace.
      However, it sounds to me, given the aura of infallibility the tenor of your remarks have already invested Goudge with, no matter how sparse his qualifications are, that you will not be persuaded by solid research from recognized authorities in the field of study.

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