“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
New International Version
It’s been a while.
For the last two-and-a-half months, I’ve been on hiatus. Academic obligations means my writing skills are needed elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean that God quit speaking while I was pounding the keys. Now that the end of my first semester as a grad student is over, I can actually sit down, and write something that doesn’t involve my MLA handbook.
While I’ve been indisposed, I’ve found myself examining certain aspects of my walk, namely this blog. One of the main reasons why BCF was founded, was to confront, examine, and ultimately reveal actions, behaviors, and teachings that are antithetical to the Kingdom of God. Some of them we recognize the minute we see them, others, like The Enemy who sired them, are more pervasive and subtle. Unfortunately, it’s those inobvious ones that cause the most trouble. Why? Because they challenge people’s comfort zones, both religious and secular, but for the point of this essay I’m sticking with the religious.
In Matthew 24:24, Christ leaves humanity with the following prophetic warning -
“For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
For the last two-thousand years, we’ve been seeing this come to pass. As Solomon once said ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and organized religion – like any institution – is open to influence if not overt control by The Enemy. So long as people harbor cravings for wealth, power, and status the Devil has a base of operations – just look at the Pharisees. The teaching and practice of false doctrine has very real consequences, and the fruits born from these heresies is why the modern Christian faith is dying. According to former evangelical Christine Wicker, nearly a thousand people a day leave the church, and the majority don’t come back.
Those of us who – like our non-Christian counterparts – can see the forest for the trees within the church, are persecuted, and kicked out for refusing to drink the false doctrine kool-aid. When the only choices are agreeing with The Enemy, especially after seeing him in all his terrible glory, or taking your chances in the wilderness – nine times out of ten its going to be a trip through the woods. For those who remain under spiritual bondage and oppression, their choice is to either continue believing the lie after seeing the truth, or taking a hike themselves. Nine times out of ten, they’re going to stick it out in the sulfur and fire.
Because those who resist false teachings, are accused of being against God when the opposite is true, and those earnestly seeking the kingdom are then manipulated into swallowing The Lie. At no point does The Enemy want to run the risk of someone seeing The Truth, and coming from under his control and power. As a result, those of us who speak out are accused of being ‘divisive’, simply for doing what we are commanded to do which is test everything we see, hear, or read to see if it lines up with the gospel. However, if upon testing the teaching proves to be utterly wrong, then we must speak. In Colossians 2:8, Paul writes -
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
Right now, Christianity is mired in chaos because of the strange fruit borne by false teachings, and gross misinterpretations of scripture. Individuals like Mark Driscoll, Pat Robertson, Voddie Bauchum, Doug Phillips, Phylis Schalafly, and countless others are perverting the gospels. Shouting down their critics by accusing them of heresy, while touting their own spiritual ‘righteousness’. Their arguments based on twisted interpretations of the Bible, that even non-Christian people know are counterfeit. Patriarchy, Complementarianism, Quiverfull – none of these so-called ‘Christian movements’ have anything to do with Christ other than using His name to validate their poisonous teachings.
For example, take Voddie Baucham who teaches that the reason why older men pursue younger women is because they -
“…yearn for attention from younger women. And God gave them a daughter who can give them that.”
There is nothing biblical whatsoever in that statement, in fact when we go to the word, we find that men leave their wives for younger women for sexual reasons. At no point does scripture say it was because they wanted a surrogate daughter. When confronted with his heresy, rather than go to the Word and God to see for himself, Baucham went on the offensive, and claimed – as predicted – that his critics weren’t ‘real’ Christians. You can read his response for yourself, but the fact remains that his teachings don’t line up with scripture. Also, only one critic in the forty-five blogs I reviewed prior to this post, accused him of promoting incest, while the rest concentrated solely on the fallacies of his message. However, pulling out a red herring like that in order to shout people down is a dialectical tactic as old as language itself, and its called epideixis or ‘praise and blame’.
How it works is the person receiving the criticism “blames” the critics, and attacks their credibility and character. In turn, they praise themselves and those who agree with them because they’ve ‘got it right’. In reality, it’s just The Enemy trying to keep people asleep, so they don’t wake up, and start asking questions. Why? To keep people separate from God. Those who follow these modern Pharisees may look, act, and say the “right” things they have been taught are indicative of a “true” Christian, but they run the risk of not having the one thing that matters most -
An authentic, interactive relationship with the living God.
This is why Christ cautioned us to beware the ‘leavening’ of these folks, as outlined in Matthew 16:6, and why we are commanded to speak out against them – in love. By pointing out The Enemy amongst us, and refusing to collude or agree with him we force him to flee from us (James 4:7). Not only that, we prevent our brothers and sisters from stumbling because of those who are misleading them, purposefully or otherwise.
False teachings, when you get down to their core, negate many of the tenets their peddlers claim to embody. Typically, the first ones to go are mercy and grace, in exchange for shame and guilt who are passed off as the former. They return followers to a life of bondage under the law by making them subject to the rules of men, instead of God, and thus keep them from entering the Kingdom. That last one applies to secular folks as well, because they can see these religious snake oil salesmen for what they are. Unfortunately, they are denied the opportunity to experience the real thing for themselves, and turn from the living God believing Him to be something other. As a result, The Enemy scores two hits for the price of one bad teaching.
“But,” you argue. “They use scripture!”
So did the Devil when Christ was out in the desert for forty days. Specifically, he used it out of context in order to suit his own agenda, which was to get Jesus to cross over to the Dark Side. Yet, the teachings of Christ are divisive, but not in the destructive way of The Enemy. His open people’s eyes, gives them wisdom, and the ability to see when the Devil is walking among them, not as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), but as a quiet snake hoping to pass by unnoticed. As we press in to God, adopting the culture and beliefs of the Kingdom, we become separate – in the world, but not of it (John 17:16).
We must also be willing to have courage when dealing with those amongst us who are sowing the seeds of ‘strange fruit’ (Hebrews 13:9). After all, scripture teaches us in 1 Timothy 4:1-2 -
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.”
And in 1 Timothy 5:17 -
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.“
So, what do we do?
For one, if we are truly waking up from the religious kool-aid, and speaking out per the mandate of scripture then we need to make sure our criticisms are actually biblical, and not based on personal opinion. Two, we must never attack, but always speak out in the interest of aiding the person spiritually. Not just shouting them down, or giving ground to The Enemy who has them under his power by acting rudely. This will simply reinforce his control, and validate the person’s false beliefs. Third, we must know the word, and the context in which it was written. This means that in the natural world, we need to know the history of our own religion, and what the sociocultural forces were at work when the gospels were penned.
If someone is peddling false doctrine, and leading others to adopt a false Christian identity forged from a clearly worldly definition of righteousness we cannot remain silent. After all, is it truly better to remain silent in the face of The Enemy, simply because doing otherwise might cause us to appear ‘divisive’? Traditionally, when division has occurred in the church, it was due to a brave minority who dared to speak out against obvious wrongs. Many of these people, died, but their actions sowed seeds that eventually freed millions from demonic oppression. However, that struggle to free the church from the influences of The Enemy is still ongoing. Just because people aren’t being put on the rack, doesn’t mean they’re not coming under attack. After all, as they say in the television series Falling Skies -
Resist or Die.
In this case, however, the death is eternal.
**The title is German for ‘The Hand That Feeds’.