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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Whistle Blower or Slanderer?

I don't really know where to put this post, and I know it is very long, but this is something that is on my heart and has been for some time. When do we blow the whistle on someone in the church who is doing wrong? Does this ever become slander? These are questions I have wrestled with for the past couple of years. I have to honestly admit, I have been guilty of participating in slander, not because I enjoyed doing it, but I thought I was doing something right. Then I realized I was talking in a negative way about some Christians because other Christians were saying those things about them. I was just copying what I heard, not what I knew to be true (I had not researched the subject enough to know what was true and was wasn't).

Whistle Blower or Slanderer?

   In the circles I am in, there is a lot of talk today about false prophets, false teachers and heresy. This seems to be a lively topic in many of the forums I’m part of. What is it about this subject that is so intriguing anyway?
   The Bible instructs us on dealing with heresy and false teachers. I found some verses relating to this subject here (
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 ESV
“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” Romans 16:17,18 ESV
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15
“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 1:10

   So, the Bible addresses the problem of heresy and gives us instruction on how to respond to it. We don’t invite false teachers into our homes (making them feel welcomed), we are to avoid them, and beware of them. The apostles knew that when they would be gone from the churches they established, that these ‘wolves’ would come in to destroy the flock, so they prepared the churches they were writing to for that time.
   Before I get to the next point of this article, I want to clarify the fact that the church today, especially as we see it lived out in America, is much different than it was in its beginning days. Part of that has to do with the advancement of technology, but some of it has to do with the way society has evolved down through the years. This makes it harder for us to understand just exactly how heresy affects the church today. For example, we could have a profession Christian singer who has come out of the closet and announced that he is Gay and not ashamed of it. How do we deal with that as a local church? Many times, the professing Christian singer isn’t part of a church. Or he may be part of a church that doesn’t value sound doctrine and will not deal with the issue of immorality. So what do we do to help this person see his sin? Sadly, there really isn’t any valid place for him to get help unless he wants it and is asking for it.
   In a normal church setting, the directions in Matthew 18 will be carried out. The professing Christian singer would be confronted with his sin. He would be forced to deal with the issues at hand, whether to repent or to continue in sin. Further steps could be taken such as telling this issue to the whole church and finally excommunication. That is the way situations like this Christian singer should be handled, but unfortunately, the body of Christ as a unit is not strong enough to carry out this work of service. Plus, as I said earlier, many people won’t get involved in a church for a variety of reasons.
   So, that takes us to another step that really isn’t in the Bible, and that is to take what this person is doing and communicate it to the church community, in whatever ways this community uses to communicate with. I have seen this one as well. I have seen a Godly man who has a profound ministry and who has worked with similar ministries and build friendships with people in those ministries. That part of it is great. These people worked together in ministry (although their ministries were separate) and learned from each other while supporting each other. Then one day, this Godly man decided that certain Christians that disagreed with him about a theological issue, were heretics and believed in another god. The other party tried to work with him but he wasn’t willing to respond. What was wrong with this picture? The two parties should have worked to resolve the issue. But what ended up happening was that people who supported both of these ministries, were made aware of the division that had occurred. In that particular kind of ministry, there is now a division. Word of this division spread quickly through forums such as Facebook and blogs. This whole issue should have been handled through the local church.
  People make mistakes and go astray. That is why we are called sheep, and why we have a shepherd. You might be asking at this point, what does this have to do with whistle blowing?
   Here is the issue; We have great technology today. I can share the Gospel with someone around the world in five minutes or less. With this technology though, there are trade offs. One of them is that the door is open for us to slander. We are all tempted to slander. Something in our wicked hearts loves to talk about other people, and even put them in a bad light. We light to spend time picking people apart. Many times we think we are whistle blowing when we are really slandering.
  When Harold Camping made his predictions of the day the world would end, he was the talk of the town. Many, many posts on Facebook discussed his so called prophesy. No harm done. We need to discuss things like this. But there comes a time when we are beating a dead horse. How many times do we have to rehash this issue? It is not only this one. I see posts every day about some new false teacher. When does whistle blowing become slander?
   I don’t know how many times I have seen things like this; Rick Warren is a false teacher, Joyce Meyer is a heretic, Phillips, Craig, and Dean are heretics. Come on. If they are heretics (and it is possible that they are), why isn’t the reason given for their being a heretic? I see names coming up all the time, followed by ‘is a false teacher’. How do you know? Why is there so much time spent on this? There are ministries that specialize in this subject and it seems that we should just let them do their job and use their resources when needed. And when the communication of a heretic is done, it doesn’t have to be rehashed or recycled.
   Someone posted a book on Facebook, that he was using in a Bible study. It was written by a well known Christian pastor. He was recommending the book, and there were several comments that followed his post. One woman implied that this pastor was not a true Christian. The poster asked her if she had ever read any of his books, to which she replied that she didn’t have time for that. The conversation continued. It was apparent that this woman who was accusing this pastor of not being a true Christian, didn’t have anything to back her claim. I am sure I know what happened. She heard other Christians say that this pastor was not a true Christian, so she felt a freedom to do this. Never do this though. If you are sure a person is a false teacher or heretic, research the person and find out for yourself before you make a claim that the person is a heretic.
   Yes, there are times to bring heresy out in the open. There are false teachers out there that would love to destroy the Gospel that you love. They are very subtle. They will come up with statements that will make you think and will put doubt in your minds about what is true. For example, there is a college professor named Dr. James Tabor, who resides, I believe in North Carolina. He teaches on religion and holds to the conviction that Jesus never claimed to be God. The reason I bring this up is because Dr. Tabor is an authority on the subject of the Bible. But if you are in his class, he will teach you things that will destroy your faith, and he will teach this subject with such authority that you could be swept into his belief system. This is an example of exposing the teaching of a false teacher. Bringing it to people’s attention who could be affected by this deception is what we are called to do. Now does that give me a right to post on Facebook that Dr. James Tabor is a heretic? Bringing the subject up is one thing. Beating it into the ground and repeating this action ends up undermining my original intention.
   What I am trying to communicate is that we need to be careful. Are we whistle blowing or slandering? We might start out whistle blowing, but if we don’t check out our own hearts, we could end up slandering, and justifying our slander. Not good.
   The church needs some whistle blowing. It is good for the church. We need to be careful though, that we don’t start calling people ‘heretics’ because we have a different theological position than they do (I’m talking about convictions here mainly). There are some doctrines that we are not going to agree with others on (infant baptism, spiritual gifts, election, head coverings, etc.) and it is ok that we have differences in these areas. What is not ok, is when we divide over these issues. I understand that some Christians believe that once a person is a Christian, they won’t battle with sin anymore, so that professing Christian who is battling hard with sin is a false convert. We need to be careful in that too, for we all are going through the process of sanctification, and none of us are going to get it all right, at least while we are on earth. The Bible gives a warning; To him who thinks he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.
  We are so blind to our own sin! Instead of picking on a ‘heretic’ or ‘false teacher’ why don’t we pray for him or her? What is in us that enjoys watching someone doing something wrong, and reporting it to others? Is our goal really to protect the church, or is it to be critical of someone else and justify it?
   Here is a quick test you can do to check your heart on the issue of whistle blowing/slander. Look at the posts you put out on Face Book or Twitter. Take note at the blogs you enjoy reading. What percentage of your posts are 'warnings' about heretics or false teachers? What are the forums or blogs you enjoy reading? Let's guard our hearts and do our part to edify the body of Christ.
   "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29

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