"Ye shalt locate false teachers from online evidence or in person whilst they preacheth and drive public campaigns against them. Making sure everyone knows just how shocking they are, thou shalt pick at the teaching of others and bring to light their heretic ways. Attack their theology in any way it does not align with thine own personal theology. Ye are free to call them names, label them and destroy their ministries. This is pleasing to me." Said God, never.
The internet is full of articles and videos of preachers and teachers. With the growth of online information and access, grows the online presence of trolls, haters, and those who believe it is their calling to discredit others based on their own personal interpretation of the Bible quoting "obvious verses" to back their case.
Named and labelled
I carried out my own 'false teacher' search. Included in one website, Brian Houston is accused of 'Pleasure Christianity'. He and his wife are labelled "unBiblical" as leaders because there were no married leaders serving together in the Bible. He is also listed because 'fun' is unbiblical.
The same website named Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Bill Johnson and Kenneth Copeland. These men are labelled "Bottom of the Barrel – A motley crew of demonic mockers". thepathoftruth.com
The next website I found explains that Joel Osteen "is a pretty-boy philosopher who rarely teaches the Bible" and Rick Warren "teaches lukewarm, sour milk to his sycophantic parasites". freeworldfilmworks.com
I also found many a website that labels CS Lewis an antichrist, pagan mythologist and heretic.
Such kind words.
In Biblical times, if it were available, Jesus, Peter and Paul would have been the subjects of many 'FALSE TEACHER EXPOSED!' websites. (With all probability the sites would have been managed and funded by Pharisees.)
What is a false teacher?
The Bible says; they hold you back from the truth by teaching the Law, their intentions are not good, they have evil teaching and shameful immorality, they are greedy, are like unthinking animals and they brag about themselves and lure those free from sin right back into it.
In Galatians 5 Paul speaks about freedom, "Freedom is what we have—Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again" (verse 1). He then speaks about the Law in verse 4, "Those of you who try to be put right with God by obeying the Law have cut yourselves off from Christ. You are outside God's grace."
That's a big statement right there. One we easily read and pass by. God's Grace is a gift, so in effect we are saying no to a gift to be distracted by the Law.
So, what then is the Law?
Paul says, "For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God." (Galatians 2 verse 19) "For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die." (Galatians 2 verse 21)
In Paul's time the false teachers were hindering the Christians from obeying the truth of the gospel with all their talk about joining the Jewish people and keeping the law. All those who take the church off on a tangent, away from the clear direction given by the central truth of the gospel, are like these false teachers.
Anything we need to DO in order to; get closer, go higher, strive further and push in through our own strength and determination to get something spiritually that has already been freely given to us through Christ, is essentially, 'Law'.
My brush with the Law
I gasp in my heart thinking that we are missing the real freedom Jesus has for us. The true message of freedom.
In my life I have been burdened with the Law of false teachers. You've probably heard the teaching. "Your Christian walk will always be a battle." "You will always 'struggle' with sin." "You constantly need to cleanse, purge, seek forgiveness and plead with God to take away your sin." "You need to dig deeper with God." "You need to satisfy this 5 point plan sermon to get closer to God." "The next step for you is learning to speak in tongues, now go and practise in the shower." "Apologise for what Great Uncle Harold did in 1937 and you will be free."
When I hear these things now, I feel like I should go pick up a bucket of Law and drag it round with me, living a suffering burdensome Christian life of pleading with God not to hate me and allowing me just one step closer to Him. When I heard those things back then? Eventually a spiritual depression set in. It makes you tired.
People who teach the Law are the false teachers. And sadly, many don't even realise they are teaching it. It generally sounds 'good'.
Can we all live alongside one another with the central truth of the gospel as our one uniting cord tying us together? We feel the need to incorrectly label those who are preaching the central truth of the gospel, while overlooking the Law Teaching which is so prevalent in the church.
Bishop TD Jakes says, "We are taught in our society that if we disagree within a movement, we leave ... we sever." "I believe that until we bridge the gap between our thinking, and humble both sides and say 'we're both attempting to describe a God we love, that we serve and that we have not seen, and that we are viewing Him through the context of the Scriptures but that with a glass darkly' – why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you when all that I know and understand, be it very Orthodox, is still through a glass darkly?" (christianpost.com)
We should be discussing, sharing, challenging thinking (hopefully with respect) and being open to changing our own view or understanding. This is the organic nature of Scripture and God and our lives intertwined.
Our personal theology is continually moulding and forming. If we look back on our lives, we can see that some of our thoughts and understandings of the past differs quite a lot with todays. Realising this about ourselves may give us some insight and grace knowing that everyone is on this moulding journey.
Belinda Croft has been writing for Press Service International since 2010. She lives in Melbourne with her husband Russell and their three children. Her passion for understanding the things of God in simple ways, social justice and news issues influence her writing style.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html