Monday, April 02, 2007

the enemy within

The excellent posts at Against Heresies help me as I wrestle with how to walk among false teachers within the church. Here is the most recent article in its entirety. It is a quote from David Wells in By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification by Johnson and Waters.
"It has always been the case that the church has had to struggle with aberrant views in its midst. Indeed, the apostle Paul goes so far as to say that 'there must be factions [heresies] among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized" (1 Cor. 11:19).

What is so different, when compared with our more recent history, is that these aberrant views on matters so central and fundamental are not outside the evangelical church but inside it. Not only so, but today these views are masquerading as something they are not. They are offered in all innocence as Christian orthodoxy, whereas, in fact, they come out of a different universe.

What we have is church practice that obliterates the underlying understanding of truth, a methodology for success without too many references to any truth, and a sense that what was once so important in the life of the church can be left behind, unexplored, unappropriated, and without consequences.
The Church is under attack from within. It includes challenges to the doctrine of justification as intended in the above but it reaches beyond that to every aspect of Christian living and doctrine. But Jesus seems cool about it all. Matthew records Him saying,
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’

Then [Jesus] left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
So the wheat and the weeds are growing together in the world and Jesus warns against trying to pull the weeds. But what of the weeds growing up in the Church? I think Jesus was addressing our response in the world. In regard to the Church, Wayne Grudem says it well.
... the New Testament encourages us to work for the purity of the church in all of these areas. Christ’s goal for the church is “that he might sanctify her having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:26–27). Paul’s ministry was one of “warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Moreover, Paul told Titus that elders must “be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9), and he said that false teachers “must be silenced” (Titus 1:11). Jude urged Christians to “contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Proper use of the sacraments is commanded in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34, and right use of church discipline to protect the purity of the church is required in 1 Corinthians 5:6–7, 12–13.
What does this look like? I'm not completely sure. It probably does not look like blog posts such as mine proclaiming the error of the Pyromaniacs. On the other hand, it probably at least looks like confronting those within your local Church that would teach error. So once again I have fallen into the same trap as many others. The public watchdog and the watchdog of the watchdogs is an ugly and un-Biblical thing. We need elders, men who are grounded in Scriptural truth, to shepherd God's people in the way of righteousness. This is done quietly in the context of community. This is NOT done as a public spectacle via a blog, radio program, book, etc..

When doing so, we demonstrate to the world that we are not changed. However, when we lovingly build each other up and grow together in Christ-likeness, then the world sees something different - something that demonstrates the power of God rather than human wisdom and strength of will. I contend that my statements in that post are accurate but I realize that they are not appropriate.

The folks at Pyromaniacs are not only wrong in what they teach but also in their manner of teaching/confronting. I joined their ranks in the latter sin and in doing so, I did not demonstrate the power of the Kingdom. I am sorry.

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