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Section 7... Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian/
The Christian And Knowledge/ Theology and Doctrine. Part II

 

 003white Section 7.. Living The Faith       >       Index To  A Christian And Knowledge       >      Theology and Doctrine II    

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The Christian and Knowledge:
 Theology and Doctrine. Part II

Carol Brooks

PART I: Introduction: Defining Theology and Doctrine, Theology and Doctrine Are For All Christians... The Question is..., "Knowing" or "Experiencing" God, Is Biblical Doctrine Too Difficult To Be Grasped?, Spiritual Babes, Is Doctrine Really That Important?, The Consequences of False Doctrine...it Damns and Destroys and Determines Practice, Doctrine is Essential to Salvation and Evangelization, Religious and Sincere, but Still Wrong: Saul of Tarsus and Apollos.

PART II: Defining Orthodoxy and Heresy, Who Should Judge?, Discerning The Difference, How NOT To Decide What To Believe, How To Decide What To Believe, What About "Spiritual Discernment"?, Does The Heart Have a Role?, Conclusion

 

PART II: ON THIS PAGE

Defining Orthodoxy and Heresy
In the stricter sense "heresy" refers to divisive teachings or practices that deserve condemnation, because they are so far from Biblical teachings, as to be another gospel.

Who Should Judge?
The New Testament directs all Christians to exercise discernment
 

Discerning The Difference
Recognizing the Counterfeit By Getting Familiar With The Genuine

How NOT To Decide What To Believe
Too many Christians, using no discernment whatsoever, rely on faulty, unreliable, and may I say it?... extremely stupid, methods to decide what they are going to believe.

How To Decide What To Believe
the only safe course is for Christians to strictly adhere to the ultimate tool given to enable us to distinguish between those teachings that are true, and those teachings which are not. But, in order to use this tool we have to have to be familiar with it.

What About "Spiritual Discernment"?
Spiritual and doctrinal discernment are not enemies facing each other on a battle field, but are two units of the same army,


Emotions and Feeling

Does The Heart Have a Role?
Christians are not meant to be stoics, indifferent to, or unaffected by, joy, grief, pleasure, or pain. However...

Conclusion
It has to be noted that there is not a single example in the Bible of a godly person's beliefs stemming from their feeling, emotions, or experiences. While the heart, or subjective experiences can play no part in determining what to believe, emotions and feelings are an integral part of what makes us human.

 


Defining Orthodoxy and Heresy
Sects and Factions:
In light of all of the above, it is a good idea to examine the words Orthodoxy and Heresy. Although the concept itself is Biblical, the word "orthodox" is not found in the Bible, but the words "heresy" and "heretic" are. The Greek word hairesis (heresy) is used in slightly different senses, and has been translated accordingly. In Acts 24, the Jews called Christianity a "heresy", (translated sect) which probably meant that they considered it a splinter group that had broken away from the one true God.

    "But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect (hairesis) I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; [Acts 24:14 NASB]

The Sadducees were also called a "heresy", (translated sect) inasmuch as they were a distinct unit within Judaism, distinguished by beliefs that were not common to all.

    But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect (hairesis) of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. [Acts 5:17 NASB]

Paul used the Greek word hairesis when speaking about factions, or divisions in the Corinthian church, which certainly appeared to be Paul's "problem child".

    For there must also be factions (hairesis) among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. [1 Corinthians 11:19 NASB]

Many of these issues were serious. For example the Corinthians were tolerating some really ugly forms of immorality (See 1 Corinthians 5:1). Other divisions were caused by some very foolish, often loutish, behavior, which may not necessarily have condemned, but were not to be tolerated in the church. For example some of the Corinthians were treating the Lord's Supper with a large measure of disrespect and contempt, even showing up drunk [1 Corinthians 11:20-22]

Destructive Teachings
However, for the most part, these divisions, or heresies, were taken very seriously, and said to have grave consequences. In Galatians 5, Paul used hairesis to refer to "deeds of the flesh" and warned that those who practiced such things would not inherit the kingdom of God.

    Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions (hairesis), envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [Galatians 5:19-21 NASB]

 He also said that a "heretic", a person causing divisions in the church, is perverted and self-condemned

    But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious (hairesis) man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. [Titus 3:9-11 NASB]

Peter also spoke about heresies, which included a denial of Christ, that destroy,

    But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies (hairesis), even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. [2 Peter 2:1-3 NASB]

In summary, the word "heresy" in the Bible could refer to either an unfortunate division among Christians which, in a sense, can be seen in the number of Christians denominations in existence. However, in a stricter sense "heresy" refers to divisive teachings or practices that deserve condemnation, because they are so far from Biblical teachings, as to be another gospel.

Levels of Importance
There is no question that some doctrinal issues are more important than others, but it is not always an easy task to tell how far reaching the consequences of a wrong belief may be.

Perhaps the best example of this is the timing of the "Rapture". While I have heard many Christians say that it is a non-crucial issue, I beg to differ, since believing the wrong thing could, at some point, lead to a complete break down of faith. I can but imagine the shock, bitterness, confusion that will result when a pre-tribulation believing Church first finds itself not only face to face with the anti-Christ, but smack bang in the middle of the Great Tribulation. How many will fall away believing that the Bible lied to them?

However, when the going gets really rough, you need to remember that it was not the Bible that lied to you, but perhaps you yourself were more than willing to "accept Jesus" if it wasn't going to cost you anything. Perhaps it was you that wanted to have your ears tickled, therefore you never checked what what the Scriptures said, but cheerfully believed the baloney spewed out by authors of best selling novels, and all other proponents of Easy Christianity. The Bible itself is very clear...there will be no rapture before the Tribulation. [See The Rapture]


There is Only One Standard of Orthodoxy
Calling oneself a Christians, means one is committed to being a follower of Christ, which no one can do unless one acknowledges that the Bible alone is the written Word of God, and is therefore not only  inerrant and infallible, but the final authority in all things spiritual. Since religious leaders and human traditions can be both imperfect and capable of error, all controversial issues in the church are to be resolved based on what the Bible says... Nothing more, nothing less.

    "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:17-19 NASB]

    And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? "For God said, 'honor your father and mother,' and, 'he who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.' "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God," he is not to honor his father or his mother.' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 'this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. 'but in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'" [Matthew 15:3-9 NASB]

Unfortunately many different denominations and/or organizations use their own creed, or written statement of belief, that others are expected to agree with. These creeds are often held up as a standard of orthodoxy by which others are judged faithful or unfaithful. The test of orthodoxy should not necessarily be agreement with any denomination or group's creed, which may differ from the doctrine of the Bible. [See The Problem With Creeds]

    Note: This does not mean that all traditions are based on false doctrine, but that all traditions and beliefs have to agree with what the Bible says.

Deferring to the Bible as the final authority on all things spiritual does it mean that we cannot use words and phrases that are not found in the Scriptures.  For example, the word "transcendent" is not found in the Bible, but is one commonly used in Christian theology to describe God. However, transcendent simply means preeminent or supreme, or being above and independent of the material universe, all of which concepts are found in the Bible. For example...

    one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. [Ephesians 4:6 NASB]

    For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods. [Psalms 97:9 NASB]

Perhaps the best way to define Orthodoxy and Heresy is by saying that

    Orthodoxy is faithful to at least the primary and essential doctrines of Scripture (which does not include some matters such as baptismal methods, and the timing of the rapture. See note). People who are orthodox do not draw inspiration from, listen to the instructions and philosophies of, and/or borrow (or adapt) the practices of any other religions, cults, or any occult sources.

    Heresy, on the other hand is a clear deviation from the primary, and crucial, doctrines, which are the very essence of the Bible. As said by Robert M. Bowman, in his article A Biblical Guide to Orthodoxy and Heresy

      In short, heresy is any doctrine which the Bible explicitly labels as destructive, damning error; or a doctrine which the Bible instructs is not to be tolerated in the church; or any doctrine which, even if not mentioned in the Bible, utterly contradicts those truths which the Bible indicates are essential for sound Christian faith. [10]

    In spite of loud protestations to the contrary, heretics often show their contempt for the God of the Bible by drawing inspiration from, listening to the instructions and philosophies of, and/or borrowing (or incorporating) the customs and practices of other religions and/or cults. Even more condemning is the fact that their beliefs and practices often find root in occult sources.

To be noted is the fact that saying someone is orthodox does not necessarily mean that they are true Christians with the assurance of eternal life. It means that provided they continue in orthodox (Biblical) doctrine, continue trusting in Christ alone for their salvation, and lead holy lives, they will be saved.

Conversely, saying someone is a heretic is not saying they are necessarily lost, nor is it a claim to know their hearts. However, they will be irrevocably condemned if they do not repent and turn from their false doctrines and beliefs, and forsake all other non-Biblical beliefs, practices, and philosophies.


Who Should Judge?
The original intention behind having church leaders was to teach and guide the flock, in addition to disciplining those that strayed (this done by following Biblical guidelines). So what happened? Why aren't more Christian leaders of any substance taking the necessary steps to counter the many heresies prevalent in the church.

Unfortunately, the answer is that many of the problems in the church originate with the leadership. And when the leader ship goes astray, many of the flock do too, which is why James warned that not many should become teachers, who would incur a stricter judgment. [James 3:1]

Although the New Testament mentions that God gives some Christians special gifts of discernment [1 Corinthians 12:10], it directs all Christians to exercise discernment

    I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. [1 Corinthians 5:9-13 NASB]

    Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. [1 Corinthians 14:29 NASB]

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

Christians should accept as fellow-Christians those whose teachings and practices adhere to Biblical teaching, but the Bible instructs Christians to refuse to have spiritual fellowship with those who cross over the line. However, this does not mean they they are to "hate" heretics, but should show compassion for those who are walking down some very treacherous paths.

In other words, all Christians have a responsibility to avoid heresy, which they cannot possibly do if they do not have any idea what heresy is.


Discerning The Difference

Recognizing the Counterfeit By Getting Familiar With The Genuine
While there are some believers that regard anyone who disagrees with them on the smallest of points as heretics, far more Christians seems to be influenced by modern society's "tolerant" outlook, and regard any and all charges of heresy as disrespectful, unloving and intolerant. (By the way, most people who bandy the word "intolerant" around, really need to refer to a good dictionary first, because they, apparently, do not have the slightest idea what the word means).

The incessant and relentless bombardment of false doctrines in the church today make it imperative that all Christians know the difference between orthodox and heretical doctrine. However, the object of doing so is not to prove yourself right, and them wrong. It is protect yourself, your family, and whomsoever else that you can, from being led astray and, thus, possibly forfeiting eternal life. It is a serious matter and should never be undertaken lightly, without sufficient study, well sprinkled with prayer.

So how is a person to distinguish Biblical teachings from heretical ones, especially in light of the fact that the deception is daily getting more subtle, so much so that it is increasingly easy to mistake falsehoods, which now closely resemble the real thing, for authentic Christianity. Craig Hawkins, founder and President of Apologetics Information Ministry (A.I.M.) said it very well...

    “We must realize that the way to deceive people with counterfeits is to imitate the genuine article as closely as possible. For example, if counterfeiters want to pass off fake one-hundred-dollar bills, they do not print Donald Duck's picture on purple paper. Instead they attempt to duplicate a true bill. Similarly, despicable persons who try to deceive others attempt to appear genuine and sincere. They do not walk up to you and inform you that they are there to deceive and defraud you. The far more effective method is faking friendship and fidelity.” [11].

However, this does not mean that all Christians, including the leaders, who believe in and communicate false doctrine, are deliberately passing on what they know to be false. In most cases, I would imagine that they, like the average person who hands a cashier a fake $20 bill, without the slightest idea that it is counterfeit, are simply passing on what they believe to be true.

The only way a person can recognize counterfeit money is if they are familiar with genuine money and, the better the counterfeit, the more familiar we have to be with the real thing. In exactly the same way, we can only recognize false doctrine if we are well acquainted with true doctrine. The Scriptures have given us a clear guide to what is true, and therefore does not differentiate between those who act deliberately, and those who do so in ignorance.

    If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; [1 Timothy 6:3 NASB]

The price of following false teachers and false prophets is very high. When in Revelation 2, the Lord spoke to the church in Thyatira that had seen the rise of a Jezebel-like, evil, false prophetess, He told those in the church that had committed adultery with her that they would be thrown into "great tribulation", unless they repented [Vs. 24-25 ]. In fact, even tolerating false teachers is not a good idea. Jesus did add that He would place no burden on those who did not hold to her teachings. [Vs.22-23]. However He was not pleased with the fact that those that rejected her teachings did not put her out of the church, but continued to tolerate her.

When it comes to false prophets, listeners are not excused because they are lied to.

    Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land: By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them-them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them. [Jeremiah 14:15-16. Emphasis Added]

As shown by the following verses, the Bible very, very, clearly tells us that all Scripture is inspired, that no prophecy was every made by the will of man, that the Word of God provides a lamp for our feet, that by treasuring His word we avoid sinning against God, true doctrine guides us to salvation, and that the Scriptures are sufficient for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness, equipping us for every good work.

    for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. [2 Peter 1:21 NASB]

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB]

    Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. [Psalms 119:105 NASB]

    How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. [Psalms 119:9-11 NASB]

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "but the righteous man shall live by faith." [Romans 1:16-17 NASB]

In John 14:6, Jesus said that He is the truth, not just a teacher of the truth. Therefore, it is only by His life, His example, and His teachings (doctrine), all found between the covers of the Bible, can a person ever hope to find, and remain on the path to God's kingdom. Yet, in a day and age where virtually every person (at least in western countries) have access to a Bible, we stubbornly refuse to use it to test every teaching and every prophecy but, instead, using no discernment whatsoever, use faulty, unreliable, and may I say it? ... extremely stupid, methods to decide what we are going to believe.


How NOT To Decide What To Believe
A list of criteria the modern day Christian uses, in place of Biblical discernment, to test truth includes: (adapted from a list made by Sandy Simpson of Discernment Ministries)

    1) The use of orthodox language, ability to quote Scripture, or Biblical sounding statements of belief
    2) The atmosphere of a meeting/the feeling, emotions, and experiences of the hearer
    3) Manifestations/signs and wonders, including claimed miracles.
    4) Subjective testimonies, including hearsay and rumors/ tall stories
    5) Numbers of people who claim to be saved
    6) The size of the church/movement, and number of followers it has/ how fast it is growing
    7) How much charisma and authority the speaker demonstrates
    8) How successful the person appears to be (judged by how wealthy the person is, the number of books he/she, has written, and where he/she, is invited to speak)


The Use of Orthodox Language, Ability to Quote Scripture, or Biblical Sounding Statements of Belief

    Never assume that a person, or a group, is orthodox simply because he/she/they uses orthodox language, can quote Scriptures at the drop of a hat, and/or sounds very "Biblical".

    Never assume a person, or a group, is orthodox based on their written doctrinal statement (statement of belief).

Not only are some of the most heretical groups not very straightforward about the true nature of their beliefs but, very often, it is what they don't say that is more significant than what they do say. Doctrinal statements are often kept as orthodox-sounding as possible, often seeming like they could have been penned by the archangel Michael himself. For example confessing that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant Word of God is fine and good, but does not necessarily tell us what other books the person or group may also consider inspired and, possibly, on par with the Scriptures. Another example is when a doctrinal statement says that the person/group believes that Jesus was born of a virgin, was crucified, died, and was buried, then rose again on the third day, which doesn't tell us whether they do, or do not, believe that Jesus was God in human flesh. [See The Deity of Christ]

The deeper convictions of a group can often be assessed by reading some of their other literature, or by referring to a reliable encyclopedia that list religious groups and give some often very relevant information about them, including facts that they themselves do not freely volunteer.

Besides which, people are often inconsistent. Some of their beliefs may be quite orthodox, while other may not only disagree with the Bible but, whether they realize it or not, may sabotage some of their own Biblical doctrines. Very rarely is any doctrine completely isolated from all the other beliefs held by a person or group. Far more often, much of what they believe is in some way related to, or dependent on, the false doctrines(s), which can lead them to slant an orthodox doctrine to the point it can be seen as agreeing with the false one.

Additionally, most false teachers can rattle off Bible verse at the drop of a hat. However, these verses are carefully picked to provide so called "proof texts" without any concern for the context of the verse. In fact one of the most dangerous mistakes any Christian can make is to take Bible verses out of context. Since no Biblical author simply strung together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another, and each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on, stand alone verses. The reader can only accurately understand God's Word the way it is written... in its context. Understanding what the author meant comes not only from the words he wrote, but also by what the overall message of the chapter is intended to convey. But, since this takes a little more time, study and effort, most Christians are content with allowing a verse to be wrested from it's context, and used to convey whatever meaning the speaker/author wishes it to convey which, all too often, is nothing but a corruption of the truth. This perversion of Scriptures is done (whether intentionally or unintentionally) in order to persuade men that whatsoever the false teacher says is based on Biblical truth. [See Context is CRUCIAL]


The Atmosphere Of A Meeting/The Feeling, Emotions, And Experiences Of The Hearer:
Feeling, Emotions, And Experiences: Any successful marketing person will tell you that 'emotion sells', and that many buying decisions are made by what people 'feel' about the product, rather than whether or not they 'need' that exact product. Another example of people acting on emotions is demonstrated by the number of people who are overweight because of usually high calorie, high carb, "comfort food" which, oft-times, has little to do with hunger.

Gary Genard, Ph.D., founder and president of Public Speaking International, describes why it is that [Emphasis Added]

    "human beings make critical decisions at a gut level, then justify those decisions with logic. "Gut level" equals emotions. That means that unless we're speaking to audiences in emotional as well as intellectual terms, our persuasiveness will have a great gaping hole in the middle."

and goes on to say [Emphasis Added]

    To put all of this most simply: audiences use their emotions to receive what we say, to judge whether it's true, and critically, to decide about how to respond to it. [12]

In other words, the Mormons are not the only ones who rely on feelings (the "burning in the breast" syndrome), rather than objective, verifiable, evidence (How about the inspired Scriptures) to determine what is true. But over the recent two or three decades, increasing numbers of people in churches are being taught to rely on their feelings.

Atmosphere: Beware of judging the content of what is said at a evangelical meeting by the atmosphere, simply because atmosphere is easily manipulated. When the general pervasive feeling or mood, is highly charged, such as happens at Amway meetings, football stadiums, political rallies etc. most people can be persuaded to go along with what is being proposed, regardless of the fact that they might not have done so had they been in completely calm, rational, low key surroundings.

God does not need, nor want, an stadium full of screaming fans. He wants simple obedience to His Word. He wants people who are not carried away by the emotion of the moment, but those who have quietly purposed in their hearts that they will follow Him, whatever the cost. It is those people through whom the real miracles are wrought.

Among others, the tele-evangelists are masters at 'setting the stage'. They prance around, their voices and tone rising and falling as required. They pound their fists on the pulpit and lift the Bible high into the air. They tell highly emotional stories, that the audience can relate to, thus forming a connection between them and their listeners. The final touch of this wear-down is the quoting of a few out of context Biblical verses, to 'prove' their point. By the end of it all their listeners are pretty much convinced that they have heard an "anointed" man speak God's words. This, of course, without checking to see what the Bible has to say about it.

"Dangerous Persuaders"
But all their posturing may have a very insidious base. I was reading an article on rickross.com [13] , written by Gary Tippet, and originally published in Melbourne's Sunday Age. The article is about a 1994 book, Dangerous Persuaders, written by Louise Samways, a psychologist and writer in Melbourne, Australia. Both the book and the article should give any right thinking person considerable pause for thought.

In Dangerous Persuaders, Louise Samways outlines some of the techniques used by cults and self-styled gurus, such as

    group hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming, which manipulates people through subtle language tricks, subliminal messages and body language tricks,

She says these methods began to emerge in America in the early 1960's and are now used by "nearly all cults" including...

    "Hare Krishna, the Children of God (now known as the Family), the Church of Scientology, Sannyassins (formerly the Rajneesh Movement or Orange People) and Kenja. The personal development courses she considers the most dangerous are Landmark Education, EST, Forum, Money and You and Hoffman Process"

However, it does not stop at the cults but, as she claims, "similar strategies are being used by direct marketing organisations, particularly Amway". What I find particularly interesting is when she points out that [Emphasis Added]

     "Amway is adopting similar techniques to many cults in order to attract recruits, then to keep them involved and committed to the cause," she says. "The approach ... is usually quite evangelical. It asks if there is something missing in your life and offers all sorts of emotional inducements: 'reach your full potential', 'find the real you' ...

What a tremendous tragedy that someone is rightly able to compare an Amway meeting to many Evangelical meeting, the comparison made even more poignant and disturbing by the following description of Amway's techniques, which should sound strangely familiar to many Christians, who have never attended an Amway meeting.

    Large regular meetings are held employing cult-like techniques such as confessions, success-sharing and singing.  "In the present economic climate, people who have been retrenched are turning desperately to Amway to find some kind of income. Because of their situation they are often extremely vulnerable emotionally and Amway uses this mercilessly."

In the above quote, all one has to do is substitute 'God' for the first occurrence of Amway, and the name of any of the Tele-evangelists for the second, and you have a perfect picture of how so many of them have built their own personal fortunes. The article by Gary Tippet, goes on to say....

    The most powerful weapon in the armory of these cults, gurus, direct marketing giants and personal development courses, according to Ms Samways, is mass hypnosis.

    "Hypnosis is not a state resembling sleep in any way," she says. "It is a special, altered state of mind, subjectively different from the natural alert state, where the subject's beliefs and perceptions ... (even their most fundamental values) can be changed."

    If people are not informed hypnosis is being used and the right conditions are created, hypnotising a subject or even a group is extremely easy, she says. Cult-like groups create these conditions using techniques that dampen a subject's critical faculties and arouse emotional responses.

All of which goes a long way in explaining how so many "Christian" teachers and preachers are able to convince people of so many anti-Biblical concepts and doctrines. The emotional response takes over, resulting in the almost complete abandonment of critical thinking, and almost fanatical loyalty to the speaker/cause. (Sadly, the Promise Keepers is one of the groups that has used this, football stadium, 'mass hysteria', method to influence people.)


Manifestations/Signs and Wonders, Including Claimed Miracles.
I do not for a moment doubt that manifestations and 'signs and wonders' can be from God. However, the problem here is that, not only are 'signs and wonders' a dime a dozen, but they can, and often do, stem from a wide variety of sources, including the demonic, which is why every single experience has to be checked by the Scriptures. Unfortunately the allure of receiving some form of deeper spiritual experience has deceived countless millions into accepting the counterfeit.

An outstanding example of this is the 'slain in the spirit' phenomenon. The Sanskrit word Shaktipat, is derived from two separate words.. Shakti (above) and Paat (to descend, fall, tumble, to cause to fall down, to cast down etc.). It refers to the ancient practice wherein a Hindu "holy man", guru, or spiritual teacher conferrs a form of spiritual 'power' or awakening on a disciple/student, which is called raising Kundalini. Although not exclusively, this is often accomplished by a touch to the ajna chakra, or the disciple's third eye... said to be located in the middle of the forehead. To add to which, those who relieve Shaktipat, report many identical feelings and sensations described by Christians, such as energy rushes, episodes of extreme hyperactivity (or, conversely, overwhelming fatigue), involuntary bodily movements, emotional outbursts, spontaneous vocalizations, altered states of consciousness, intervals of tremendous joy, love, peace and compassion,  and a supposed deeper understanding of spiritual truths.

In short, when the requirements for receiving are the same, the methods of transmissions are the same, and the physical manifestations are the same, how can it be of God, just because the practice has been imported into a church from occult and non-Christian religions.

Additionally, much of the senseless babble that passes for the New Testament gift of tongues, plus the jerking, shaking, and uncontrollable laughter, accepted by so many Christians as Biblical, do not come from the Scriptures, and have absolutely NOTHING in common with any experiences described in the Bible.

[See Index to Literal Doctrines of Demons, which includes Word of Faith, Slain in The Spirit, Tongues, Labyrinths, Contemplative Prayer, and Santa Claus. Yes! You read right...Santa Claus. And no, you probably do not know where he originated. Tracing the origins of this so called harmless tradition can be a real eye opener. It certainly wasn't an innocuous Catholic Bishop] 

The final arbitrator in any dispute over spiritual matters is not what took place in this ministry or that, but what the word of God says. Nothing more, nothing less.

Every Tom, Dick, and Harry, claims to have healed numerous people, yet rarely are these claims backed up by any objective evidence, such as an examination by a doctor and/or medical tests. [See Is Physical Healing Included in The Atonement?]

Besides which people today seem to love to claim that they that they saw or experienced a miracle. One has to wonder if people so much want to feel like God has touched them, are simply carried along on by the emotion of the moment, or simply do not want to feel out of place when others around them are claiming to have felt or seen something. On the other hand, it is completely understandable that the patient himself has a strong desire to be healed and be rid of pain and suffering. However, several facts have to be borne in mind.

     Healing is apparently not the sole prerogative of God, since people have been healed, or at least claimed healing, by a variety of Shamans, gurus, and other non-Christians. There are testimonies to people being healed by Reiki, with healing energy being sent from one person to another over considerable distances. I have personally heard testimonies as to the effectiveness Pranic healing, which is supposed to cure by the practitioner working on a person's "energy body" or aura. Tibetan lamas are often called upon to heal the sick, which they do with herbal medicine, backed by prayers and mantras to clear all negative karma.

     A meeting with a highly charged emotional atmosphere, accompanied by very strong desires and expectations on the part of the patient, and, in many cases, mass hypnotism, can lead to some amazing, albeit temporary, appearances of healing. Remember when the adrenaline is flowing, normal human being have been known to perform super human tasks, like lifting the front end of a car to free someone who has been trapped under it.

     A third possibility is something known as mass hysteria. for example, mass psychogenic illness, begins with one individual becomes ill or hysterical during a period of stress, but is quickly followed by others who begin to manifest similar symptoms, typically nausea, muscle weakness, fits or headache, but which has no physical cause. [14] If the mass hysteria syndrome can cause symptoms of illness, I would have little doubt that given the right environment, something similar can, and does, also occur in regard to healing.

While the consequences of beliefs can enormously influence the body, it will do so only temporarily. However, when God heals, He heals. Any healing that originates with God will stick' through the next day, the next week, and the next year, not just manifest itself for a few minutes during the meeting, or for a while after, only to fade as soon as emotions subside (which can sometimes take a few days). The healing can, and should, be verified by a medical professional, preferably one who was previously familiar with the case, and can therefore verify that a healing has taken place.


Subjective Testimonies, Including Hearsay And Rumors
Obviously, personal testimony can inspire and encourage believers, provided it is truthful and unembellished. However, it is not wise to accept every story that comes down the pike as unassailable truth. People, both in the church and out of it, can be, and often are, very gullible, and tend to believe testimonials and dramatic stories on the slightest of evidence, or even none at all. So much so, that Jan Harold Brunvand, professor emeritus of the University of Utah, and an American folklorist, is best known for his books on urban legend, or modern folklore. In fact there are so many urban legends making the rounds, that he has written a number of books, the most recent one aptly named, "The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story", which underscores people's susceptibility to hearsay.

Testimony is entirely subjective, and can in whole, or in part, emanate from, or be influenced by, a person's emotions, pre-conceived ideas, and prejudices etc. therefore, should never be allowed to shape our beliefs. People pass along stories which, like the popular parlour game, gains a little here, and loses a little there, until the most popular version bares little resemblance to the original tale, even if the original were true. Unless you know the teller personally, it is close to impossible to verify the facts, so, unless you can, do not pass the stories along as true.

Our belief system should not be shaped by anything other than the most reliable, and most objective guide we have... the Bible.


The Number Of People Who Claim To Be Saved
However, while large numbers of people may claim to be saved, we have no way of knowing who is genuinely saved and who is not. A walk down an aisle, or profession of faith may or not be evidence that the person is a genuine convert, but can be attributed to the emotion of the moment. A person can appear to make the right decision, but may be only moved by a particularly inspiring sermon, or emotional appeal to "accept Christ".

Genuine faith has to stand the test of time and the many trials that try to batter it down. 

It takes time for a person who has ostensibly accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior to show that they have also made Him Lord of their lives.


The Size Of The Church/Movement, And Number Of Followers It Has/ How Fast It Is Growing
According to a May 1, 2012 piece by Andrew Stern, on Reuters.com, over a period of ten years (2000 to 2010)... [Emphasis Added]

    "The number of Mormons, whose Utah-based church's formal name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, grew by 45 percent to 6.1 million in 2010, according to the census, which asked 236 religions to count their own adherents. Family members of adherents were generally included in the numbers. [15]

Although some questions have been raised as to the counting methods used by the Mormons, and the fact that they themselves have recently amended who all they included in their count, there still remains little doubt that their numbers are increasing at a very fast pace. As said in a May 2010 Christian Post article

    "... even factoring out the additions garnered from including Mormons who have been baptized yet do not belong to a specific congregation, the LDS Church remains one of the fastest growing religious groups in the United States and one of the few sects not presently experiencing a decline in membership". [16]

Although some questions have been raised as to the counting methods used by the Mormons, and the fact that they themselves have recently amended who all they included in their count, there still remains little doubt that their numbers are increasing at a very fast pace.

While estimates of the number of Muslims in the world vary very greatly, ranging from 0.700 billion to 1.570 billion (according to the Pew Forum). This last number means Muslims represent well over 20% of the world's population. But, more than that, according to new population projections by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life... [Emphasis Added]

    "The worlds Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030" [17]

In short, no store can be set by the number of adherents to a religion, or the growth of said religion. On the one hand, it could mean that God is using a particular person or ministry or, on the other, that the preacher is a charismatic, talented speaker who draws people in. The growth of the Mormon church, is a tragic indication of people's disinclination to objectively test everything by the Scriptures, or even to apply a little common sense and logic to their reasoning.

These numbers which are are growing daily, simply indicate that many, many, people are being led astray. It is a tragedy, not a reliable test of the authenticity of a belief system.


How Much Charisma And Authority The Speaker Demonstrates
The word "charisma" can mean personal magnetism or charm, a rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm. It is a trait usually often found in cult leaders, who's outstanding ability to beguile people is much of the reason they manage to attract large followings.

Perhaps the most persuasive of all leaders are those who founded and led, cults. For example Marshall Applewhite, leader of the Heaven's Gate group, convinced 39 other people to commit suicide with him. His explanation was that in order to reach the next level everything "human" had to be forsaken, including the human body.  Jim Jones, founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, is best known for the November 18, 1978 mass suicide of 909 Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana along with the killings of five other people at a nearby airstrip. Over 200 children were murdered at Jonestown, almost all of whom were made to ingest cyanide by the elite Temple members.

Many, many, men and women around the world are capable of speaking with much authority, even if they are absolutely wrong. An air of authority may be a natural part of a person's make up, and can be honed and, to some extent, it can also be taught. A person with true God given authority and gifts, will never, ever, contradict the Scriptures, and will consistently demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit.


 How Successful The Person Appears To Be
(Judged By How Wealthy The Person Is, The Number Of Books He/She, Has Written, And The Number Of Places He/She, Is Invited To Speak At)
In this day and age, anyone can be successful, given the right tools, the right connections, and the right circumstances. A modicum of good luck doesn't hurt either. However if one were to take the time to analyze some of the events in the Bible, especially those in the New Testament, it should become quickly apparent that success in the Bible was never measured by our standards.

In fact, according to modern standards, Jesus and most of the giants of the Bible all have to be counted total failures .

Moses: For example, when God told Moses to speak to the rock which would then yield water, Moses, tired of the constant complaining of the Israelites, first asked the congregation whether they "bring forth water for you out of this rock?" [Numbers 20:10]. He then struck the rock instead of merely speaking to it. Certainly, in the eyes of the world, Moses succeeded very well. He saved the people by providing water in the wilderness. However, in God's eyes, Moses had done wrong, first by not speaking to the rock as commanded, and then by not acknowledging God for the miracle which was about to be wrought. His words "shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" indicated that he took the honor for himself and Aaron.

Jeremiah served as God's spokesman for 40 years he, but it seemed he largely spoke to an indifferent and even hostile audience. He was rejected by almost everyone, was thrown both into prison and into a cistern. However Jeremiah stayed obedient to his calling, faithfully and courageously proclaiming God's word, which made him a success in God's eyes.

Jesus was born in a stable, and throughout His life had little in material possessions, never owning a home or having any money, so much so that when He had to pay taxes, He told Peter to use a coin found in the mouth of a fish. Jesus was rejected by most people, and despised by the religious leaders of the time. In fact, the Gospel of Luke tells us what happened when Jesus come to Nazareth and taught in the synagogue. Did He win friends and influence people? Not exactly! Luke tells us that His audience was "filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong" [Luke 4:25-29]. Finally, Jesus was falsely accused of things he did not do, found guilty and cursed, mocked, spit on, and beaten. He died naked, surrounded by gawking bystanders, on a cross which was a most shameful death, according to Jewish belief. When He died, the soldiers cast lots for His garment, which was put on Him by the Romans. By our standards, Jesus was a complete failure, except for the fact that through His life and death, all the world had been given the opportunity to be forgiven their sins and have eternal life.

Besides which, none of the figures in the Bible did anything but 'tell it like it is'. They did not go out of their way to soothe people's feelings, or cater to 'felt needs'. Note how particularly unfriendly John the Baptist was (which is one example among many). Scripture records him as taking one look at the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism and calling them "offspring of vipers" [Matthew 3: 7, 8].

Results, in themselves, are not a proof that God is pleased. You can win all the accolades and awards the world has to offer, yet fall terribly short in God's eyes. When doing God's work, it has to be done in His way and to His glory, not our own. The rich tele-evangelists appear to be very successful but most of them are living high on the hog by cajoling money from people who rarely seem to realize that their message is completely in opposition to anything the Bible teaches and, in fact, comes directly from the occult. They live well off the backs of many who have very little, but are hopelessly deceived that by sending money to already wealthy preachers, they might reap some rewards of sowing a seed and, thus, better their own lot.

In other words, if you think someone is climbing the ladder of success, make sure it is not leaning against the wrong wall.

Prosperity in the Old Testament was clearly linked to keeping God's commandments. Nothing has changed, except that the 'here and now' rewards that the ancient nation enjoyed, was a forerunner of the rewards in store for us, based on whether we keep the law of the Lord. Note Moses' words to the nation, and David's words to his son, Solomon...

    "I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. "Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, [1 Kings 2:2-3 NASB]

    "Only the LORD give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. "Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed. [1 Chronicles 22:12-13 NASB]


How To Decide What To Believe
Believers Are Instructed To Be Discerning.
The proverbs were written "To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding" [Proverbs 1:2 NASB]

    And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. [Philippians 1:9-11 NASB]

    For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. [Hebrews 5:13-14 NASB]


And How Do We Exercise Discernment?
While there certainly is a 'gift of discernment', it seems quite certain that few people in this day and age are blessed with it. Therefore, the only safe course is for Christians to strictly adhere to the ultimate tool given to enable us to distinguish between those teachings that are true, and those teachings which are not.

But, in order to use this tool we have to have to be familiar with it.

No one can know how exactly to operate a piece of equipment, be it a computer or anything else, unless they take the time to study the instruction manual very carefully, or be trained by someone who has. If we don't read and follow the written instructions, the manufacturer cannot be blamed if the equipment malfunctions, or even blows up in our face, with possibly disastrous consequences. No one would dream of making a trip across the North Pole, or the Amazon without a detailed map, and even a human guide, yet, we cheerfully embark on a journey to eternity.... without studying all the details of the map, including all the wrong roads we could take. We seem to imagine we can fly by the seat of our pants.

If we do not take the time to study the 'instruction manual' and guide book given us by God, He cannot be blamed if, at the end of it all, it all goes completely awry, and we find ourselves at the South Pole, or the opposite end of the planet from our original destination, without being exactly sure how we got there, except that somewhere along the line we took a wrong turn... or two... or three.  No one can possibly know what is theologically wrong, unless they know what is theologically right. Quite simply, you have to know what the Bible says. There is no other way. Even Paul, one of the original Apostles who wrote more than half the New Testament, commended the Bereans for checking everything they were being told against God's own handbook.

    Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. [Acts 17:11-12 NASB]

    But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; [1 Thessalonians 5:21 NASB. Emphasis Added]

Especially in this day of rampant deception, Christians have to test everything they hear, read, and are told, by the Scriptures. However...
 

Context, Context and More Context:
The only way any Christian can know whether a doctrine is true or false is to measure it against Scripture. True doctrine is belief, or teaching, that conforms to the Scriptures. False doctrine is belief, or teaching, that deviates from the Scriptures. It is of paramount importance that every Christians compare what they believe, what they hear, and what they read, to what the Scriptures says, which is, I am afraid to say, does not mean pulling out an isolated 'proof text'. Yet this is exactly what all too many Christians have been programmed to do.

As long as the preacher/teacher/author sounds Biblical, and can pull out a few Scriptural verses that appear to substantiate what he, or she, is saying, we walk away with a warm glow, satisfied that we have heard what God Himself has to say on the matter. Sadly this is anything but true.

False doctrine is often hidden behind charisma, and engaging personalities. And yes, it is true that most of these false teachers will glibly rattle off Scriptures that supposedly support their teachings and give them the appearance of orthodoxy. However, the man in the pew rarely seems to realize that these quoted Biblical verses are usually taken way out of context and, in fact, do not say what is claimed. In fact, it is not at all rare to find that the verse in question, if read in context, will say exactly the opposite. But we, like the Israelites of old, clamor for a king to rule over us [1 Samuel 8:19], and, perhaps because of our own laziness, rely on a go-between to tell us what God has said. This has made it very easy for heresies to creep in.

It is absolutely crucial to remember that no Biblical author simply strung together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another. Since each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on, stand alone verses. The reader can only be accurately informed by God's Word the way it is written... in its context. Understanding what the author meant comes not only from the words he wrote, but also by what the overall message of the chapter is intended to convey. But, since this takes a little more time, study and effort, most Christians are content with allowing a verse to be wrested from it's context, and used to convey whatever meaning the speaker/author wishes it to convey which, all too often, is nothing but a corruption of the truth. This perversion of Scriptures is done (whether intentionally or unintentionally) in order to persuade men that whatsoever the false teacher says is based on Biblical truth.  [This is a topic in itself, and needs to be read in it's entirety. [See Taking Bible Verses Out of Context and related subjects on THIS Page]


Prophecy
And, when it comes to prophecy, John warned us to test every spirit because false prophets have been quite commonplace, from Old Testament days until the present

    "Her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord GOD,' when the LORD has not spoken. [Ezekiel 22:28 NASB]

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

It is absolutely necessary we apply the test laid out in the Scriptures to distinguish between babblers and those whose prophecies are genuinely from God. And what is the test? Simply this... If what has been prophesied does not come to pass, the prophet's words did not come from the Lord. He is a fake.

    "But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him." (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

Ezekiel said the Lord Himself is against false prophets.

    "They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, 'The LORD declares,' when the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of [their] word. "Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, 'The LORD declares,' but it is not I who have spoken?"... My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. Because, even because they have seduced my people (Ezekiel 13:6-7, 9-10)

While Jesus Himself called them "ferocious wolves", sent to deceive the elect...

    Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15)

    For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect — if that were possible. (Matthew 24:24)

And how do they attempt to deceive? By secretly introducing "destructive heresies".

    But there were false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies … (2 Peter 2:1)

Jeremiah further tells us

    An astonishing and horrible thing is come to pass in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? [Jeremiah 5:30-31. Emphasis Added]

But what most Christians do not seem to realize is that willing listeners who have given these false prophets credence will face an equally severe judgment as those who done the actual prophesying, since the Lord made it an extremely simple matter to distinguish a false prophet from a real one, which He did FOR OUR PROTECTION. The listeners, who give credit to falsehoods, without bothering to follow God’s instructions on how to test prophecy, will not be excused on the grounds that they were lied to. Jeremiah warned...

    "Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who are prophesying in My name, although it was not I who sent them--yet they keep saying, 'There will be no sword or famine in this land'--by sword and famine those prophets shall meet their end! "The people also to whom they are prophesying will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and there will be no one to bury them--neither them, nor their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters--for I will pour out their own wickedness on them. [Jeremiah 14:15-16 NASB]. Emphasis Added]

    for I have not sent them," declares the LORD, "but they prophesy falsely in My name, in order that I may drive you out and that you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you." [Jeremiah 27:15 NASB Emphasis Added]

Which perfectly sums up the situation today..

Why Should We Test Teaching Against The Scriptures?
Sound doctrine, which comes directly from God, saves. False doctrine, with it's origins in misunderstanding, misinterpretation and, often, self serving motives, does not.

    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, [2 Timothy 4:3 NASB]

    If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, [1 Timothy 6:3 NASB]

    holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. [Titus 1:9 NASB]

    But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. [Titus 2:1 NASB]

Lawlessness, rebelliousness, ungodliness, sin, unholiness and profaneness are all categorized as being opposed to sound doctrine.

    realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, [1 Timothy 1:9-10 NASB]

Deuteronomy 13 makes it quite clear that false teachers and prophets seduced people from the way the Lord our God commanded us to walk. In other words, they introduce false doctrine which can, and does, destroy. In fact it was such a serious offense that, in the Old Testament, false prophets were to be put death.

    "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. "You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. "But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. [Deuteronomy 13:1-5 NASB]


What Does The Bible Command Us To Do When we Discover False Teachings?
First of all, Christians need to realize that those who preach a false gospel are condemned by the Lord..

    But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! [Galatians 1:8-9 NASB]

Paul told Titus that overseers of the church must refute those who contradict sound doctrine, and silence "empty talkers and deceivers".

    holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. [Titus 1:9-11 NASB]

So what business do we have accepting heretics, especially when the Bible specifically commands us to have no dealings with them [All Emphasis Added]

    Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. [Romans 16:17 NASB]

    "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "and do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. [2 Corinthians 6:17 NASB]

    Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. [Ephesians 5:11-12 NASB]

    Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. [2 Thessalonians 3:6 NASB]

    Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, [Titus 3:10 NASB].

      Note: The Greek word used here is aihretikos or a schismatic. ("heretic" is the Greek word itself.)

    Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. [2 John 1:9-11 NASB]

Yet, in the spirit of our overly tolerant, anything goes society, we tend to look on confrontation as something to be avoided at all cost, in spite of the fact that the Bible's instructions on how to deal with those who teach and practice false doctrine in the church are a very explicit two step process. 1. The heresy has to be actively confronted and 2. if not repented of, has to be shunned. The bounden duty of a true believer towards men who profess to be Christians, and yet deny the Word of the Lord, is to come out from among them. Leaving, or separating oneself from apostasy and heresy is not optional, but commanded. It is an integral part of the holiness without which none of us will see God.


What About "Spiritual Discernment"?
Paul, more than once, referred to spiritual discernment

    But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (anakrino). But he who is spiritual appraises (anakrino) all things, yet he himself is appraised (anakrino) by no one. [1 Corinthians 2:14-15 NASB]

    Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment (diakrino). [1 Corinthians 14:29 NASB]

    and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing (diakrino) of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. [1 Corinthians 12:10 NASB]

All these passages use the Greek words diakrino and anakrino, both of which are partially derived from the Greek krino, which means to decide or distinguish. In the last two passages, Paul was telling the Corinthians to exercise discernment concerning the prophecies that were delivered in the church, and determine whether what was being said originated with the Holy Spirit, or came from other sources. In this context spiritual discernment was a gift whereby they could tell whether the gifts really were of the Holy Spirit.

There is no question that are some Christians who are remarkably discerning (I have met a few who just seem to know whether something is of God or not, regardless of whether they have encountered that particular teaching/practice before). However, way too many have gone overboard in their emphasis of 1 Corinthians 2:14-15. They believe that the intellect has no place in discernment, and the inner voice of the Holy Spirit is all we need to enable us to see the difference between truth and error. When faced with a decision between what is right, and what is wrong, we are to simply listen to, and heed, the voice of the Spirit.

This assumes a non-existent division between the spirit, and the mind, or intellect.

The Bible itself encourages Christians to use their knowledge of Christian doctrine in discerning truth from error. When the resurrection of the dead was being denied by some in Corinth, and had even gained a footing in the church itself, Paul did not tell them to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but used right doctrinal arguments (plus a generous sprinkling of logic and common sense) to counter false beliefs.

    Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. [1 Corinthians 15:12-15 NASB]

Similarly, the apostle John commanded his readers not to "believe every spirit", but instructed them to test what was being said. And, very tellingly, the test was solely doctrinal in nature. They had to confess that "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God", and those who did not do so were deceivers and antichrists. In other words, it is essential to have the true doctrine respecting Christ, and the one who does not do so, does not have God. He was warning them not be deceived by anyone who "does not abide in the doctrine of Christ."

    For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. [2 John 1:7-11 NASB]

Please note that John goes even further, telling them that those who do not hold to this doctrine are not to be welcomed into their house, or even greeted. The clincher? "the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds." In other words, not holding to a certain doctrine is considered evil.

Spiritual and doctrinal discernment are not enemies facing each other on a battle field, but are two units of the same army, both of which are very necessary to overcome the wiles of the enemy. But in order to be victorious, they have to work in tandem, not pull against each other. However, the final authority has to be the written word, simply because it is all too easy to attribute some 'feeling' to the Holy Spirit, when it could merely be the pepperoni pizza you had for dinner last night.

Since the Spirit of God can never contradict God's words, any and all matters which are said to be "spiritually discerned" must agree with the Bible.


Does The Heart Have a Role?
The focus of this article is Biblical theology and doctrine, or right belief, simply because a large portion of the church seems to have thrown caution to the wind, abandoning the infallible Bible as their sole guide in all things spiritual. Instead, a combination of feelings, impressions, sentiments, and/or emotions, have been allowed to dictate doctrine, or what is held to be true. This has often resulted in some very dangerous practices, that no Christian should ever be a part of.

However, make no mistake. None of this means that there is no place in Christianity for feelings, emotions, and experiences. Christians are not meant to be stoics, indifferent to, or unaffected by, joy, grief, pleasure, or pain.

* God Himself commands us to love Him with all our hearts, and with all our souls

    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [Deuteronomy 6:5 NASB]

* The Psalms, perhaps more than any other book of the Bible, show powerful, deeply felt emotions. Like the psalmist, we should desire nothing on earth but the Lord, love His Name, and wait eagerly on Him.

    Delight yourself in the Lord ; And He will give you the desires of your heart. [Psalm 37:4 NASB]

     As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? [Psalm 42:1-2 NASB]

    Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. [Psalm 73:25 NASB]

    Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord, We have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. [Isaiah 26:8 NASB]

    Therefore I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way. Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul observes them. The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. I opened my mouth wide and panted, For I longed for Your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me, After Your manner with those who love Your name. [Psalm 119:127-132 NASB]

* Jesus Himself showed strong emotion on several occasions, including compassion, love, and anger 

    Seeing the people, He felt for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. [Matthew 9:36 NASB]

    And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They *said to Him, "Lord, we want our eyes to be opened." Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him. [Matthew 20:30-34 NASB]

    When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. [Mark 6:34 NASB]

    When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." [Luke 7:13 NASB]

    So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. [John 11:3-5 NASB]

    And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business." [John 2:15-16 NASB]

He "rejoiced" when the lost sheep was found...

    "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? "When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. [Luke 15:4-7 NASB]

and shed tears over Jerusalem.

    When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, [Luke 19:41 NASB]

He shared Mary's grief at the death of her brother.

    Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They *said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, "See how He loved him!" [John 11:32-36 NASB]

And, as the author of the book of Hebrews said, He wept for Himself

      In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. [Hebrews 5:7 NASB]

* The word "joy" is mentioned many times in the New Testament

    And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. [Acts 13:52 NASB]

    "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. [John 15:11 NASB]

* The disciples hearts "burned" while Jesus was explaining the Scriptures to them on the road to the village of Emmaus [Luke 24:32 NASB]

* Paul and Peter urged the early church to

    be fervent in spirit and rejoice in hope [Romans 12:11-12 NASB]

    Rejoice in the Lord [Philippians 3:1]

    put on a heart of compassion [Colossians 3:12]

    fervently love one another from the heart, [1  Peter 1:22]

    long for the pure milk of the word [I Peter 2:2]

When Paul instructed believers to be renewed by the transforming of their minds, one has to consider that some of this transformation has to do with the transforming of desire, since most of what we do is based on desire.

* The book of Revelation speaks of the things of God as being people's "first love", and says Jesus will spit lukewarm people out of His mouth.

    But I have this against you: you have left your first love. [Revelation 2:4]

    'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. [Revelation 3:15-16 NASB]


Conclusion
It has to be noted that there is not a single example in the Bible of a godly person's beliefs stemming from their feeling, emotions, or experiences. While the heart, or subjective experiences can play no part in determining what to believe, emotions and feelings are an integral part of what makes us human. We, as people, are made up of body, mind, and spirit, therefore head and heart have to work in tandem. Endeavoring to turn off either one can produce lopsided Christians.

    If we turn off our heads, there is a very real danger of becoming spiritually weird, unbalanced Christians, who are not on the path to salvation If we turn off our hearts, there is a danger of a cold, sterile, religion, full of orthodox ideas, but bereft of any warmth.

While no amount of Biblical study and resulting knowledge should ever bar us from spontaneous feelings, in the final analysis, no amount of emotion or feelings can be allowed to dictate what we believe. Without sound Biblical theology and doctrine we are like rudderless ships, which can easily be blown off course by any passing wind.

The word of God very clearly tells us tells us that it provides a lamp for our feet, and is sufficient for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness, equipping us for every good work. [Psalms 119:105 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17]. Therefore, it is the word of God that must dictate our doctrine and practice. All experiences have to be brought under the objective scrutiny of the word of God.

Perhaps the last word should go to Dr. Raymond C. Ortlund, who summed it up perfectly

    "When heads see clearly and hearts feel deeply, that's when God is at work mightily with saving power. [18]


End Notes

[10] Robert M. Bowman. A Biblical Guide to Orthodoxy and Heresy. http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/articles/orth1.html

[11] Craig S. Hawkins, Witchcraft: Exploring the World of Wicca. Baker Books (August 1996) Pg. 140

[12] Gary Genard, Ph.D. Use Emotion to Persuade Your Listeners.
http://publicspeakinginternational.blogspot.com/2009/03/use-emotion-to-persuade-your-listeners.html

[13] http://www.rickross.com/reference/general/general756.html

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_psychogenic_illness

[15] Andrew Stern. Numbers of Muslims, Mormons rising sharply: report.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/01/us-usa-religion-census-idUSBRE8401NK20120501

[16] Dramatic Mormon Growth Partly Due to Change in Membership Counting. Michael Gryboski. Christian Post Reporter. http://www.christianpost.com/news/dramatic-mormon-growth-partly-due-to-change-in-membership-counting-75575/

[17] The Future of the Global Muslim Population. Projections for 2010-2030. Analysis - January 27, 2011.
http://www.pewforum.org/The-Future-of-the-Global-Muslim-Population.aspx

[18] Dr. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. Pleasures Forevermore: A Theology of the Heart.
http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/pleasures.html

 

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