Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why we must get it right

There are real spiritual dangers that face us when we think about errors, heresies and false teaching. On the one hand there is a temptation to fixate upon them, to become preoccupied, and to be sidetracked from following the pattern of apostolic ministry. On the other hand it is all too easy, especially in a cultural atmosphere of tolerance, to treat soul destroying error with complacency. There are dangers to the objective content of our faith, and to the subjective shape and health of our faith.

Preoccupation with error can blind us to the presence of pride. Schaeffer warned against this in The Great Evangelical Disaster:
Thus whenever it becomes necessary to draw a line in the defense of a central Christian truth it is so easy to be proud, to be hard. It is easy to be self-righteous and to self- righteously think that we are so right on this one point that anything else may be excused— this is very easy, a very easy thing to fall into. These mistakes were indeed made, and we have suffered from this and the cause of Christ has suffered from this through some fifty years.
However, tolerance of error will inflict terrible damage to churches and to the cause of the gospel. Wayne Grudem has drawn attention to this with some quite sobering words in his contribution to Beyond the Bounds:
After reading such verses [2 Peter 2:1; Jude 3-4], we might wonder if any of us have the same kind of heart for purity of doctrine in our Christian organisations, and the same sort of sober apprehension of the destructiveness of false doctrine, that the New Testament apostles had in their hearts.

If we ever begin to doubt that false teaching is harmful to the church, or if we begin to become complacent about false doctrine, thinking that it is fascinating to ponder, stimulating to our thoughts, and worthwhile for discussion, then we should remind ourselves that in several cases the New Testament specifies that the ultimate source of many false teachings is Satan and his demons.
We must not only aim to be informed about error but also seek after God honouring responses in how we handle it. There must be a unified stress here on orthodoxy and orthopraxy. This is no more than what is expected in 2 Timothy 2:22-25:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness

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