There are some Christians who think it is wrong to be continually criticising false teachings and false teachers in the Church. They think it is a result of a critical upbringing or a modern education where students are taught to think for themselves.
I say thank God for anything that teaches people, especially Christians, to think for themselves. The alternative has led to many who just sit in the pews and blindly swallow everything they are fed.
Read again what Jesus and Paul both said about discernment and how to judge teachings.
A Christian will only overcome in this world by critically examining the world’s outward and subtle teachings, and by diligently studying the Scriptures. This is the only way to Christian maturity, especially when we are confronted today with unbiblical teaching from some Church leaders.
From time to time over the next few weeks I will be commenting on some amazingly prophetic statements made by Bishop J.C. Ryle in the 19th century. Critical comments about false teaching ARE NOT NEW! The words of this great man of God is worthy of our attention today.
Bishop Ryle’s Insights Are Timeless
In one of his books, entitled “Warnings to the Churches”, he offered this statement:
‘There is an undeniable zeal in some of the teachers of error: their earnestness makes many think they must be right.’
Here, Ryle is not saying that zeal is not good, or that earnestness is not to be practiced. What effect would a good preacher have if his presentation of the gospel and the need for holy living was not presented with earnestness? The Holy Spirit obviously uses those who earnestly present His message and who show a zeal for Christian living in their own lives.
Ryle is stressing the point that a false teacher is always zealous and seemingly plausible often just because of his interesting way of speaking. He will always ‘tickle our ears’ and many will fall for it.
Think of your favourite prosperity teacher. How does he get your attention? Is he boring? Is he ugly? How is he dressed? Does he get his point across with passion?
Many Christians have been programmed by the world to think that if a preacher or pastor does not possess the ability to immediately grab a congregation’s attention, that he must not be worth listening to. Thus the false teacher has the advantages of sounding right merely because of his earnestness.
A Great Appearance of Learning
‘There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge: many fancy that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe guides.’
Psychologists tell us that when a man [or a woman] stands up in front of others and begins to teach they sound right simply because they are standing before a group of people who are there to listen.
That is the main criteria for the truth that many listeners have.
Even a theologically deficient teacher is half way towards convincing his audience if he can show some confidence or some evidence of Bible study by using a few well-chosen verses to prove his point from the Bible.
Of course it’s even better if you have a few letters after your name, or you have written a book, or are on TV. In those cases you have a ready market.
False teachers rarely come across as humble or unlearned.
Jesus told us how to discern them: by their fruits. [Matt 7:16]. Not just by their words. How do they live? Do they LIVE as Christians, showing the fruit of the Spirit?
Sshhh! Don’t Say They Are Wrong
Bishop Ryle also made this comment:
‘There is a widespread desire to appear charitable and liberal-minded: many seem half ashamed of saying that anybody can be in the wrong.’
In many Churches today there is a code of silence. You don’t hear very often a preacher pointing out the false beliefs or the false teachings of some of the big name ‘Christian’ leaders. A few weeks ago I criticised ‘no-hell’ Rob Bell and the homosexual-supporting Brian McLaren, and was told I should not be naming names.
Those two are definitely wrong, according to the Bible, and should be named so that our brothers and sisters can avoid their teachings. The apostles Paul and John didn’t hesitate to name names when they thought others were in danger.
Christian watchmen must tell the truth in love – how loving is it to warn others of false teachings without divulging the names of the perpetrators? It becomes an empty exercise to warn someone of a threat they cannot even try to avoid!
It seems to me that Bishop Ryle’s words from over 100 years ago are becoming more and more relevant as these last days progress – just as the Bible said would happen.
The Bottom Line
I believe that the lesson in all of these warnings from Bishop Ryle will result in the kind of overcoming behaviour shown in the New Testament by the Bereans who tested all of Paul’s teachings by going back to the source – the Old Testament.
Today it should be much easier for us to ‘test the spirits’ because we have the New Testament and all the written teaching we need to be given by our Lord Jesus Christ.
The tragedy is that so many Christians don’t even bother to do their own study and check on the validity of those teachings. They would prefer to sleepily soak up bilge from their ear-ticklers and soft-soapers who will ultimately lead them away from God.