I am writing this article with much caution and care. This can be a touchy subject for people and I understand that. At this time, I am seeing Christians interact with each other in cyberspace, and for the most part, it is not a pretty sight. I am saddened by what I see. I have friends on Facebook who are deleting their accounts because of the division and discord in the body of Christ. I see activity that should not be named among the body of Christ. With all of this, I am very sad. At times, I become angry. It is easy for me to fall into sin, as well in dealing with this subject.
Let's define the two different topics listed. One of them is 'whistle-blowing' and the other is 'slandering'. Whistle-blowing is done with the intent to warn people about a harmful teaching or teacher in the church who would be teaching heresy. Heresy is a very strong word. Sometimes people think that if a professing Christian doesn't share the same convictions as he or she does, that person becomes a heretic. But a heretic is a person who has denied the faith. It is a deliberate attempt to change the Gospel in a subtle way. There are people who are college professors who are heretics. They teach classes in religion and are considered authorities on the subject. But they deny the truths of the Bible, such as the deity of Christ, or the resurrection, or even the miracles that are done in the Bible are relegated to mythology. Bart Ehrman and James Tabor are such men who are well respected but they deny the truths of the Bible regarding the basics of Christianity. Yet, many would think of them as authority figures and will listen to them, much like the people who lived in Jesus' day listened and believed the Pharisees. They were the most respected people around, because of their dedication to learning about God, but they missed the heart of the message that God was giving them. But some false teachers come into the church with the guise of holding the real truth. Cult teachings such as Jehovah's Witnesses doctrine or Mormonism pose as 'Christian' teachings. But in the church itself, it is even more subtle. For example, there are 'Christian' churches which would hold to either legalistic teachings or lawlessness. Out of the church I attend, many left because there was a house church started, which drew many people away. As we listened to the tapes of the man heading up this group (Tree of Life), we could tell that he was not preaching a correct Gospel. He taught a Gospel in which a person could be saved, but repentance wasn't necessary. This is a classic example of a so called church teaching heresy. After our pastor heard the tapes, he addressed the congregation and warned them of what this house church was about. That is an example of whistle blowing. It was warning the church about a dangerous teaching or a group which held a false Gospel. Whistle blowing doesn't have to involve smearing a person or trying to destroy his or her reputation.
Slander happens when stories about a person or group get misconstrued. It could start out by telling half truths and twisting them around to make them sound plausible. It's intent is to destroy a person's reputation. I will give a couple of examples of this as it is happening today.
The first one I think of is Billy Graham. He has been called many different names by people today. There are some people who think he is in league with the Anti-Christ. I was perplexed as I learned about this, but as I researched this subject, I began to see what is happening. You have to understand, first of all, there are many, many Christians who believe in what is called, 'Dispensationalism'. Dispensationalism came about in the last 100 years or so, and believes that there are different dispensations in the Bible. These people also tend to believe that the book of Revelation is literal and everything in it is going to come about at a specific time. Hal Lindsay wrote a book 40 years ago, called, 'The Late, Great Planet Earth' which was about the end times. It dealt with the symbolism in the book of Revelation and related the prophetic imagery to temporal items of our day ( a helicopter was symbolic of an animal that had teeth in Revelation). There are four general views of the end times as explained in the book of Revelation. A book that I recommend to read is by Vern Poythress called, 'The Returning King". I am not writing to go into any great detail of the book of Revelation here, but only how it relates to the slander of Billy Graham. There are people who have theories about the end times and one of those theories includes the idea of a one-world church, a unified church throughout the world. Whenever a denomination gets large enough, there is fear of that group becoming unified and becoming the 'One-world Church'. People who think like this don't like to see unity in the body of Christ because they think it will lead to what is called, 'ecumenicalism' which means all faiths coming together as one. When the Bible talks about the unity in the body of Christ, it is not talking about ecumenicalism. The Bible has a lot to say about building up the body of Christ. This is the biggest complaint against Billy Graham. He has shown kindness to many people that some Christians think we should reject. He has prayed for presidents. He is involved in different religious organizations, possibly to reach the people in those with the Gospel. If you listen to Billy Graham's messages in the past, he preaches a clear Gospel and pulls no punches. But people think he is part of this uniting of the one-world church which will ultimately bring in the one-world government with the Beast being the main leader. This is pure speculation on their part, and I am sorry for Billy Graham to have to be the brunt of their theory. They are also sure he is a Mason. Again, there is no clear cut evidence anywhere the Billy Graham is a 33rd degree Mason. I did some research on this and read one person's opinion on it and he was saying the he knows of three people who can confirm that Billy Graham is a 33rd degree Mason. So what? Anyone can say anything. I can tell people I am a doctor and I have a cure for cancer, and I'm sure there will be some gullible people who would believe it!
I think it is interesting to note that some Christians have no concern about lying. I found a picture on the internet depicting a set of clouds that were being pulled by two hands. Obviously, the hands were supposed to be God's hands. I was going to post it on Facebook, but wanted to check first to make sure it wasn't fraudulent. Well, it was, and the person who embellished the picture just thought it would be a cool idea to do that. People corrected her and pointed out how that by doing what she did, was deceptive, and how disappointing that a Christian would do that.
Jonathan Edwards, was one of the greatest preachers during the revival. He preached the message, 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" which affected many people. From what I have read about this man, he had a true encounter with God. His messages were true and God used them to minister to many. However, his ministry was not without problems. In his congregation, one man took it upon himself to spread bad reports about Jonathan Edwards. People must have believed these reports as Jonathan Edwards lost the pulpit. So, Jonathan Edwards had decided to become a missionary to the Indians. The man who did the slandering repented many years later, and asked Jonathan for forgiveness.
There is a difference between whistle-blowing and slandering. Whistle-blowing involves warning, while slandering involves demeaning a person or smearing his or her reputation. Many times, what is told about the person is true, or has some truth in it, but it is embellished to make the scenario entirely different that what it is. It is like creating a straw-man.
Recently, I have heard Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and John MacArthur as being heretics. Do you think we are discerning them properly? Do they have a secret agenda to obtain a status in the church, only to get the people to believe another Gospel behind our backs? How far are we going to take this 'warning' admonition? What is the proper criteria for deciding if a person is a heretic? Is it when the person disagrees with you on doctrine? Do you hold the perfect standard on doctrine? The Bible says that we see through a glass darkly. Even with the illumination of the Holy Spirit on the word of God in our hearts, we still don't have a clear picture of the way things really are in the spiritual realm.
Someone put a Facebook post about a book by Mark Driscoll that he was reading and recommending. There were a few comments after the post, then there was a comment from a woman. All she said was that Mark Driscoll was a heretic. The poster asked her if she had read any of his books to which she replied that she didn't have to read any of his books to know that he was a heretic. This kind of thing is speculation, and slander. Unless you have studied the person in question, and have found consistently that he or she is teaching wrong doctrine, then you have no business calling someone a heretic.
Sadly, I have been guilty of doing this very thing. There is a Christian band who have been accused of being heretical because they don't believe in the Trinity. I did research on them and couldn't find anything, but I have heard that they are heretics, and have read that they are, so I assume that this it true. And it may be true, but I don't know from my own experiences that this group truly doesn't believe in the Trinity, because I haven't found any information on it anywhere. So a song that they are singing comes on the radio, and I make the announcement that they are heretics. My husband asked me how I know that. I didn't have an answer except that it was common knowledge among Christians. I realized then that I need to have the research to back up what I am saying, if I am going to make a statement like that one.
One afternoon, I was going evangelizing and sat down with a group of four college age students. They weren't happy about what I was doing. Two of them were professing Christians and informed me that Jesus wouldn't like what I was doing. One of them said that whenever I give out a tract, it was like putting a check mark in the box. They told me that the people around would end up hating me for doing that. This discussion went on for quite a while. At the end, one of the girls recommended a couple of books for me to read. One of them was 'Velvet Elvis' by Rob Bell. Now I had heard bad things about Rob Bell, but I did not have any first hand experiences with anything he had said or written. I made a noise with my voice when she said 'Rob Bell' and she informed me that people think that he is a universalist, but he really isn't. When I went home that day, I did a thorough research on Rob Bell. From what he had written, I could tell that this man has a problem with the church. More than that, he has a problem with the Bible. He despises evangelism, as well as evangelists. I thought it was interesting that one of the girls told me that when I give a tract out, that it was like putting a check in the box, because Rob Bell said the same thing in his book, only he used the illustration of a notch in the belt buckle. After I studied Rob Bell, I didn't feel any hesitation on warning people about this man, and his teachings, as he is very popular among young people. I will post any recent information on what he says, if I feel it will help people to not embrace his teachings. I have a Facebook friend who 'liked' Rob Bell's fan page. I wrote to my friend and explained to him about Rob Bell and sent him some information on Mr. Bell, so he could be informed about this man's teachings and error. This is considered 'warning' but I could take this a step further and I could smear Rob Bell all over the internet. Does God want me to do this? Nope. I am not going to hate Rob Bell, but I definitely hate what he is doing and what he believes in. It is the teaching that we attack, not the person.
Here is one more example of how things can be reported with bias. I saw a post on Facebook about a man who was fined for using rainbarrels in his yard. This seemed so unfair. What would rainbarrels be illegal? I don't know if I read the article, but I did repost it. There was some discussion on it as well. A couple of weeks later, I found out what really happened. The man who was fined for having the rainbarrels was actually not fined because of having the rainbarrels, but because he was channeling water into the rainbarrels from an outside source like a river or stream. That's what was illegal, not the rainbarrels. People can take anything and make them into a plausible story, and we fall for it, almost every time. Let's start taking the time to research claims that people are making against other people before we report these things. Our sinful nature loves to hear juicy stories. We enjoy it when people make mistakes and we jump on the opportunity to spread the information. People in the church are going to make mistakes. Some of them are going to sin. The Bible tells us clearly how to work through that. We go to the brother or sister and tell them of their fault. If they repent, then restoration takes place. If they don't, then we take the next step of taking a few others with us. Then if the brother or sister who has sinned still doesn't listen, we bring it before the church (not Facebook, not the blogs either). There might have to be a time for excommunication. There might even be a time when another church will have to be told of this person. When it comes to a person's sin against another, it stays in the church. If it has to do with false teaching, we can warn other Christians (especially since so much of our communication is through books, television, radio, and the internet). We don't have to attack a heretic. They are not a threat to us. God is bigger than they are. We only need to warn. We can be discerning without being critical.