I was reading an article by one of my favorite Bible teachers and example. I liked what I read, but there was something troubling in this article.
In much of my reading on Facebook, I see a lot of posts that lead to articles describing false teachers. It is an interesting dynamic, however, I personally think this has gotten way out of hand. For example, CARM wrote an article on a woman Bible teacher, and the evaluation was that she was a weak Bible teacher (for reasons I am not going to cover here). Well, because so many trust and respect the ministry of CARM, this object of evaluation ended up being a false teacher on the websites of many who are hunting down false teachers. Many have ripped her to shreds and the poor woman may not even have any idea of all those new haters of hers that she has out there now.
Back to the article, the person who wrote the article that I am explaining about, I greatly respect. However, any of us can be wrong. Not just that we are not perfect, but we live in a darkened world and we see through a glass dimly. We are all (hopefully) growing together in love and truth.
The article mentioned a well known Bible teacher who has said that regeneration precedes faith. In other words, there is no faith available until regeneration has taken place in the person. When I read the quote, I did not agree with it. The person who wrote the article did not agree with it either. Up to this point, it is not a big deal. That is, until I read the next paragraph.
The following paragraph made a reference to the well known Bible teacher and others who were teaching error in some form. But it also made a reference to those people as 'false teachers'. You have to understand what a false teacher is.
First of all, a false teacher, or heretic, is one who appears to be on the same page as everyone else, but secretly has an agenda that will pull people away from God. A false teacher is not one who is preaching a watered down Gospel, necessarily (although a false teacher may indeed preach a watered down Gospel). There is a lot of ignorance in the body of Christ. Some really think they are serving the Lord with their teaching. But they haven't been discipled properly or they haven't learned correct doctrine.
We have to ask ourselves, what is the goal of the person preaching something erroneous. Is the goal to win the people over to another cause or is it just basic stupidity or ignorance on the part of the speaker? Could it be that the person sees something in the Bible in a way that we don't see?
We are not all going to agree on everything in the Bible. We need to be on the same page when it comes to the Gospel, salvation, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit and the authority of Scriptures, but when it comes to other things that are not the main issues, we aren't going to see eye to eye. That is ok.
Sometimes, people miscommunicate, or even worse, they are bad communicators. They might even say things that sound heretical, without realizing the seriousness of what their words sound like! Yes, they need to be confronted and helped. That is where good relationships come into play. But that doesn't mean that they are in there to bewitch people into believing another Gospel. This happens a lot and we need to be gracious. It is not wrong to let the person know that they are communicating in a bad way.
So, how do we treat people we disagree with? Should we call them false teachers? Have we judged them and decided that they are definitely in there to lead people astray?
Here is a link to a message taught by Ligon Duncan concerning whether the church fathers got the Gospel right. The early fathers had many different views on things, but the one thing they did agree on was the message of the Gospel. That is much like us today. We have a lot of different views on things, even in the Bible, but all who know the Lord will agree on the Gospel message.
So, I have to disagree with my respected Bible teacher on calling this well known Bible teacher a 'false teacher' because he said that regeneration precedes faith.
How do you handle well known Bible teachers who teach things that you don't agree with? Do you call them a heretic or false teacher, or, do you see them as men who have been enlightened by the Lord, but are in the process of growing and changing continually in the ways and knowledge of the Lord?
Here is an article I wrote yesterday on this subject. It goes a little deeper concerning how to treat those whom we do not agree with.