As you can imagine, our articles generate a wide array of email responses from readers. There’s also a generous bit of opinions tagged beneath their listings on Facebook and Twitter. While there are many positive, supportive comments, heavily interspersed in the mix are those that are … well, umm … less than supportive.
Some write because their favorite pastor, teacher, or author has been unfavorably featured. Some write because they detest the alleged disruption to “Christian unity” that such polemical commentary seems to represent. Some are sincere and inquiring. Others spew vitriol and language that we just wouldn’t choose to publish.
Many Christians may be familiar enough with apologetics – giving a defense of the faith to an unbeliever, but most seem to be unaware of the polemical flip side of the apologetics’ coin, if you will.
[pullquote-left]There simply is no need for the enemy of our Lord to create a counterfeit faith in the world where souls are already condemned. [/pullquote-left]If you believe the New Testament – and I hope you do – you will notice that beginning with Christ Himself, the 27 books comprising it are replete with warning after warning about the reality of “false teachers.” The believer need only use a bit of divinely provided common sense to recognize where these anti-Christ sorts will show their face. They are not out in the world; it already belongs to “the evil one.” They are in the church, in the pulpit, on “Christian” television, writing “Christian” books, and promising followers heaven, health, wealth, prosperity or whatever … while leading many down a wide path to destruction.
There simply is no need for the enemy of our Lord to create a counterfeit faith in the world where souls are “already condemned.” The counterfeit he produces is in the church. This, then, is the entry point for polemics, “contending” for the faith among those professing to it.
While every believer should be consciously engaged in “giving a defense for the hope” that is within them by sharing the Gospel with unbelievers, so too must Christians be adept in discernment and polemics, equally commanded tasks in the Word.
Believers must measure all things not against popularity, not by the lauded number of volumes of books sold, not by the passionate charisma of the proclaimer, not even by the noble appeals that often accompany error. Instead, we are to measure all things against the Word.
Polemics, then, is an attempt, driven by the concern for other souls, to defend truth against error based on what Scripture means by what it says. If there was not a genuine concern for the eternal souls of others who may be under false teaching, believe me, no one would intentionally choose to be publicly polemical. The “hate” mail isn’t worth the grief.
In today’s church, however, pews, as well as pulpits are often occupied by professing Christians who dismiss the standard of the Word. The dearth of Biblical understanding is perpetuated by the demise of Scriptures’ use in our daily lives and in our Sunday “worship experiences.” Most pew sitters simply don’t read it and many pulpits simply don’t teach it.
(As an aside, FYI, THIS is the obvious danger inherent in the Scripturally-offensive and Biblically-absent practice of contemplative prayer, the notion that by looking within God will speak to you. This heresy is promoted in books like Jesus Calling and by a whole plethora of – often women – teachers who urge emotional spiritualism rather than sound Biblical understanding. If we haven’t fully apprehended and comprehended the written Word God has already given us – and none of us has – does it not seem providentially absurd that He would effectively shrug His shoulders, realize we just aren’t going to read His Masterpiece, and consign Himself to reach us instead by audible or inaudible inner “impressions?” Ummm …. NO. Of course not. Quit pursuing this nonsense! Be a disciple. “Abide in my word!”)
Thus, when we get an email that chides us for attacking Christian unity, for “slandering” (No, it’s not slander, folks. Go look it up.) for having a “critical” spirit, for failing to appreciate how many “have been saved, led to the Lord, rededicated their lives, etc etc” by the influence of a false teacher with a false message, understand how we see that. We see it as someone who doesn’t practice discernment.
While none of us have a perfect grasp of God’s Word or of the rich, deep theology it gives us, much of what we call out isn’t terribly deep, from a theological standpoint. Even a superficial understanding of Scripture will illuminate their soul jeopardizing, faith wrecking potential. If we are wrong, and that error can be Biblically demonstrated, we want to know it. We yearn to know it. Our souls, like yours, are constantly in peril of the error Scripture tells us is ever being hurled at us.
Below is a recent email I received, edited only to mask its sender. My unedited response is also provided. While we don’t respond to some of the vitriolic diatribes, neither do we so normally reply with such a lengthier response as I’ve done here. Normally it’s a “thanks for commenting, God bless you” that is forthcoming. Sometimes it’s a “thank you for that … please pray for me.”
But here’s the thing. If you don’t practice discernment, please, please, please do it. Your soul and your walk of faith depends on knowing truth from error, whether it ever makes you “feel good” or not (It does, be assured, just not as you might think!) Strive to be the person these words from Leonard Ravenhill talks about …
“One of these days, some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed.” Leonard Ravenhill
“As a fellow Christ Follower, I’m wondering why Christians choose to shoot down one another rather than the enemy who is in the world? Oh how good and pleasant it is to the Lord for brothers to dwell together in UNITY! Save your fervor and sarcasm for the world around you. I have walked with the Lord for 40 years and sat under the tutelage of Bill Gothard, Kay Arthur, Charles Stanley, Beth Moore and now under Andy Stanley and none of them were perfect but EACH left a portion of truth in my life. People walk into Andy’s church that would never feel safe to walk into other churches (including yours) and I see the life change that appears when they give their baptism testimony. You are only an outsider looking in. I am wondering if you have the perfect church…………it must be bursting our (sic) the seams.”
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I am pleased that you are a Christ follower and would encourage you, please, to exercise Biblically-commanded discernment (Philippians 1:9-10; Hebrews 5:14; 1 Cor. 2:14, Colossians 2:8, Romans 12:2; 1 Thess 5:12; Eph. 5:10; Romans 16:17-18 are just a few citations) and be Berean (Acts 17:11) with all things (including with my article.)
As you may know, there is no need to “save fervor and sarcasm for the world” as the world is “already condemned.” (John 3:18) We are to proclaim the Gospel to the condemned world; we do not judge it.
Instead, we are to be actively engaged in discerning truth from error, particularly within the church where the enemy seeks to create a counterfeit for true faith. (1 Corinthians 5:12-13 says, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”) As Paul indicated in the Romans 16 citation above, those who are causing division are not the ones calling out error (as he did in numerous places in the NT – Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10, Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1 Tim 1:18-20, Hymenaeus and Philetus in 2 Tim 2:15-18, Alexander the coppersmith in 2 Tim 4:14-15; Paul, you may recall, even called out the Apostle Peter for unscriptural behavior in Gal 2:11-14, Peter, of course, repented).
The dividers of unity are those with “contrary doctrine,” such as Andy Stanley is clearly communicating. (Beth Moore, by the way, is about as far from a sound teacher of Scripture as you can get, unless, of course, you believe God is still giving extra-biblical revelation. He isn’t.) So, the clear commands of Scripture, and the examples given therein compel us in obedience to call out error within the church for the benefit of the eternal souls of those who may be under false teaching.
It is no great achievement to swell the numbers of hand-raisers, prayer-repeaters, or emotionally-induced recipients of baptisms. Every Scripture-denying and Scripture-minimizing mega-church across the world can manipulate responses with entertainment, “it’s all about me” worship “experiences.” But given that worship is defined by God for God, the behavior of such churches illegitimizes their own claims to be a “church.” A true church exalts Christ IN HIS WORD, proclaims the Gospel contained within it, and NEVER falters on an absolute stand of allegiance to God’s Holy Word. What Andy does is obviously appealing to the crowds and working to achieve his ends; but it is not Biblical, orthodox, or God-honoring.
Please understand, God does not need Andy Stanley to “build His church” and, apart from proclaiming the full counsel of God and His Scripture-contained Gospel (which starts in Gen 1:1) through which HE will build it, what Andy is building is for Andy. Christ builds His church through His proclaimed Word. He does not need us to neglect, minimize, dismiss, augment, or accommodate His Word in any fashion. In fact, those who do so will be judged harshly for such mishandling of it. (Rev. 22:18-19)
For a very helpful Biblical understanding on the popular topic of “unity,” you might consider the book “The Basis of Christian Unity” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. A brief review of it is available via the link below.
Again, thanks for taking time to write. I pray you’ll search out the Scripture and give a discerning, Berean eye to all things.
Please, keep those cards and emails coming. If we’re wrong because Scripture says we’re wrong, we wanna know it. But if, for the sake of your own faith, you haven’t taken the time to “examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so,” (Acts 17:11) please know that we are trying to … but you should really do it yourself too.
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[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]