Stop Treating False Teachers with Kid Gloves
Tom Buck. Nice guy. I wish him well. Fine gentleman. I wish him many years and a happy life. Bla bla bla. You get it.
The last thing I want to do is correct Tom Buck (again) on something, but I’m going to keep saying this until I’m blue in the face; stop glad-handing, back-patting, kid-gloving, and “brothering” false teachers. Stop it. Sthaaaap it. Please. For the love of all that is good and pure, please stop.
Buck has been useful in the last year and a half in helping do some of the research to more fully expose ‘woke’ evangelicalism, particularly his research into LGBT change-agent and evangelicalism’s gay bff, Sam Allberry. Buck is at least partially responsible for a couple of the grosser and more obvious pro-gay articles coming down from the Living Out website and is probably responsible for The White Horse Inn floating the rumor that Allberry will be leaving Living Out in the Fall. Good on Tom for that.
However, as I said at the time, it’s foolish to believe that a reluctant concession is the same thing as repentance. Allberry’s moves to placate critics and quiet them did not suddenly make him a heterosexual Christian who ought to be preaching about human sexuality.
And although Buck was helpful with the production of The Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel (a statement largely made impotent by its drafters’ refusal to practice godly separation), we had to include him in our post, We Told You So (On Social Justice) And Why You Should Listen Next Time. You see, Buck was live-tweeting Karen Swallow Prior’s talk at the LGBT fundraiser, Level Ground, promoting her material back in 2015 while we were warning you about her gay affirmations.
Buck, to his credit, reeled it back and eventually found himself calling for Prior’s resignation from the ERLC on the grounds that she was affirming after all. That was awkward.
Buck repeatedly makes the same error, which is treating false teachers charitably rather than cautiously. I wrote about this in another obligatory post, On Use of the Term, Brother, As it Pertains to Grievous Errors. In the article, I admonished Buck (and others) for their promiscuous use of fraternal language in reference to false teachers.
The reason for withholding the title of brother from dangerous teachers (even those who can pass Mere Orthodoxy checklists) is the Bible’s model. I believe that if Scripture is our guide, we would use the term more cautiously than we commonly see it done by many modern evangelicals who use the word in an unchaste manner.
Buck refuses to listen, so I’ll continue with my restrained admonition. Buck wrote a follow-up post about Allberry at James White’s AoMin website entitled, Living Out – A Follow-Up and Call to Further Action. In the post, Buck informs us of the placating and self-preserving overtures made by Allberry which included taking down some of the more radical queer articles. The ERLC had removed their endorsement from the website. Jonathan Leeman of 9Marx helped Allberry do some damage control with a Q&A. Furthermore, Allberry and Buck were able to have some “private conversations.”
At this point, I said, “Uh oh.” I’ve seen this before. Chiefly, I’ve seen it happen over and over again with Karen Swallow Prior. All the evidence in the world is set against her, but she’ll place a phone call to a critic and through some work that seems akin to witchcraft, convince them privately that what she stands for publicly has all been one big misunderstanding. The naive Christian has a tendency to believe others they presume to be Christians, even why then lie to their face (or over the phone).
And so with his guard considerably lowered by Allberry’s niceness and a few well-placed signs of contrition, Buck writes the following:
I want to publicly express my gratitude for Sam’s humility and desire to be faithful to the truth to God’s Word. I believe I can say that he has become a friend, but more importantly, I view and treat him as a brother in Christ. This friendship has brought criticism from some, but I have no reason to consider Sam any less than a brother who is seeking to be faithful in his walk with God.
Well, let’s hug, everybody. Seriously. Let’s man-cuddle.
This type of rhetoric plays well, especially when you want to be characterized as something other than an unappeasable curmudgeon. But, it’s foolish and it hurts the church. More importantly, it’s unbiblical.
As I explained in the aforementioned article, Jude says that subversive teachers “crept in” (secretly and intentionally) and that they were “designated long ago for destruction” (Jude 1:4). That’s a pretty sweeping generalization of false teachers. Did Jude know them all? Did he have personal first-hand knowledge that they were all teaching falsely intentionally? No, of course not. Jude assumed it.
This assumption – that false or subversive teachers are intentionally false and subversive – is common all throughout the Apostolic writings. In 2 Peter 2:1-3, Peter warns that false prophets “secretly introduce destructive heresies” and calls their behavior “depraved.” He assigns them motives of “exploiting you with fabricated stories.”
Again, Peter presumes that the teachers who trouble the church are doing it on purpose, secretly, subversively, intentionally, and that they do not mean well.
Paul also has this guttural distrust and lack of charity toward subversive teachers in Galatians 2:4-5, as he presumes that the Judaizers – who were sent by Pastor James of Jerusalem – came in “secretly, to slip in and spy out” the church, in order to bring it into slavery. The term Paul uses for them is “false brothers” (verse 4), indicating that by subversively sneaking their dangerous doctrines into the church, it was cause enough to call their brotherhood false.
The charitable attitude of the 21st Century, when put through the lens of Scripture, comes out looking less like charity and more like naivety. The Apostles, such as Jude, Peter, and Paul, would have presumed that those teaching subversive and dangerous doctrines know exactly what they’re doing and are being intentionally crafty and subtle because they work for the other team.
Tom Buck could have just refrained from calling – who he believes to be a false teacher – a “brother in Christ.” But instead, Buck doubled-down on the term. This shows a continued lack of correction and is the type of faux-discernment that actually hurts the church, rather than helps it. This is the type of naivety that led to his support of Karen Swallow Prior.
I pray the words of Spurgeon sting him.
For the present it behooves believers to be cautious, lest they lend their support and countenance to the betrayers of the Lord. It is one thing to overleap all boundaries of denominational restriction for the truth’s sake; this we hope all godly men will do more. It is quite another policy which would urge us to subordinate the maintenance of truth to denominational prosperity and unity. Numbers of easy-minded people wink at error so long as it is committed by a clever man and a good-natured “brother,” who has so many fine points about him. Let each believer judge for himself; but, for our part, we have put on a few fresh bolts to our door, and we have given orders to keep the chain up; for, under color of begging the friendship of the servant, there are those about who aim at robbing THE MASTER. We fear it is hopeless ever to form a society which can keep out men base enough to profess one thing and believe another
One must not anathematize Allberry to put him in the ‘false teacher’ category. One must not call him a false confessor (although, to be honest, he likely is) to call him a false teacher. All one must do is acknowledge that his teaching is dangerous and sinister, as Buck himself as proven, to know that slathering him with brotherly affection is out-of-place.
Don’t pet the wolves, children.
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God Bless, Cody Libolt