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FALSE TEACHING IN THE CHURCH -- Part 3

FALSE TEACHING IN THE CHURCH -- Part 3
(Part 3 of a 3 Part Series)

By The Rev. Canon Jeff Williams
Special to Virtueonline
www.virtueonline.org
August 7, 2019

E. A Word About Old Testament References to False Teaching

In the Old Testament we have many examples of God's dealing with heresy and false teachers-- the earth swallowing up Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their followers; striking King Uzziah with leprosy for offering incense in the temple improperly; having Elisha slay the prophets of Baal; consuming Nadab and Abihu with fire for offering unauthorized ("strange") fire; etc.. But this was during a time of theocracy, not in a New Testament context, and it offers us little guidance on handling false teachers in the church. However, such Old Testament narratives plainly show how God Himself feels about these things, and that He wants scandals regarding leaders' teaching and worship handled with judgment, not cover-up and excuses.

Kistemaker says,
While true prophets conveyed God's Word to the people of Israel (see 1:19), false prophets introduced their own inventions. Here are a few instances in which God reveals his opposition to false prophets:
1. He instructs the people of Israel to put to death a prophet who preaches rebellion against the Lord God (Deut. 13:5; also see 18:20).
2. He compares the false prophets to Sodom because they "commit adultery and live a lie" (Jer. 23:14; also see 6:13).
3. Among the people upon whom God pours out his wrath are the prophets who utter "false visions and lying divinations" (Ezek. 22:28).
These prophets were false for two reasons: because of their message and their claim to the prophetic office. God condemned them for the lie they taught and lived. Furthermore, they were residing among God's people with the purpose of leading them astray.

F. Biblical Directives Regarding Separation from False Teaching

Amos 3:3 (KJV) Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
Obviously, this is a general life directive to God's people, not dealing specifically with false teaching; but the applicability to so solemn a consideration as matters that send people to heaven or hell is obvious.
II Cor. 6: 14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial?[b] Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."
To continue to be yoked to unbelievers (or those who act as unbelievers by continually rejecting Scripture) is to be unfaithful to God.
Rev. 18: 4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; 5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
Whether one takes a preterist or a futurist view of The Revelation, or an allegorical or a literal approach, the directive is crystal clear: we are to come out, not indaba, not discuss, not consider alternatives.
Titus 3:10-11 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (KJV: A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
This is a clear call to not continue fellowship at all. After two reasonable attempts to correct a heretic, do not waste any more time in "dialogue" with a person whose ears are dull of hearing (Acts 28:27).

G. Concluding Considerations
1. Duties of Bishops

a) Canonical Requirements of Bishops
As found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, Page 291 and the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, Page 555:
Bishop: Will you then faithfully exercise yourself in the Holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of the same; so that you may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome Doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers?
Answer: I will so do, by the help of God.
Bishop. Are you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same?
Answer. I am ready, the Lord being my helper.

b) Biblical Requirements of Bishops
At least sometimes, in Biblical usage the term "elders" is evidently synonymous with "bishops." In Acts 20:17, Paul summons the elders (presbuterous) of the church, and subsequently says in verse 28 that the Holy Spirit has set them in the flock as "overseers" ("bishops"-- episkopous). In Titus 1, when giving a list of Scriptural requirements for church elders/bishops, Paul includes, 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. He refers to 10. . . empty talkers and deceivers . . . and commands Titus to 13. . . rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith . . . 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
Hence, the Christian leader must hold firmly to the Word, and be able to "rebuke [not ignore, tolerate, or dialogue with] them sharply, lest they be unsound in their faith." Titus 2 says that he must 1teach what accords with sound doctrine, and 15exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

2. Hierarchy of Goals
a) Unity vs. Truth
Unity is nice, but truth is essential. Unity is a worthy goal only if it can be achieved without rejecting the clear authority of Holy Writ, and only if the resultant unity is in furtherance of Christian or expedient goals. (You can tie two cats together by the tail and have "unity," but not peace, functionality, or efficacy.)

Some say that such passages as the four references to the unity of believers in Christ's high priestly prayer would prioritize unity. For example, John 17:21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. But note that this is a reference to those who are "in us," i.e., true members of the Body of Christ.
Another example would be Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk . . . 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism . . .7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says,"When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." Again, in context, this verse assumes the people being spoken of are true believers (one body and one Spirit), not heretics, and are among those who have received genuine spiritual gifting.
Archbishop Justin Welby recently said, "It is not for us to divide the Body of Christ." We wonder if it ever dawned on him (1) that there are more pressing goals than unity, or (2) that it is absurd to assume that unrepentant, crusading sodomites are truly part of the "Body of Christ" to begin with.

b) Peace vs. Purity
Peacefulness and gentleness are excellent, but first their must be purity of doctrine, motive, and application. James 3: 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

c) Tolerance vs. Rebuke
There is nothing more tolerant than a garbage can. It accepts whatever you throw into it. The man of God is called to guard the sheep, drive off wolves, and rebuke error & heresy (I Tim. 5:20, II Tim. 4:2, Titus 1:9, 1:13, 2:15). A proper regard for (and obedience to) the holiness of God and perfection of His Law trumps feelings and emotions.

3. A Solemn Possibility

A critical matter which many seem to be reluctant to consider is to declare that the teachers of heresy may, indeed, be unsaved heretics despite their high worldly acclaim and ecclesiastical position. Paul says plainly in II Corinthians 11 that 13 . . . such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.
Is it really likely that men who are often on the wrong side of critical issues, who advocate blasphemous teachings, who reject the clear guidance of Scripture, and who appear to be more interested in agreeing with or pleasing men than God, are really converted, indwelt by and guided by the Holy Spirit?
Enemies of the church are instrumental in planting unsaved people (tares) in the congregations. Christ taught that even true Christians would not be able to discern between true believers and false believers: Matthew 13: 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?' 28 He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29 But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, "Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn."'"

This gives the lie to all arguments based on "church unity," for such are clearly not truly part of the church. If they indeed are, and our judgment is mistaken, then let them show their Christian scruples and repent of their error when faced with it. As long as they play the part of a heretic, they must be treated as a heretics, or all church order and discipline must yield to their blasphemy, Holy Writ must be ignored, and grievous error must be allowed to become established and grow. A family cannot train children if there is no discipline; a nation cannot remain free and independent if borders are ignored and corruption be allowed at the highest levels; and a sound and God-honoring church cannot be maintained if heresy and grievous error be tolerated and endlessly debated.

An undisciplined, sloppy sentimentality must not be allowed to suppress reason and urgent necessity. There must be a full-orbed, masculine willingness to take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Eph. 6:13). Deadly cancer requires immediate excision, not dilatory coddling and endless discussions as to whether it might not have a valid place in the body.

Even in the case of a disobedient (possibly saved) church member who refuses to follow the Scriptures, Paul says in II Thessalonians 3: 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Paul says have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed, hopefully to be restored to fellowship eventually; but in the meantime, have nothing to do with him, not "Engage him in continuing dialogue."
Likewise, Paul refers to erring church members whom, though he seems to hope for their recovery from error, he has had to cast out of the church, in I Timothy 1: 19. . . some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. Again, there is definitive exclusionary action indicated here, not continuing tolerance. How much more important is it to safeguard the flock from soul-damning false doctrine?
In II Timothy 3:5 Paul tells us to walk apart from those who have the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. If this is true in the context of those who walk disorderly in the local church, how much more is it applicable to those who teach soul-damning false doctrine?

4. Obedience to Christ

Christ is the Incarnate Word, always in perfect harmony with the Written Word. Therefore it is the greatest effrontery to Christ to contradict, reject, or ignore the Holy Scriptures. God says to a fallen leader, Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice . . . For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry (I Samuel 15:22-23 KJV).
Godly leaders must not shirk a difficult part of their duty. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17). The King of Kings shows us our duty towards false teachers, and we must obey. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him (I Kings 18:21).

5. Responding to False Teachers and Heretics in Authority Over Us

If a leader proves himself to be a false teacher, a heretic, or a purveyor of illicit morality, the many Scriptures quoted above make our duty clear: What Biblical right do we have to thumb our nose at God and set at naught the Scriptures by continuing to accept their leadership over us? What are we commanded again and again to do with false teachers?

". . . watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them." ""Purge the evil person from among you." "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed." "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? . . . Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord." "undermine the claim of those . . . For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness." "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." ". . . to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment." "I opposed him to his face." ". . . rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith." ". . . having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people." "As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (KJV: 10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.)

Do these passages say ". . . unless the false teacher has an ecclesiastical position of leadership?" Or does common sense say, "Sound doctrine and practice is required of leaders?" As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine (I Timothy 1:3).

Sometimes the answer is so obvious that we, in our authentic Christian desire to be loving, be reasonable, pursue unity, and avoid discord, fail to exercise Godly discrimination when hard remedies are overdue. We must never shirk our duty to God for fear of the face of man. In our customary habit of submitting to our place in the ecclesiastical machinery, and having seen others make shipwreck due to pride, vainglory, and power-seeking, we forget our basic responsibility to keep track of just whose ship we are sailing on.

The Bible tells how to bring a charge against a church elder / leader: Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality (I Timothy 5:19-21). From this passage we learn as follows:

(1) Sometimes it is necessary to bring a charge against an elder / leader.
(2) This should only be done in cases where there are at least two or three witnesses.
(3) If the subject persists in unrepentance, he must be publicly rebuked.
(4) It must not be a kangaroo court, but rather conducted without prejudgment or partiality.
It should be noted that many in ACNA, AMiA, etc. have followed the spirit of Biblical attitudes in leaving TEC in order to hitch their wagons to more sound leadership. Should not these sheep expect their faithful undershepherds to do likewise?

Taking strong Biblical action by separating from continuing apostacy would have a secondary benefit: it would release faithful Anglicans from the continual embarrassment they suffer from their evangelical friends from other denominations continually asking them "why do you affiliate with Anglicanism when your leaders support sodomy?" There is no good answer to that! There must be a public and complete break with the Archbishop of Canterbury and his unresponsive, deceitful, divisive liberal machinery. Even the Muslim world eagerly points out that the sodomites are effectively setting the agenda for the Anglican church's highest leaders, preaching that such rejection of the natural order is proof they are not Godly. ✝

6. The Question of English Establishmentarianism

(1) The Crown Nominations Commission

As presently constituted, the reigning monarch of England is the theoretical, titular Head of the Church, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is the de facto CEO. In the event of a vacancy in the bishoprics of either Canterbury or York, candidates for the position are not elected by the college of bishops, but rather are chosen by a group known as the Crown Nominations Commission.

As I understand it, members of the Commission are as follows: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, three members of the House of Clergy of General Synod, three members of the House of Laity of General Synod, six members of the Vacancy-in-See Committee of the diocese whose bishopric is to become (or has become) vacant, the Archbishops' Secretary for Appointments, and the Prime Minister's Appointments Secretary.

The Commission chooses two possible "candidates" for the office, whose names are submitted to the Prime Minister. Only one "candidate" really has any chance of being appointed, since the names submitted are given in an order of preference already decided upon by the Commission, and the Prime Minister then submits the first (favored/chosen) name to the Queen for her pro forma approval.
Presumably, the two "candidate" system is a means of throwing a conciliatory bone of recognition to the disfavored "candidate" and his constituency; for example, when Prime Minister Tony Blair chose closet uber-liberal Rowan Williams as ABC, the other "candidate" was godly Michael Nasir-Ali.

(2) An Ecclesiastical Hindrance
For the moment ignoring the issue of whether the reigning monarch has any real options in choosing the Archbishop of Canterbury or is just a figurehead, where is the Biblical precedent or assent for the reigning head of a church of Christ to be nominated by a political process, and ultimately ratified by a secular monarch's approval?

Why should the leadership of the Church be subject to the State? Why should people like Tony Blair be allowed to help decide who should rule the Church of England?

The Church of England out to be ruled by more Biblical means, such as conciliar leadership by a truly equal College of Bishops, with politics, intrigue, and favoritism having no place.

(3) An Anachronistic Error

In reality, the current monarch has no formative participation in the ecclesiastical affairs of the Church of England, though this was not always so. The Archbishop of Canterbury and his coterie of like-minded liberals (some of whom claim to be evangelicals-- if it walks like a duck . . .) exercise all "leadership." Hence, for many decades the influential minority of liberals have influenced and ruled over the conservative, faithful majority whom they attempted to keep in relative ignorance of their true character.

It should be pointed out that the present monarch inherited her role, with no say in the matter, and in no way attempted to wrest or exercise dominion over the church. By all accounts she is a Godly, decent woman. Indeed, when one reads her Christmas messages, there is much more of sound theology and worshipful churchmanship in them than in the Christmas messages of the Archbishop of Canterbury! It is assumed by the present author that she is distressed by the current declension of the Church of England, but does not understand the political intricacies (or finds herself unable and/or unwilling) to do anything effectual about it.

(4) A Temporal Expedient

Of course, the unbiblical leadership structure of the Church of England is a direct result of the circumstances of its founding. Godly reform-minded churchmen gladly backed Henry VIII's break with the papacy, even if it was not exactly praiseworthy as to its presenting issue. In the 1500's, with the Reformation in progress and Papal military power a threat to all separating from Rome, there was much to be said for national churches being under the secular protection of local political/military power. It is very unlikely that a modern Western "separation of Church and State" would have ended in anything but slaughter, given the conditions of the day. So it may well have been God's will to preserve and protect reforming churches through national political leadership, at least as a temporary expedient. (Perhaps Luther's political support network was more amenable to good church leadership than England's at the time, but we digress.)

(5) A Call to Reform

Ideally, the Church of England would agree to becoming disestablished, and adopt a fully conciliar ecclesiology, with all Bishops being equal and none being "more equal than others." Unfortunately, there is no sign that the people at the top will ever willingly release their stultifying grip on power. Faithful leaders must publicly rebuke and separate from these liberals, and should establish their own conciliar government, having no further fellowship or communion or "dialogue" with heretics, dissemblers, and hypocrites. Then the rotten core of the established English Church could fade away into total impotence as it wishes, without being a blight on the name of true evangelical believers. Anglicanism must cease being identified as a national church, and begin to be recognized as a world-wide communion, free from English politics or domination.

END

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