Warning Against False Teachers

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Is there anything more dangerous to the Church than false doctrines? The simple answer to that question is, no. Persecutions have come and gone and will come again, but as Church history shows, the blood of martyrs has always increased the Church, rather than decrease it. The determination of atheistic and political forces to make the Church irrelevant in our own times will fail in its goals as well in the long run. They will only help the Church to find better ways, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to reveal the truth of Christ to the world. Such movements against the Church will cause suffering for a time, but when the Church suffers in the name of Christ that suffering is redemptive.

No. It is false doctrine that does real and lasting damage to the Body of Christ, because it is like a cancer within the Body of Christ. Because it is not recognized for what it is, or worse, is seen as more ‘true’ than the true teachings, it harms the oneness of the Christian community quietly from within. These false doctrines can come in many forms.

Paul urges Timothy to, ʺ…command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.ʺ (verses 3-4) How can you tell that a false doctrine is being taught? If it causes controversy, it needs to be questioned. Controversy is like a symptom that appears in the body, a pain, or a lump. As we know, a symptom always points to a deeper problem. If the deeper problem is not recognized, addressed and healed, the body is in danger of greater illness, even death. Controversies are not the main problem, they are simply the symptoms of something more sinister. It is the false teaching underlying them that is the real danger. If we become enamored of false teachings and they become more important than the central faith that has been handed down to us from Christ, through the Apostles, we are in serious danger. False teachings lead the people away from the truth. They are never of God. Rather, they arise from human ego and pride.

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Paul read the signs of the times in those early days of the Church. The danger of false teachings were there from the very beginning. There is only one who would be interested in sewing such division and controversy—the Prince of Lies. Paul writes to Timothy advising him to get a handle on the problem of false teachers and their teachings. He could see then what the results would be. He writes: ʺSome have departed from these [the true teachings of the Church] and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.ʺ (verses 6&7) How are we to deal with false teachings? We are to instruct those engaged in them, or those who are being led astray by them with, ʺ…love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.ʺ (verse 5) This can only be done by those who are truly humble in Christ Jesus.

Let this be our prayer: ʺLord, I need that understanding of the truths about yourself which may prepare me for all your other truths—or at least may save me from conjecturing wrongly about them. I need the mind of the Spirit, which is the mind of the Church, by which I may not only say on definite points, but think what the Church thinks; in all I need to be saved from an originality of thought, which is not true of it leads away from you. Give me the gift of discriminating between true and false in all discourse of mind.ʺ (John Henry Newman) We ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.