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This Should Not Be

The internet is full of people behaving badly. Sadly, many of them are Christians, or those who profess to be Christians. “Discernment” blogs abound that indiscriminately, and often maliciously, shoot down the innocent along with the guilty. Statements are frequently taken out of context, misinterpreted, and misrepresented. Even when accusations are valid, they are often delivered with vitriol that is unbecoming of those who claim to represent Christ.

Against such behavior, Presbyterian minister Samuel T. Logan Jr. writes,

Words are extremely powerful. They can build up, and they can destroy. And we who claim to be Christians must be exceedingly careful how we use those words. Especially when we believe that we are defending the truths of Scripture, we must be careful not to disobey Scripture.

I will cite two primary reasons for this.

First, “the Bible tells us so.” The Apostle Paul gives this infallible instruction in 2 Timothy 2:24–25: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”

Read, for your edification, the entire article here. It is a much-needed message in these days when everyone, for better or worse, has access to a public platform.

However, I have two points of disagreement with Logan’s article.

The first (in this context) is minor, since it has no bearing on the point being made: He quotes two men, Tony Campolo and Martin Luther King, who cannot be considered Christians by any biblical definition. (Say what you like about King as a civil rights leader, and you’ll get no argument from me. I only object when Christians present him as a Christian leader. As for Campolo, he has strayed so far from orthodoxy that I feel like washing my hands after typing his name.)

The second is more important:

Have You ever heard or read something like this:

”XXX teaches a false gospel”? [XXX is named and is currently a minister in the PCA.]

Or this, “YYY’s book is heretical”? [YYY is named and is currently a minister in the OPC.]

Or this, “ZZZ teaches damnable heresy”? [ZZZ is named and is currently a leader of The Gospel Coalition.]

These are actual statements made in public forums by professing Christians, but none of those named has ever been “named” in any official disciplinary proceeding in the church of which he is a minister. To quote Scripture, “My brothers and sisters, this should not be!”


Without a doubt, there are many who throw words like heresy at targets that don’t deserve them. This is to be lamented and rebuked, not only because it is sin, but because it damages reputations, causes unwarranted division in the church, and softens the impact of such words when they are used correctly. Like the boy who cried “wolf,” we desensitize people to the words like heresy and false gospel when we use them promiscuously. When it does become necessary to use them, no one cares. Indeed, “this should not be.”

But that necessity does come. Surely, we must be diligent to verify of the “facts” we believe about anyone before speaking against them. And there are plenty of reasons to be careful what we say, and how we say it, about public figures who err.

Where I differ from the final paragraph quoted above is the suggestion that those who have not yet been disciplined by their churches are off-limits to critics. That smells too much like the “touch not God’s anointed” nonsense that charismatic cults use to protect their “healers,” “prophets,” and “apostles” from public criticism and accountability. To be clear: I am not saying that is what Logan intends—I am quite sure he does not. But I think the implication, though unintended, is there.

It is true that teachers of error are not under the authority of the general public. The power to correct and discipline belongs to their churches and, as long as their offenses remain within their churches, they are no one else’s business. But as soon as their errors are broadcast and published, public responses become necessary, and we need not wait for their churches to act. If we did, who would warn against the false teaching of many who possess broad influence, whose churches have no inclination to rein them in? Who would warn against Joel Osteen, Stephen Furtick, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, et al.? None of them have ever been named in any church’s official disciplinary proceeding, or likely ever will be. “My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

Posted 2020·01·13 by David Kjos
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