Why A Discernment Notebook?

The Bible teaches that we are to test all teachings (I John 4:1,6), expose those teachings that are false (Eph. 5:11), confront and rebuke the false teachers (Titus 1:9,13), and then separate from those who persist in false teaching (Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10), lest in the end, we are disqualified for service (2 Tim. 2:20,21), or worse yet, we are identified with the false teachings and the false teachers themselves (2 John 10,11).

Wolves in disguise have entered the flock and are deceiving many. For this reason, it is important for us to closely examine their teachings. And since it is impossible to separate the teachings from the teacher, we make no effort to sidestep certain personalities or soften positions taken by these individuals. Nevertheless, this examination is not done for the purpose of tearing down or simply to be negative, but only to help those who wish to be Biblical. 

Conservative fundamentalist thinking has always been accused of negativism and of delving into personalities in its polemic against unbelief; but now fundamentalists are being encouraged to not even touch on the negative aspects of doctrine. Yet the Bible has no such hands-off policy. The Bible uses terms such as "false prophets" (Mt. 7:15; 24:24); "heresies" (2 Pet. 2:1); "heretic" (Tit. 3:10); "false teacher" (2 Pet. 2:1); "false apostles, deceitful workers" (2 Co. 11:13); "doctrines of devils" (1 Tim. 4:1); "tradition of men" (Col. 2:8); "evil workers" (Ph. 3:2); "another gospel" (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6), "antichrists" (1 Jn. 3:18); "evil men and seducers" (2 Tim. 3:13); "deceivers" (2 Tim. 3:13); "every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14); "them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned" (Rom. 16:17). 

The exercise of discernment is vitally necessary today. The difficulty is that many teachers on the contemporary scene seem to affirm a Biblically sound doctrinal statement (i.e., the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture; the Trinity; the full deity and humanity of Christ; etc.); seem to affirm the gospel and speak often about evangelism and bringing the lost to Christ; and often their teaching is replete with Scripture references and is sometimes couched in very scholarly terms, giving the appearance of a well thought through Biblical position. More in depth analysis, however, often reveals that, in practice, they depart from their orthodox position. What they say they believe and what they actually teach are often miles apart.

Opposition and heresy from without and within have made defense of the faith always an imperative. But now we seem to live in a day when believers are enamored by personalities, thereby consistently ignoring Rom. 16:17, which teaches that believers are to 'NOTE them, MARK them, and AVOID them' -- those who bring contrary doctrine. WHY? Because these false teachers serve only themselves, not Christ, and deceive the naive with smooth talk (Rom. 16:18). The Bible never tells us to fellowship with "them," all the while ignoring their destructive heresies -- that would be compromise. Instead, the Bible teaches that sound doctrine cannot be perpetuated through compromise (1 Cor. 15:33), and that compromise cannot be avoided without separation (2 John 10,11).

The teachings of these men are like the proverbial bad penny -- they keep showing up. The problem is that they are not always recognizable by those in positions to correct or avoid them. Sometimes an outsider must don the role of realist in order to startle the insider into reality. Therefore, the information detailed in these Notebook reports is written with a spirit of concern, and ought not to be misinterpreted as mere rock-hurling. The intention is to inform and alert believers to the false gospels being passed-off as orthodoxy; this is clearly within our Biblical authority and command. It is done without any personal animosity or hatred toward those involved.

But some would ask, "What about Christ's command to 'love one another' and 'the mark of a disciple being love'? And doesn't the Bible say that love is the highest of the spiritual virtues, even above faith and hope?" (1 Cor. 13:13). Yes, but love certainly cannot be higher than truth! In fact, doctrine and truth are necessary prerequisites for Biblical faith, hope, and love. Without sound doctrine there can be no faith, hope, or love. (Love rejoices in the truth [1 Cor. 13:6], because without truth, love cannot even exist [1 Pe. 1:22].) Moreover, the Bible teaches that love is the result (i.e., the fruit) of sound doctrine, not vice versa (1 Tim. 1:3-5; 1 Pe. 1:22). Our priority must always be on truth. Therefore, "love as the mark of a true disciple" cannot be determined by the gauge of our agreement with one another. Instead, it must always be remembered that love is a Biblical doctrine in and of itself -- LOVE in the TRUTH (see 2 & 3 John and Eph. 4:15).

Yet many would still contend that the top priority of the Church is the conversion of the lost, and thereby, as long as one preaches the bare minimum of the true gospel, we should uphold that one and not criticize him for other areas in which he may hold and teach false doctrine. Not only would this position be one of compromise and accommodation, and thereby in contradiction with the clear teaching of Scripture, it also blurs the clear two-fold function of the Church -- the Church's function is not only the propagation of the faith, but its preservation also. Obviously, if the faith is not preserved, it cannot be passed-on to others. Thereby, whenever anyone in the professing Church elevates the propagation of the message to the neglect of the preservation of it, then they are defeating the very purpose of their existence, and must be challenged. We would agree with the comments in the foreword to PsychoHeresy:

"... many church leaders, though well intentioned, are feeding ... deadly poison to the Body of Christ. ... [Religious] leaders should be held accountable for what they say in books, magazines and pulpit or on radio and television. Certainly no one can object if what he has stated publicly is quoted or questioned publicly. If any church leader is granted immunity from challenge or correction, then [the spirit of] the Reformation was in vain and we are back under the unscriptural authoritarianism of a Protestant popery. ...

"If [a particular teaching is] valid and Biblical, then its proponents have nothing to fear from a factual and Scriptural analysis of its tenets; and if its precepts are in fact false and dangerous, then lovers of God and truth will be grateful when error is exposed."

Again, we want to emphasize that our purpose is not to indiscriminately criticize, but to expose doctrinal error while holding forth the Word of Truth. This will inevitably be unpopular with the mass of professing Christians as they and their ministries compromise the truth to gain acceptance. But then, we are to be looking for the approval of God, not men. To do otherwise would be to befriend the enemy and cause harm to the body of Christ.

It is, therefore, our desire to not only be 100% factually accurate in all the information provided in the reports in this Notebook (quotes, context, etc.), but also to be fair in our interpretation and analysis of the facts. We, thereby, welcome all comments and criticism along these lines.

May we all continue to be "good servants of Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 4:1,2,6), upholding the Church as the "pillar and support of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

* Much of the content of this paper is paraphrased from two primary sources -- Neoevangelicalism Today, by Robert Lightner; and Biblical Perspectives, "The Myths Of The Third Wave," by Robert Dean.

"A fundamentalist is one who adheres with strong conviction to the fundamentals ... of the Christian faith, and who insists on separation from worldliness, apostasy, and disobedient brethren . ... it is a necessary prerequisite for being called a fundamentalist -- separation must be seen as a defining element of fundamentalism" (Ken Pulliam). Biblical Fundamentalism is the movement of men and ministries who, recognizing God's Word as completely authoritative in every area of which it speaks, are dedicated to theological orthodoxy and an attitude of disdain for unbelief as well as theological, ecclesial, or ministerial compromise. Such an attitude manifests itself by militant defense of the faith once delivered (as recorded in its completeness in God's Word, the Bible) and subsequent separation from those who entertain unbelief or compromise. Biblical fundamentalism is always marked by 1) ecclesial separation from unbelievers or those who seek common ministerial cause with unbelievers or even professing brethren who propagate false doctrine and, 2) defense of absolute truth as revealed in God's Word. [Return to Text]

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 2/2004