“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 NKJV
I have watched as fellow Christians have torn into one another, slandered Christian brothers and sisters, tried to harm successful ministries, and behaved in such a manner that would result in the unbelieving world fleeing from them.
Added to this is a new contention online, particularly on social media. Disagreements over even minor issues often result in name-calling and denigrating one another. Whether the venue is YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, the contentiousness is out of control.
I have watched mean-spiritedness coming from Christian “leaders” that might make the secular world blush. It is “friendly fire” that isn’t so friendly. And if I publicly chastised them and named their names, they would reply with even more vindictive blogs, radio programs, articles, commentaries, and YouTubes. They can dish out the chastisements but they cannot take an ounce of correction.
Yes, there is raging apostasy. The most frequent email to me is, “Can you recommend a church in you-fill-in-the-blank city?” Many churches have caved to the most unsound doctrine. True heresy needs to be called out with the naming names and citing the aberrant theology.
But some in today’s discernment crowd hide in the bushes, waiting for a Christian leader to make a single misstep. They are then pounced on, labeled a hopeless heretic, and marginalized by others in that community. And if you associate with people they disagree with, feature them, quote them, or publicly show approval of them, you have lost all common sense, discernment, judgment, and more. You are an equal heretic in the guilt by association game.
My radio co-host, Eric Barger, wrote an excellent article titled “When Discernment Turns Ugly.” I’d like to quote a few lines.
Eric writes, “Both Jan and I have become increasingly uncomfortable, even disturbed, with the tone and lack of civility being portrayed by some within the apologetics and discernment community of speakers, writers, and commentators. We’ve watched, listened, and have tried to intervene as assorted discernment ministries have fired shots at others inside Christianity over issues that fall miserably short of what has always been considered heresy.
“A troubling precedent has been spawned by some, lending validation to the idea that it’s perfectly acceptable to publicly rake anyone over the coals for nearly any theological reason.”
Eric continues, “Jan and I are not alone in our dismay with what is happening. Other leaders have voiced the same concern to us in recent days and mind you, the issue is not concerning any rejection of the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection of Christ. Nor is it related to the pseudo-Christian yet cultic Emergent heresy or the seducing web with which spiritual liberalism ensnares so many.”
Eric writes, “The type of ‘discernment’ that I’m referring to here doesn’t involve someone’s denial of the essential doctrines of the faith. Instead, what these squabbles really amount to are nothing more than disagreements on secondary doctrines, styles of worship, and peripheral practices.”
I am puzzled as to why this ministry has been the brunt of constant attack for years. I previously reported that Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, called Olive Tree Ministries a “blight on our times” and “reprehensible.” This and more was stated on his national radio program. He could have called me and said, “Jan, here’s where we disagree. Let’s talk about it.” Instead Hank spent at least three minutes shredding my theology and character. At the root of the issue is his Preterism cannot tolerate Dispensationalism.
Recently another ministry leader who has spent five years denigrating this ministry wrote and said his attitude had softened. He was glad for the areas where we agree. He acknowledged he had not acted Christ-like. He apologized for the damage done and stated that for the issues upon which we agree such as end-time events, he should not have been an adversary. We are flawed human beings who will never see eye-to-eye on everything. I accepted his apology.
I think Olive Tree Ministries is doctrinally sound. I have sometimes featured guests on air or at conferences with whom I have some minor theological disagreements. I have felt that what they have to say is important enough that I will not let secondary issues stand in the way. I also know that these guests would never push their own agenda.
But I have begun to wonder if the contentious contenders expect a background check of everyone with whom one associates? And if so, has the standard been set so high that no imperfect human being can qualify?
Do these folks think that they have no flaws, no theological weaknesses, and have attained a level of such perfection that they have become, in essence, a sheriff for the church? They must stamp their seal of approval on everyone?
Recently one online ministry attacked another and so denigrated the other with insults that it was embarrassing. The one who was verbally insulting the other via YouTube suggested the other lacked a proper education even though this particular pastor is loved by thousands. He is cutting-edge with an electronic audience consisting of tens of thousands.
He was then insulted as someone who needed more theological education in Greek and Hebrew. After an hour of insults, any sound believer would be heartsick and an unbeliever would flee from our camp observing that his unbelieving friends would be far more gracious to him should he make a mistake or have a disagreement.
Eric writes, “I think it’s needful for each Christian to be able to express positions or hold beliefs on the so-called secondary issues, but is biblical apologetics about denigrating others and, in effect, besmirching entire ministries based on disagreements about side issues? For some, this is what it’s become, and worse. The field of discernment has, at least in part, become a hotbed of separatism that seems to far exceed biblical standards.”
Eric continues, “From what is sometimes only one pen or keyboard, judgment is meted out against the suspected offender as newsletters are printed, blogs are published, seminars are given, and whole ministries and reputations are possibly done irreversible harm.
“All this takes place no matter how flimsy the evidence presented may be, and often over non-essential theologies! This should disgust the Christian community and I fear for the next generation of apologists (and those they’ll likely influence) who are being schooled by this example.”
I think that God is saddened that elements in the apologetics’ world behave no better than the Pharisees of Jesus day.
As flawed human beings, we make missteps and we certainly make mistakes. As each day dawns, I ask God for sound judgment for the many major decisions I will face that day. I don’t want to mislead anyone or introduce them to unsound doctrine. I likely am not batting 1,000. In that teachers and leaders have a higher accountability, I would ask you to pray for all of us.
It’s one thing to contend for the faith which we must do (Jude 3). It’s another thing to denigrate character, engage in name calling, and make untrue accusations. A false teacher needs to be called out. Wolves are devouring millions of sheep.
It’s only the contentious contending we are observing that is troubling.
II Timothy 2:24-25:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness…..