I hope you have been enjoying reading my various takes and responses to your questions. I have had a lot of fun writing, thinking, and researching ways to respond to you. When we run out in the near future, I hope to have more prompts to write about!

This week’s question is related to false teaching. The person asks: “How does God view Christian teachers who distort Christ’s teaching? Those who follow them? If people are still led to Christ, is an imperfect teaching justified?” {Preview for next week’s post: false teachers are often connected with division in the body of Christ.}

A Brief Excursion on the Creeds

My immediate answer to this question is the most Methodist thing I know: grace. But before I jump on the grace-train, I think that it is important to note that we have CORE truths in Christian faith. Without some foundation we move into arbitrary philosophies of life. Our understanding of God (our theology) cannot be worked through on our own, but always in conjunction with the community of faith. That is a primary difference between Christian philosophy and theology: community. The most vital aspects of Christian theology is summed up in the creeds of the ancient church.

The most vital aspects of Christian theology is summed up in the creeds of the ancient church.

Creeds seem outdated. Having some agreed upon statement sounds cultic and seems to suppress the freedom of thought the enlightenment period wrought about. But honestly, we all have creeds, Christian or not. Many would say that the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is “a fact of ethical life” or that the constitution of the United States must be agreed upon and enforced. Those are types of secular creeds that are lived by, so why is a creed in the church a bad thing among people of faith?

With that excursion, I now turn to answering the questions posed for today.

1)      How does God view false teachers?

Read Matthew 7:15-20. God views false teachers like a bad tree that does not bear fruit: good only to be cut down and eliminated. False teaching will always lead people away from love, away from grace, and away from the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. I believe God laments false teaching because God’s desire is that all people come to receive the salvation of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:1-4). False teachers lead people away from the God revealed through Jesus Christ and they will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).

According to the Matthean passage in question, the primary identification of false teachers is in the fruit they bear. If they are exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-26) and helping people connect to Jesus in real, meaningful ways, would Jesus consider them a false teacher (Luke 9:49-50)? I believe there is grace for all who are adamantly, openly seeking the God revealed through Jesus Christ.

2)      How does God view those who follow false teachers?

Read Matthew 7:21-23. This is a hypothetical situation, but here it goes. Suppose you are following a false teacher. You are still calling Jesus Lord but your theology is devoid of biblical truth. Jesus says not all who call him Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven… “only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Carrying over from the answer to question 1, it seems that the fruit and actions one takes is more important than one’s theology. HOWEVER, one’s theology is often the beginning point of action. A proper theology begets proper action, while often a defunct theology will beget defunct action.

 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart… – Jeremiah 29:13

Again, I believe that God still offers grace for those who may be deceived by false teachers. I think this is especially true if they are seeking after the God revealed through Jesus Christ with all their heart. Jesus’ words just a few verses earlier in Matthew 7:7-12 and the words of Jeremiah 29:13 come to me: if you seek God you will find God.

3)      If people are still led to Christ, is an imperfect teaching justified?

The idea that we could have a perfect teaching in a post-modern society is ludicrous. Everything is suspect. I remember at times having professors and evaluations count off with the justification, “well, nothing can be perfect.” I mostly agree, nothing is perfect. Nothing we can do with our human hands or minds will be perfect. But as a Methodist I believe that all Christians are going on to be perfected in love. We may not be able to think perfectly or act perfectly, but through the Holy Spirit we can love perfectly. I believe that each follower of Christ will, one day, be perfected in love. Most teaching may be imperfect, but if it leads to people being perfected in the love of Christ, bearing the fruit described in the New Testament, then the teaching may just be good enough.

We may not be able to think perfectly or act perfectly, but through the Holy Spirit we can love perfectly.

Orthodoxy leads to Orthopraxy

I often see questions underlying the original question posed. In this case, I think the question is “what if I am following a false teacher? What if I AM a false teacher?” My response is to distill this post into an axiom: All proper Christian teaching leads to proper action. The fruit of one’s life is the indicator of one’s seeking and belonging to Christ. If you are worried you have a wrong piece of theology because someone is convincing you that your doctrine of predestination or freewill is all wrong, I would not fret. The primary question should be, how does this doctrine lead you to live in a Christian manner? If your doctrine leads to hatefulness, judgment, and fear, I would be concerned. If your doctrine leads to faithfulness, love, hope, and joy, I would be confident.

May God help us understand more clearly, become more Christ-like, and love more perfectly. Amen.