Is it bad to teach something that is incorrect? Of course. We should all strive to be correct in our opinions, particularly when we are going to take a teaching role and assume the responsibility of instructing others. But we also have to understand that anyone who undertakes to teach anything will at some point be incorrect. Anyone who grows in their faith and knowledge will end up changing their thinking, which is why an abundance of caution is in order when we share our opinions with people. We need to have some humility and try to differentiate between our opinions and the facts upon which we base them.
For that reason, it’s not without some hesitation that I’ve written the articles for this blog, because I feel the weight of not wanting to mislead anyone if any of my opinions might be incorrect, or not clearly stated, or not supported well enough by scripture. So I acknowledge my fallibility, and do my honest best to be accurate and well-reasoned. I hope that readers understand that I’m not forcing my views on anyone, just sharing them for consideration.
Ultimately, we all need to be convicted in our own minds about our own beliefs, and not put our faith in how strongly our superiors hold to their beliefs. We can’t ride some Teachers’ coattails, or tell God that the Church made me teach this, or believe that. To God we stand or fall as individuals whose hearts will be judged as an open book before God. There is no collective salvation.
As the history of this sect has shown, the Church and its Teachers have been no more immune from error than the rest of Christendom, which it likes to pridefully refer to as the “religious world” or the “off-church.” This raises the serious question of whether the sect is engaged in “false teaching,” and that’s what I want to explore here.
What is false teaching?
It may surprise you that I would discourage people from using the label “false teacher” or “heretic” or “heresy” indiscriminately, because I believe “false teaching” has been mistakenly thought, historically, to mean “incorrect teaching.” (Heresy is another matter, which really means schism or division.) That’s not to say, again, that incorrect teaching is okay, or somehow justified–but I believe the greater condemnation is reserved for those who are engaged in false–lying–disingenuous–teaching.
False teaching literally means “teaching a lie:”
1 Timothy 4 – The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
When my kids tell me something that is incorrect, I don’t generally accuse them of lying–unless I know or suspect that they knew better, and continued to promote an untruth instead. A lie generally involves the intent to deceive, or at least a disingenuous intent to withhold one’s true opinion.
The church clearly has a power structure that oppresses its members into believing and teaching the agreed upon doctrines decided at May Meetings. I believe this to be a violation of our God-given freedom of conscience to arrive at our own opinions based on our understanding of the facts, for better or for worse. As our understanding of the facts grows, so our opinions change over time, being brought into conformity with the Word as our maturity and intellect allows.
The social ramifications of dissent, however, incentivizes one to suppress their true opinions for the sake of their mistaken idea of unity. There is always the fear of withdrawal or public rebuke for “murmuring” or going against “the teaching.” After all, who would want to speak up and defend the right of married couples to engage in foreplay when faced with the fear of being humiliated in public and possibly withdrawn from for having a “corrupt mind?”
Some will say that this example is unfair, because it was from 30 years ago. That’s not true. The teaching started over 39 years ago in 1974, picked up full steam in the 80’s, and didn’t end until 2002. That’s a pretty long track record of “incorrect teaching” at best, and outright “false teaching” at worst.
Here’s the scary part to me. Without a doubt, during the years when the church was being whipped up into a frenzy, with detailed, depraved questioning about sexual practices between married couples, some teachers had to have begun teaching what they knew, or at least suspected, was not true. Why? Fear of man, clearly. This is the textbook definition for false teaching.
Incorrect teaching is bad enough, brothers, but don’t be a party to false teaching. Don’t deliberately shade the truth by teaching, or even to some extent passively agreeing with the teachings of the church when you know, or at least suspect, that they are wrong. That is disingenuous, at best, and outright hypocritical lying at worse. No false definition of “unity” is worth having to stand before God to defend why you taught or helped spread a lie.
I thank God there are some readers of this blog who have acknowledged their own role in those past teachings and have tearfully turned away from it, realizing the damage it did to real people. God’s forgiveness is real and awesome, isn’t it? My words here are not for you, but for those who may know the truth, but may have convinced themselves that they have to teach or shade their teachings in order to keep to a wrong definition of unity.
“Let us not do evil that good may come.” The ends doesn’t justify the means, my friends. Stop rationalizing and minimizing the false–disingenuous–teachings that still go on to this day.
I believe it is not uncommon to disagree with a teaching or rule in the sect which goes against your conscience but you keep silent about it and wait for a May meeting ruling on it. However, when you partake of the Lord's supper you are supposed to have a clear conscience towards God and man but how can one have a clear conscience when you know a teaching/practice is wrong based on scripture but you continue teaching it and forcing it on others knowing it is unscriptural for the sake of keeping unity? That's man pleasing in my book.… Read more »
Not sure what symbol to use to show extreme approval, but imagine that symbol times 100! How can you live with your conscience, knowing silence is consent. If you know and do not do, that is a sin. If the scripture outlines truth, and you obey out of fear, that is man pleasing, and as Proverbs says, "The fear of man bringeth a snare". Ah yes, the church is not growing, and that fits the definition of being trapped as well as any other.
Anon 7:00 pm, I hope your message gets to the ones who can make a difference. You articulated that point with honesty, grace and clarity. Excellent thought.
It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the Truth and expose lies- Noam Chomsky
In 1 Tim 1:20, Paul gives the names of those responsible for false teaching. I've seen comments on this blog about people thinking it is character assassination to list names and I just want to say that I think it can be done without being wrong. For the most part, I agree with not naming names, however, there are claims that certain things were never taught and other claims they were. First of all, it's impossible for one person to make that claim because they can't be in all places at all times to confirm… but aside from that, maybe… Read more »
I was thinking about a particular false teaching from Merie's church. That no one outside of her church is going to heaven or is even heard by God. Now that I know different, it really breaks my heart that for so long I denied my brethren throughout the world, including denying my prayers for them. We recently had a preacher evangelist come to teach for a weekend. He goes to China annually and spends about 3weeks there teaching and helping some of the underground Churches of Christ there. There is such hunger for the word there. The stuff he was… Read more »