BTWN Episode #342 with Adam Staub of “Shine as Lights” & Josh Fritz of “The Godcast with Josh Fritz” Join BTWN in studio to discuss many topics for your edification and enjoyment.
An Email From Todd Friel:”
In light of the current Social Justice conflagration, it seems like a good time to sharpen our discernment skills The following is an edited excerpt from my book “Judge Not.” I hope this will help us all be better Bereans.
Countless discernment ministries/blogs/radio programs make their stock in trade by doing the very opposite they purport to do. These so-called watchmen on the wall have one rule and one rule only: if I disagree with you on any issue, you are a false teacher and I am going to hammer you without an ounce of grace or love.
These self-proclaimed “guardians of the truth” inevitably form circular firing squads that indiscriminately fire at foes and friends alike. Nobody is safe from the slings and arrows of bad discernment ministries.This perpetually perturbed bunch is apparently unaware that there are rules of discernment. If Christians are to be good discerners, we need to understand the rules of engagement.
Our starting position should not be: everyone is a heretic except me. Our starting position should be one of love that “hopes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). My hope should not be that somebody is intentionally misleading people; my hope should be that I am either confused or I have misunderstood a fellow believer.
Before jumping all over my Sunday school teacher because I think he said something wrong, I should assume I misheard or he misspoke. That does not necessarily mean I can’t talk to him about an issue, but my hope is that there is simply a misunderstanding.
We should always judge with a humble attitude acknowledging that any correct understanding we have of the Bible is a gift from God. If everything we know about God has been revealed to us by God, how can we possibly be snooty toward our fellow saints (1 Corinthians 4:7)?
Rules of Engagement
There are times we do and times we don’t need to speak up.
- We are to judge the teachings of other Christians (1 Peter 4:17), but that does not mean we have to reprimand every word carelessly uttered by a fellow believer. We never turn off our Berean discernment filters (Acts 17:11). Any time another Christian speaks of spiritual things, we judge; but that does not mean we need to chirp up for each and every perceived inaccurate statement.
- Any time a fellow Christian acts in a questionable way, we judge. We are to point out sin in one another (James 5:20), but before you become the church busybody, there are some sins we judge and other sins we overlook.
- If someone commits a gross sin like murder or rape, we judge them.
- If someone lives in an ongoing lifestyle of unrepentant sin of any kind, we judge them.
- If someone is sinning in a way that brings public dishonor to God, we judge them.
- If someone is growing in holiness and commits a one-off sin, we do not judge them.
- If the person in question is a faithful pastor, then you can let it go if it involves a non-essential issue.
- If the context of a questionable quote is not known, you would do well to do a little research before you cry wolf. If you read a tweet about your favorite teacher that seems off, it is probably because he is being taken out of context.
- If you disagree with a brother, ask yourself if it is imperative that you speak to him about it. If you determine it is a subject worth engaging, then gentleness, respect, and love must be employed.
- If you determine it is necessary to warn others, you should speak about the person as if he is in the room with you.
- If you choose to publicly disagree with a believer, make it clear that you are not labeling him a heretic, unless that is your intention.
We separate from people who are false teachers, but we do not separate from people with whom we have a disagreement on a non-essential. Nor do we necessarily separate from someone who doesn’t separate from someone who doesn’t separate from someone with whom we disagree.
Essentials and Non-essentials
We must learn to distinguish between primary, secondary, and tertiary issues. There are five essential doctrines that a person must confess to be considered orthodox. These are considered essential because failure to understand God rightly results in damnation (John 5:24; Galatians 1:8).
- Grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone .
- The sufficiency, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible .
- A correct understanding of the Person of the Father
- A correct understanding of the Person of the Son
- A correct understanding of the Person of the Holy Spirit
There are many secondary issues on which true believers can dis- agree. Examples include speaking in tongues, the age of the earth, spiritual gifts, modes of baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
There are also tertiary issues that can cause disagreement, but should not cause division. Examples include style of worship music, church architecture, multi-site churches, church attire, and tithing.
If something is a gray area (adiaphora), do not elevate it to the level of an essential. We should have earnest and loving debates over secondary and tertiary issues, but when it comes to the essentials, to the mattresses!
If a person is a known false teacher, feel free to hammer away. If a person is known as a faithful shepherd, slow your roll.
Discernment Is Not a Sport
Rightly judging is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the Biblically uninitiated. Discernment requires love, maturity, wisdom, and theological knowledge.
If Christians do not rightly learn and apply the rules of discernment, the world will see us as crabby Christian cannibals who are willing to devour our own. Jesus’ name is not honored when that happens.
Circular firing squads have to stop.