Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Death of Discernment
Pt. 2

Having your own blog can be very fulfilling. A while back, I was feeling guilty because I haven't done my traditional journaling for a while. But then I thought "Hey, in a way I'm doing that on my blog!" Certainly, posts like I did a few days ago on "Righteous Sinners" qualifies. It marks a point in my life where I can point and say "Hey, God is changing me. I'm recording what I am seeing." and although there are certainly some things I wouldn't put in my blog, there is much truth to that.

Blogging also helps you to become friends with others who share your burdens, beliefs and trials. And I'm thankful for the support I've received during the rough times, such as when my father passed away a year ago this month. I'm very thankful.

Blogging also has its downside. I don't mean the regular people who disagree. I mean those who, regardless of what you try to say or do, just never seem to "get it". Generally, this happens when you are critiquing someone's theology. But you learn about how people think. Lately I've been reminded of how much confusion there is about the issue of discernment and how the simple act of evaluating a person or movement is viewed as touching the third rail in a subway. The arguments never change, they are a constant. And you see just how open to any error they and others of their persuasion are.

I can't remember who said it, I've heard it so much. The statistic that says the most quoted verse used to be John 3:16. It has been replaced and I'd imagine that many of my regular readers will know what it is. It's the passage in Matthew 7, which is "Do not judge..."

With that statement, all discernment is disqualified because, of course, that means you are being judgmental. Of course, it never dawns on these people that if they apply it to another person, they are making a judgment. It's circular. What they are doing is applying the rule of discernment "in reverse" to invalidate discernment. Kind of like the new tolerance which says "You must be tolerant" all the while not tolerating another (generally Christian) point of view. Logic completely goes out the window. The reasoning is hopeless.

Furthermore, you find firsthand just how confused people are about being able to analyze and critique someone's theology or practice. Any judgement is viewed as a personal assault. Again, there is a secular comparison to be made. For example, if you make an open statement about homosexuality and give the Biblical teaching on this, people will say you are guilty of "hating". In other words, if you say something negative about homosexuality, "you are attacking the person" or something similar.

How much like the world the church is. The world buys whatever view comes down the pike and so do those who name the Name of Christ. The world says "Tolerate and don't judge" and that is what the church is doing.

Let me share with you a couple emails. Let's call these people "Jill" and "Edward". These are actual emails but I've modified them. Here's the first one:

Jill emails me and says something like:

"You called (so and so) an "apostate" (that was the first one I found while searching your blog). If that isn't judging, I have no idea what is. I would like you to apologize to him for that. You don't allow personal jabs on your blog from others, so you can't do it either"

Edward says something like:

I've read (some thread) and still don't understand why you have double standards while it comes to others apologize for their judgment, but you don't need to. Would you like to tell me your reason of not apologizing?"

So, Jill and Ed have a "problem" because I have brought to light something that reveals something questionable about someone in the Christian public and possibly about their ministry. There are two problems here with thinking such as this. They are:

1. Christians are not to evaluate the validity of a person's views or ministry.
2. If you make an evaluation and put a label on it, that is a personal jab.

Both views are wrong. Worse, these views will lead one to open themselves up to whatever error comes down the pike. There is nothing left to tell truth from error when it comes to what a pastor or teacher proclaims. Thus, Christians turn themselves into (and pressure others to become) blind mice!

Happily, the Bible is our plumb line, not the world and not others who profess Christ. The problem is that the very passage that tells us to use discernment is used to shut down that same discernment. Another problem with this is that the end of the very same passage (which they never seem to be aware of) tells us to discern. We are told "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."

Wow. If Matthew 7:1 is a universal command not to evaluate and discern, Jesus has just put us in an impossible situation. We aren't supposed to judge or make any evaluations, but we are also not to "cast our pearls to swine or give holy things to dogs". Oh. Ok. I guess he meant literal pigs and dogs.

Yeah, right.

In context, Jesus is talking about false prophets. Those who teach falsehoods and may even be unsaved. Just read the text. You'll even hear a chilling warning about those who think they are saved and really aren't. There will be those who say "Lord, Lord", thinking they are redeemed when they are false converts.

So, this "don't judge...that's a personal jab" mentality opens the gate to one following a false teacher. It is to play a deadly game of gullibility in the name of "humility" or "spirituality" when that isn't what Jesus is talking about at all.

So, what did Jesus mean? Well, because I don't like to reinvent the wheel, let me give you an excerpt from Bob DeWaay's "Critical Issues Commentary" from May and June of 2006, and an encouragement to read the entire article:

"Given this context, what is the meaning of Matthew 7:1-5? The answer is that we are warned against judging how righteous others are in comparison to ourselves. This passage is a warning against self righteousness. As sinners, we tend to minimize or rationalize our own transgressions and magnify what we see wrong in others. Jesus warns about this because self-righteousness like that of the hypocritical Pharisees will keep a person out of the kingdom of God. It is the poor in spirit and the persecuted who will “inherit the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3, 10). These humbled people know they need a savior.

So does Matthew 7:1-5 teach that Christians should accept all teachers and teachings without discrimination? No. This passage concerns peoples’ motivations and the degree of their internal righteousness. These matters we are not to judge. Other passages, which we will examine later, are concerned with judging the content of a person’s teaching. Before we study those
texts, let us examine other passages that are used to suggest that false teachers should not be corrected publicly."

To say "Pastor Hellfighter's gospel is heretical because he doesn't preach the Biblical Gospel" and then giving evidence for that from the Scriptures is not the kind of "Judgment" that Jesus is forbidding. It also isn't a personal jab. The standard that Pastor Hellfighter's theology is compared to is scripture, not "Well, I do it better". That is a tremendous difference!

What Jesus is forbidding reminds me of the "fence gossip" mentality. Let's say Ruth said the following to Nancy: "Well I know Judy is worldly because I saw her going to (such and such) and well, I 'd never do that". In this case she (Ruth) is making an internal evaluation of Judy based on her own standard, which isn't God's standard. Judy may have had very good reason (or not) to go where she went!

Clearly, gossip is condemned in the scriptures. No doubt about it. But stepping back and saying "Ok, how does Pastor Hellfighter's theology match with the Word of God" is not only not condemned or forbidden, it is encouraged!

How sad that so many have twisted this and consequently opened the door to false teaching. It is an epidemic. Worse, it is a needless one.

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