What should you do if you believe someone is teaching something that is not only wrong, but dangerous to the body of Christ?
Well, let’s start by saying that there are lots of heretics out there. Why would this one bother you? What motivation would you have to oppose this one when you haven’t opposed all the others? If you don’t have an answer to that, then don’t worry about it. God may not be calling you to be involved in that debate. On the other hand; if people you care about are affected; or if a body of believers you care about is being pushed to division; or if you are in an official leadership position with the charge of caring about these things—then you may have a good reason to become involved.
But how? What are you supposed to do? Here’s what I think:
First, your goal is to expose the error, not destroy the teacher. Check your heart. Personal vendetta, which almost always factors into church disputes, really should not be a part of dealing with heresy. Other concerned people, who don’t have a personal stake in any feud, should come around the parties involved and make sure that the discussion does not degenerate into hate. If you can’t deal with the issues apart from personal anger or animosity, then trust that the Lord will lead others.
Second, while it is natural to want to convince the errant teachers to turn back from their error, it is not necessary. In the past, people who chose error were put to death. But even that strong response didn’t solve the problem. The errors, some of which we accept as truth today, continued and those who died are remembered as martyrs. The point is that the Spirit alone convinces our hearts, not the arguments of people around us. Pray for the teacher. If possible, try to discuss the issues. Expose the errors publicly. Do what is necessary; then realize that you can’t force someone to agree with you. Not really.
Third, as I said a few days ago in another blog article, let the circle of the original teaching be the circle of your exposure. I mean that you can answer a blog with a blog, a FB comment with another FB comment, a book with a book—but your public opposition may introduce people to the error and they may become intrigued. If your attack is beyond what is necessary, they may see you as the negative one and be even more open to the error.
Fourth, there is a time to separate from the error. Sometimes we are connected to error by associations. Many denominational splits have come about because of people on one side of an issue desiring to be seen as different from those on the other side. That might be acceptable, depending on the issues. A public policy on abortion or homosexuality, would be an example of the cause of separation in our day. If you believe that your ministry will be harmed or that your message will be compromised by the error of those close to you, you may have to separate from them.
According to the old story, the apostle John went into the public bath one day only to find that Cerinthus, the Gnostic teacher, was there. John ran from the building and encouraged others to do the same lest, when the roof caved in through God’s judgment on Cerinthus, they should be caught in the collapse.
Finally, and this is important, you don’t have to win. Maintaining the purity of the church and its message is the Lord’s responsibility. He may call you to do something, but He never requires the results from your hand. Instead, you simply do what He has called you to do and leave the results up to Him. Many may follow the error. That’s not your responsibility. Seek to teach truth. Expose the error. Then, when it’s over, let it be over.
There is such a thing as heresy. There is heresy that is so contrary to the gospel that it perverts the message. There is heresy that endangers the people who accept it and compromises their message. Some are called to speak up when heresy is revealed. Not everyone. But those who are called shouldn’t enter into the battle with either fear or hatred. We are better than that.
Thoughts? Anything to add? Disagree?