Saturday, June 10, 2017

False Teaching as a Positive Opportunity for Christian Investigation & Instruction

Rather than seek political means to suppress false teachers, Christians, as citizens of the City of God (Hebrews 11:14-16, 12:22, & Revelation 3:12, 21:1-3), must see this as a positive opportunity to both investigate and better understand the Bible, and then to instruct listeners in the universal Christian faith. As Augustine of Hippo noted early in the fifth century:

“For while the hot restlessness of heretics stirs questions about many articles of the catholic [i.e. universal] faith, the necessity of defending them forces us both to investigate them more accurately, to understand them more clearly, and to proclaim them more earnestly; and the question mooted by an adversary becomes the occasion of instruction.”

  • The City of God, Book XVI, section 2, trans. By Marcus Dods, New York: Barnes & Noble, pp. 622-623.

Unfortunately, many Christians throughout history, including even Augustine, ultimately sought political means to suppress false teachers. Yet, a human power to do good also implies a human power to do evil, which means using the political power of a "city of man" (as Augustine called secular governments) to suppress false teachers ultimately leads to using political power to suppress true teachers of the Christian faith. 

In contrast, the Jews of the city of Berea in Acts 17:10-1, upon hearing the good news about Jesus from the Apostle Paul and Silas, "received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." As a result, many in Berea believed the good news about Jesus. May we all be as these believers when confronting seemingly new ideas in order to discern and distinguish false teaching from ideas compatible with universal Christian truth found in the Bible.

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