1. A spirit of accommodation, ecumenism & unity in moral & doctrinal diversity has & is spreading among us:

a. With worldly influences (dress, speech, entertainment, values...) - 1 Cor. 15:33.

b. Fellowship with practitioners &/or teachers of error (MDR; worship; work) - 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:11; 2 Jno. 9-11.

2. More & more acceptable to believe that a person cannot be identified as a false teacher unless it can be proved the teacher's motives are insincere &/or dishonest.

3. Results of this teaching include:

a. We must read hearts in order to determine who is a false teacher.

b. Bible is not clear enough for definitive positions to be held (gray areas...definitive nature of truth).

c. The one who raises Bible questions & concerns is called "factious" & marginalized.

d. Unassailable positions & open-ended fellowship (unity in diversity).


A. A Growing View Among Brethren:

1. "A false teacher is surely one whose dishonest motives and/or ignorance distinguish him from the sincere brother who has reached an erroneous conclusion." (Ed Harrell, "Homer Hailey: False Teacher?," Christianity Magazine, Nov., 1988, p. 9).

2. "I do not regard Homer Hailey as a false teacher...because I am persuaded by his conduct & his arguments that he honestly believes that he is faithful to God's teaching on the subject" ("Divorce & Fellowship," Ed Harrell, written speech at FC Open Forum, Feb., 1991).

3. You have noticed that I have said little about false doctrine. There is a reason for that: 'false doctrine' is an unscriptural term!" (R. Andrew Parker, Sentry Magazine, XVII:1, Mar. 31, 1991).

4. So, we are told a person is not a false teacher unless there exists:

a. Dishonest motives (Hypocrite; teaches error with a conscious intent to deceive).

b. Insincerity.

c. Ignorance of the issue.

d. Plus..has led to some saying that "false doctrine" is an unscriptural term!

5. On this basis: Must receive every teacher & saint we judge to be: sincere, honest & spiritual! (Why not Oral Roberts? Ed Harrell - Preface to Oral Roberts: An American Life, p. ix, par. 4).

B. Scriptural Definition of False Teacher:

1. Honesty, sincerity & knowledge of the teacher do not determine whether his teaching is true or false. These are motives by which he teaches.

2. Dishonesty & insincerity may exist, but their presence is not the basis for determining the truth of a teacher's doctrine - Phil. 1:15-18.

a. False (PSEUDO): "Falsehood, perversion of religious truth" (Analy. Greek Lexicon Revised, Moult­on, 442).

b. False teacher (PSUEDODIDASKALOS): "One who teaches false doctrine."

2. In the New Testament:

a. 2 Pet. 2:1-2 - Promotes destructive heresies (opinions, sects) opposed to truth (cf. 1:19-21).

b. Rom. 16:17 - Those causing divisions / stumbling contrary to the doctrine learned.

c. 1 Tim. 1:3, 10-11 - Another doctrine, contrary to sound doctrine.

d. Gal. 1:8-9 - Contrary doctrine prohibited (even though teacher is an angel or apostle) - 2:11-14!

e. 1 Jno. 4:1, 6 - False prophet is assessed by his teaching, not by his moral character!

3. An action takes its nature (good or evil, moral or immoral, lie or truth) from its relation to God's revelation & will, not the attitude of heart with which one engages in it:

a. Uzzah - 1 Chrn. 13:9-10; 15:13. Who doubts his good intentions?!

b. Saul - Acts 23:1; 26:9 Ù 1 Tim. 1:13 - No less a blasphemer because he was honest, sincere & ignorant!

4. Same holds true for a teaching & its teacher! - 2 Tim. 2:16-18 - Erred from truth (no­thing of dishonesty, insincerity, ignorance).

II. CONSEQUENCES OF IDENTIFYING FALSE TEACHERS & FALSE DOCTRINE ON THIS MAN-MADE BASIS (where this thinking & its application inevitably leads).

A. We Are Forced To Read Hearts Before We Can Identify & Oppose False Teachers.

1. Jesus can read hearts - Jno. 2:25; Matt. 9:4.

2. Miraculous gift: Discern spirits (1 Cor. 12:10).

3. Not heart reading, but fruit reading: 1 Cor. 2:11; Matt. 7:15-20; 1 Jno. 4:1.

4. Objective standard of testing: Revealed truth, the word of God.

5. cf. Baptist on Acts 2:38 (because of): Honest & sincere -- But wrong!

6. cf. Brother on remaining in adulterous marriage after baptism (1 Cor. 6:11): Honest, sincere -- But wrong!

a. Why is the Baptist wrong (& reject in fellowship) though he is sincere & honest, but a brother can be received into fellowship (though wrong) because he is sincere & honest?!

b. Do only members of churches of Christ have honest hearts?!

c. Or, have we loosened our view of fellowship to avoid controversy, & made it a matter of subjectivity?!

B. The Clarity Of Truth Will Be Called Into Question More & More.

1. "Always been differences;" So many different positions held by sincere men, how can we be confident of truth?

a. "There have been significant differences on these issues since the beginning of the restoration of the New Testament way of Christ in America.....Campbell....Scott...Brewer...McGarvey...Lewis...Otey...Srygley.. .Hardeman ...Whiteside...The point is that we regard these men as giants, and rightly so. We use their commentaries, often quote from them, and are thankful for their service. Why all of a sudden must we now press each other to draw lines of fellowship when men of similar stature have such differences?" ("Fellowship on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage", Samuel G. Dawson, 23-24).

b. Appeal made re. institutionalism; sponsoring church; instrumental music; societies, ad infinitum.

c. Such reasoning is based upon man, not God!

2. This makes God's word suspect on every disputed subject!

a. Marriage, divorce & remarriage, deity of Jesus; the days of creation, the plan of salvation; work of church; ad infi­nitum.

b. Rom. 3:3-4; 2 Cor. 11:3-4; Eph. 3:3-5; 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:15.

3. We are becoming a people who are willing to compromise the clarity of truth for the sake of peace & friendships! (Jer. 6:14; Micah 3:5)

C. It Will Become Impossible To Oppose & Close The Door To Any Error.

1. Anyone with sincere heart & honest motives must be received upon the basis being advocated by some brethren! - 2 Jno. 10-11

a. Baptist and his plan of salvation.

b. The homosexual's advocacy for acceptance.

c. The woman's right to preach.

d. No stopping place!

2. No contending for the faith possible - Jude 3.


1. Some of our brethren would call us alarmists & worse: Factious, watchdogs, legalists, extremists,and as having a personal agenda. But the fact is that more & more brethren are taking looser & looser views on doctrinal purity (including but not limited to) MDR & fellowship. ("Is there not a cause?" - 1 Sam. 17:29)

2. It will not end (and is not ending) with MDR - Error never does! (I first preached this lesson in 1992!)

3. Ignoring this problem only gives error freedom to spread. Instead, we must equip ourselves with truth to combat error & its teachers. We must uphold and support the defense of the truth. We must strive for proper fellowship with God & our brethren (2 Cor. 6:17-18; 1 Jno. 1:3-4).

By Joe R. Price

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