This has been difficult to compose and write, partly because there are those I know and love as fellow laborers for the Gospel seem to fall into the category of heresy ‘hunters’, but also because I’ve been one and that makes me a recipient of my own ‘letter’.
On an earlier post, I asked the question: “Is heresy ‘hunting’ a proper use of the gift of discernment?” I defined discernment simply as ‘assessing and judging truth from error’. I defined heresy ‘hunting’ as heading into the fields of Christianity with the specific intent of finding all the heresy that might be out there and maybe even ‘bagging’ a few heretics. You are of course welcome to read the entire post.
This post is meant to provide some personal observations concerning the behavior of some (but not all) heresy hunters and to provide a bit of general guidance for dealing with perceived error, false teaching, and those who we feel might be leading us astray. It’s not intended to be taken as especially authoritative, but it does express the heart of an old soldier who has more than a few battle scars.
First, since I didn’t provide an answer to the question posed in the earlier post (“Is heresy ‘hunting’ a proper use of the gift of discernment?”), let me state that I don’t believe that it is. I find no mandate or example of it in scripture. While genuine error and false teaching needs to be discerned, and occasionally names named, I have yet to find a single instance of intentionally hunting down and bagging ‘heretics’.
That being said, here are some observations I’ve made over the last few years while visiting various venues that focus on discernment and/or finding and shooting heretics. I might be wrong, but there seems to be a ‘modus operandi’ at work that pits ‘brother against brother’, undoubtedly to the pleasure of the enemy of our souls. This is how it seems to play out.
Step 1. There is a ‘perception’ of possible error being taught by a current pastor/teacher/minister. . .whomever. While the perception of doctrinal error could lead to diligently searching the Scriptures and applying the ‘Berean’ principle, for the dedicated heresy hunter, often that investigation is merely cursory because after all, there is a possible/probable heretic right between the front ‘sight posts’!
Step 2. Confirmation of the ‘target heretic’ is sought by seeking out anyone, anywhere, who will share the same ‘misgivings’ concerning the prey. After all, wherever two or three heresy hunters (HHs) agree, the ‘target’ is soon to be ‘dead meat’.
Step 3. Other potential targets are identified by good ‘intelligence’ in finding other pastors/teachers/ministers. . .whomevers who associate with the initial confirmed ‘kill’, and who seem to agree with the heretical doctrine under scrutiny, or have not themselves spotted and condemned Pastor Dead Meat. When two or three HHs agree (and they will), these potential targets are also confirmed, shot, killed, and maybe even stuffed and hung in the den.
Step 4. Since there is undoubtedly a ‘heretical movement’ spreading across the land, and possibly a vast conspiracy afoot, further intelligence is gathered to identify and name the movement, find it’s ‘roots’, and activate the HHN (Heresy Hunting Network) to broadcast these additional ‘findings’ far and wide, by whatever means available, thereby driving up the heretic ‘body count’.
I’ll be the first to admit that there are elements of truth in the above ‘steps to bagging heretics’. Heresy is alive and well in the church, and within certain movements that have replaced the gospel that Christ died for our sins to one of ‘Christ died for our best lives now’. What concerns me is that there is a small group of HH’s out there, and their followers, who seem focused on the hunting down, shooting, and mounting of ‘heretics’, and not at all focused on trying to find out what all these ‘heretics’ are really saying.
In a way, they remind me of the little old ladies who love to gossip over the backyard fence and find fault with everyone else on the ‘block’.
Where there has been conversation between the ‘hunters’ and the ‘hunted’, I’ve found that the ‘heretics’ have engaged in thoughtful gracious dialogue, while the HH’s for the most part have been accusatory, very ungracious, have even engaged in name calling, and otherwise embarrassed themselves.
Having gotten all that off my chest, I am reminded from scripture of a couple of relevant bits of counsel. The first concerns our ‘mindset’ as Christians – what it ought to be:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)
Not that we aren’t supposed to expose error, but we’re also to focus on that which is ‘all of the above’. I think Paul is an excellent example of that principle in his manner of bringing correction to some of the early churches. It might also be appropriate to remember that Paul’s curriculum vitae as a ‘called’ Apostle. Just because he ‘named names’ doesn’t necessarily translate to some sort of carte blanche for us to behave similarly, as some have claimed.
The second bit of counsel comes from something Paul had to say to believers in the Galatian church:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.” (Galatians 6:1-5 ESV)
Paul might not have had HH’s in mind when he penned that advice, but the principles therein certainly apply to the topic at hand. Enough said.
Lastly, remember the Great Commission:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
I leave the reader with one question:
Where exactly in the command to ‘make disciples’ do we find heresy ‘hunting’?
Great post brother. I hope many will read and heed.
Thanks for stopping by, and for encouragement. I’m sure I’ll catch some flack, but that’s OK. Personally, I do have concern’s about heresy in the church, but it’s mostly confined to all the apostate churches feeding the ‘flock’ the false gospel that ‘Jesus died for your best life now’, in all its many variations.
I’ve been guilty of this as well Born and am trying to figure out where my place is in all of this. Sometimes there is a fine line that is easier than I think to pass. There is a difference between apologetics sites and discernment sites. With that being said, not all discernment sites are created equal. Some are good, but most are really just…well, lacking and unbalanced. They tell you what they think is wrong, but they can’t tell you what the scripture says it seems…a lot of the time anyway. Other times, they may be right in what they say, but there is such nastyness that comes through in the comments section or even in the post. I am guilty of leaving nasty comments especially when I am just fed up and filled with what I think is “righteous” anger. Well, it’s not so righteous when I call people blind and stupid and the other things I have been so guilty of saying now is it? Yeah, Jesus did overturn the tables in the temple and take whips to those bad bad men…but I ain’t Jesus. I am told to be gentle as a dove as the compliment to being wise as a serpent. I forget the gentle dove part way too many times.
I believe in christian liberty. I believe in freedom of conscience and I believe the Holy Spirit convicts. I believe in standing firmly for what we call “primary” issues, but I also think we have downplayed some issues to “secondary” that really should not be.
With that being said, what I may think is important and have been convicted of is not necessarily the same as what another of God’s own is being convicted of. There are very clear things that we can and should warn about…but other things are not so clear. There are passions that others have, that I don’t and at the same time passions that I have that others don’t. I think that sometimes, we forget about christian liberty, strong faith and weak faith and the conscience. We assume that other christians can’t see for themselves what is wrong with a certain teaching and we forget that most people sitting under false teachers are not christians. We are told over and over again about the remnant. The residue. The crumbs.
What I am getting at here is that…I’m trying to say this with some sort of grace…it’s hard…uh…heresy hunting I think seems to throw pearls before swine a lot of the time and the focus is no longer on what is good and pure…it’s just the opposite. It’s exactly would we would expect to happen if we go out purposely looking for trouble. Trouble will find us, we don’t need to go looking under rocks for it. Also, many of those that heresy hunters are trying to warn, are not christians in the first place so no matter how much they expose, or how right they may be…it just doesn’t matter when the Holy Spirit is not convicting the reader of the post or leading the writers in the comment sections.
Of course, with that being said, you can’t blame nasty comments on the writer. But for instance, in the case of Wartburgwatch…that bunch of angry women attract nothing but more angry women and honestly, there is such bad theology on that site, I wouldn’t call them any sort of a discernment site at all. I feel the same about Pyromaniacs. Though they have some solid theology, there are some serious issues with the way the moderators treat anyone who doesn’t agree. It’s not just little discernment nobodies who I question these days. I see it in things like Pirate Christian Radio, Crosstalk, Pyro, Challies etc. It’s rampant. We are all guilty of the things you have given as examples in your above post…whether it be pastor or not. Big name or little nobody.
What also bothers me is that some sites will harp and harp on some things and completely ignore others depending on what’s trendy. Rick Warren, Perry Noble, Todd Bentley, Lordship Salvation, the Emerging Church…pick your poison. Everyone’s got a favorite topic. As Charles Spurgeon says…a nose might be a good thing, but if it’s too big, it distorts the face (paraphrased of course). Balance is important and it seems to be lost.
I can’t say I won’t continue to post on things that I see a problem with, but I do hope as God sanctifies me and teaches me, that I will learn to do it in a manner that glorifies Him and to do it when He sees fit, not me. I’m still learning what that means.
Anyway Born, thanks for the post. Can’t say I disagree with what you have said and definitely food for thought in my own life. Thanks!
Dawn, Thank you for your openness an honesty. You have said some really important things from a ‘been there done that’ perspective. I think we are all prone to ‘fault finding’ as part of the ‘sin’ baggage we haul around. I keep remembering Paul’s “I preach Christ and Him crudified” and intense focus on the gospel. Helps keep me straight. 🙂
Haha. Don’t get me started on conspiracy theory. Then the anger really starts flying. 😉 Although, there are a few good sites out there to that address some things. Diane sent me a pretty good presentation of the movie Monumental this weekend that I enjoyed (Brannon Howse was the moderator and has really changed his tune…no longer in the take over the nation for Jesus mode…which is so nice to hear, still has some things I’m hoping he will change his stance on, but he seems to be coming around)…and Trevor Hammack has some pretty good stuff. I also really enjoy Mike Heiser.
I’m sure I have read Trevor Hammock but can’t remember exactly what. I also like Michael Heiser.
I think you’ve listened to Hammack probably. I’ve posted him a few times on my site, but he does this short daily program called News in Focus out of Texas. He’s kinda funny and talks about fun stuff but he has plenty of serious stuff as well. Sermon Audio carries it. He’s the pastor of Victory Baptist Church, a reformed baptist church. Anyway, here’s his link if you are interested.
Of course. I get his podcasts on I-Tunes! Just didn’t recognize the name. I’m getting old….
I figured… 😉
“There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.”
This is great news to hear. EVERYTHING a ministry does should be for the purpose of the great commission! I do believe we should educate ourselves on false doctrine of ideology but for our own personal understanding not to put people on blast. It saddens me to see how we as a body have been so distracted with apostasy and what’s going on in the inside of churches rather than winning souls. A sole purpose of a ministry shouldn’t be criticism or exposing apostasy but to focus on Jesus and his goodness. I have seen people argue and hurt one another for the sake of being right. Focusing on only these things builds fear and doubt in the body. I have friends who now when they go to church are waiting to hear false doctrine from their pastor or watching to see if the music is putting people in a hypnotic state. Waiting to rebuke. This is one on the unfruitful things that happens a a Christian only focuses on the bad and not the good of the body of Christ. But praise God! I can see people are realizing it and wanting to put their focus back on Jesus.