HOW TO DEAL WITH FALSE TEACHERS
STUDY 9: RECOGNIZE FALSE TEACHING TODAY
© Rosemary Bardsley 2007
Note: Please read the previous study before reading this study.
This study has the potential to offend. That is not its purpose. Its purpose is  to honour and preserve God’s truth revealed in his written Word, by contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, and  to protect God’s children from the damaging impact of false teaching by alerting them to non-biblical concepts being taught as God’s truth in churches today. Jesus Christ paid dearly to reveal the Father to us and to redeem us from sin and judgment. That exceedingly precious gift must not be treated with contempt; it must be honoured and confirmed, and defended against error. This necessitates exposing error and potential error. Such exposure is commanded by the Scripture.
In this study, as in all the studies in this series, the terms ‘false teaching’ and ‘false’ are used to refer to teaching that is contrary to what the Bible teaches. This study takes the Bible as its benchmark, and asks the question: ‘Is this particular teaching taught by the Bible?’
What does this question mean?
It does mean ‘Do those who teach it quote the Bible?’ or ‘Is there one verse in the Bible that could be interpreted to mean this?’ It means, rather, ‘Is this teaching compatible with or contradictory to the clear teaching of the entire Bible in a number of key critical areas?’ As the history of false teaching clearly indicates it is very possible, indeed it is common, to use biblical words or concepts, and to quote Bible verses, to teach and support teaching that is obviously not in line with the plain teaching of the Bible, and that conflicts with the over-arching message and purpose of the Bible. It is very possible, indeed it is common, to carelessly or arrogantly reinterpret the Bible to make it mean whatever one wants it to mean.
Obviously, for those who do not hold the Bible to be the complete and final word of God, this study, indeed this whole series of studies, is rather pointless. Such people have, by their own choice, put themselves beyond the reach and authority of the Bible, and have left themselves with no fixed boundary by which to define and recognize truth.
The key critical areas by which this study evaluates contemporary teaching are as follows:
- : What does it teach is the source of truth about God?
- : What does it teach about who Jesus is? Does it maintain his full deity and his full humanity, without reduction of either, and without fusion or division? [This involves also what it teaches about ‘God’.]
- : What does it teach about how a person gains or maintains salvation – is it by grace, or is it in some way dependent on human performance, and about the implications of that salvation for our lives?
- What role does it give to miracles or other supernatural phenomena?
- What emphasis does it place on the last things, and what does it teach about the last things?
As we have seen in our studies on false teaching, these are the areas which the Bible identifies as the key areas in which false teaching occurs.
There are several levels of false teaching in the contemporary church:
 Contemporary teaching that is clearly different from the teaching found in the Bible. This is teaching we should definitely and deliberately designate ‘false’ and warn people not to believe it.
 Contemporary teaching that appears to be different from the teaching found in the Bible, but we’re not sure why or how. This is teaching we should be very wary of, and diligently search the scriptures to determine whether it is true or false. We should ask ourselves questions like ‘What are the implications of this teaching? Does it, or does it have the potential to, interfere in some way with the clear revealed truth about who Jesus is and what Jesus did? Does it divert attention away from the written Word and on to contemporary, subjective revelation?’
 Teaching where there are different and even conflicting interpretations of what the Bible teaches regarding a specific, non-central, topic, and concerning which there has been no general agreement through the history of the church even among those who agree on all other points of doctrine, and who are committed to the authority and finality of the biblical revelation. This is teaching that has a potential to be false, because not all the different interpretations can be true at the same time. Because they are not central issues we should not make them points of division between believers, or, worse, reasons for exclusion from God’s kingdom. We should however diligently study the scriptures for insight and enlightenment even in these areas. When we come to a decision regarding our standpoint it should be on the basis of the faithfulness of the teaching and its potential impact regarding who Jesus is and what Jesus did on the cross. We should choose the option that  retains the integrity of the real humanity and real deity of Christ, and  maintains the grace nature of the salvation he obtained for us.
It is not the purpose of this study to name individuals or groups, but to identify teaching that varies from the clear teaching of the Bible; it may on occasion refer to various isms out of which certain false teaching rises. It does not contain quotes from the teaching or writings of individuals, but makes general references to the kinds of errors that are being taught today as if they were biblical truth. The reader is left to make the connections between these errors and the individuals and organizations that teach them.
Note that almost all of the errors listed below are found within contemporary churches and under the banner of the designation ‘Christian’. These are things taught by people who identify as Christians. As such they have more potential to harm the church and destroy the true gospel than any obviously godless ideas taught by unbelievers outside the church.
A. CONTEMPORARY ERRORS CONCERNING THE NATURE OF REVELATION
Rejection of supernatural revelation – denial of God’s inspiration of the Bible:
The impact of secular humanism on the church has resulted in some theologians, pastors, and church-goers denying the concept of ‘supernatural’ revelation. Divine inspiration of the Bible is denied. It is seen as a human book, and therefore fallible and lacking in authority – containing errors both in historical, physical matters and in spiritual matters, and irrelevant in its out-dated, culturally dependent moral precepts. It is placed on a par with other religious writings.
Rejection of the exclusive uniqueness of the Bible:
Alongside of the above, and an expression of the above, the Bible is seen as just one of many religious writings. For people who retain some concept of ‘god’, the Bible is just one of many roads that lead to ‘god’. It is neither unique nor exclusive. The ‘god’ it projects is [sometimes] seen to be just the same ‘god’ concept as referred to in other writings by a different name.
Reduction of the historicity of the biblical records:
Some, while accepting the concept of supernatural divine revelation, reject the historicity of some parts of the Bible, particularly Genesis 1-11, and designate these as ‘myth’ rather than ‘history’. [However, the New Testament indicates that Jesus and the apostles referred to incidents in these chapters as real historical facts.]
Treating the Bible as incomplete :
Church traditions are formalized and placed alongside of the Bible as the [additional] authoritative word of God. Sometimes these traditions become more important than the Bible itself, or are used to authoritatively re-interpret the Bible.
Treating the Bible as incomplete :
‘Revelations’ given to individuals [by way of dreams, visions, etc] are understood to be from God and to communicate information and/or instructions that God wants us to know. In some instances these ‘revelations’ replace the Bible, in others they reinterpret or over-ride the Bible, in others they supplement the Bible. [Note: every false cult that the author has researched, and one major world religion, owes its origin in part or in whole to this kind of supposed ‘revelation’ from God received by an individual.]
Treating the Bible as incomplete :
There are popular preachers today who state that the Bible is not sufficient for twenty-first century people, that we need more, and that there are new, modern-day prophets and apostles through whom God is providing this additional contemporary revelation. The words of these new apostles and prophets are said to have equal or more authority than the prophets and apostles whom God used to write the Bible.
Such teaching denies the completeness and sufficiency of the Scripture, and undermines its authority. The New Testament makes several references to the fact that our faith is grounded on ‘the prophets and the apostles’, meaning the Old Testament ‘prophets’ [every OT book is prophetic of Christ], and the New Testament apostles, by whose message the church was established and the gospel of Christ defined and recorded. There is nothing more to know: the OT looked forward to Christ, the NT looked back to Christ. God’s self-revelation is complete.
Each of the above three errors assumes that the Bible is neither absolute, nor final, nor sufficient – that we need more, and that God gives more, revelation of himself. They also minimize our concept of Jesus Christ. He claimed that to see him is to see the Father, that to know him is to know the Father [John 12:44-46; 14:7-9]. He claimed that he is ‘the truth’ [John 14:6]. The New Testament teaches that all that God is, is in Christ [Colossians 1:19; 2:9], and that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ [Colossians 2:3]. There is a completeness and finality in the way Christ revealed God that does not allow for further revelation.
Treating the Bible with contempt:
The following practices are a few examples of either ignorant or arrogant contempt for the Bible. While seeming to uphold it as an authoritative source of divine truth, people who treat it in these ways display an ignorance of or disregard for its absolute, objective, unchanging and unified message, and also an ignorance of or disregard for its cohesive rationality and well-reasoned and systematic presentation of the truth. They also, in practice, despise the divine source and divine authority of the written Word, thinking that they can interfere with its message, and/or interpret it anyway they please.
- Interpreting a verse or passage without respect for its context
- Interpreting a verse or passage without respect for its meaning for its original readers
- Changing the clear meaning of a verse or passage to fit one’s own ideas and beliefs
- Making a verse or passage tie in with or support a particular sermon or message one wants to give, irrespective of its original application or contextual meaning
- Importing and imposing meaning onto the Bible or part thereof
- Disregarding the type of literature in which the verse or passage is found
- Failing to recognize the anticipation/fulfilment perspective and thereby misinterpreting the message and purpose of either the Old or New Testaments
- Failing to recognize that the central focus of the scripture is Jesus Christ
Trivializing the Bible
The grand, deep, powerful and eternal purpose and focus of the Bible is ignored and overlooked. Its focus ceases to be Christ and becomes the reader. Taken out of context, reinterpreted, wrongly applied, biblical statements are robbed of their eternal, absolute, Christ-centred meaning, and given trivial present, personal application to the particular, present, personal problems of the person reading them. The objective, absolute truth is replaced by subjective and relative personal interpretations. In some instances it is used as nothing more that a spurious means of divining one’s future, a lucky-dip from which the reader pulls a ‘word from the Lord’, a short-cut method of finding supposed divine guidance.
Evident in churches today are the following syncretistic combinations which have resulted in the reduction and/or reinterpretation of Biblical truth:
- Biblical concepts with concepts and practices from pagan religions
- Biblical concepts with concepts and practices from the New Age
- Biblical concepts with concepts and practices from eastern religions and/or eastern mysticism
- Biblical concepts with practices from the occult and the para-normal
- Biblical concepts with practices culled from secular self-development and empowerment seminars.
Outsourcing ‘truth’ then using that ‘truth’ to redefine biblical truth
Understanding of God and spirituality is sourced from and defined by subjective individual or group experiences rather than being sourced from and defined by the objective written Word. The ‘truth’ obtained from or concluded from experience is then imposed upon the Bible and used to redefine and reinterpret the meaning of the Bible.
Journaling displays an erroneous attitude when it is understood to mean that the thoughts I write in my journal as I read the Bible and pray are God’s word for me for the day. This reduces God’s word, God’s truth, to my own personal thoughts.
B. CONTEMPORARY ERRORS CONCERNING THE PERSON OF CHRIST
Denial of the historical reality of Jesus Christ
Usually outside the church, some people do not believe that Jesus is a historical person. They believe he is just a mythical figure.
Denial of the real humanity of Jesus Christ
In its blatant form, not as common today as in some periods of history. There are some quite subtle ideas still around that interfere with the real humanity of Christ, suggesting or teaching that he did not feel the pressure of temptation in the same way that we do. [This is debunked in Hebrews 2, 4 and 5, where it is pointed out that he was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin. His real humanity is essential for him to  substitute for us under the death penalty for sin, and  represent us in the presence of God.]
Denial of the reality of the Trinity
Christ is seen as merely a mode of expression, or a manifestation, of God, or an emanation from God. He is not understood as a distinct being or person within a triune godhead.
Denial of the uniqueness of Christ
Christ is seen as just another manifestation of the divine being/s or prophet/s who appeared to other people at different times in different places under different names. Or, Christ is one among many religious leaders, all of whom are equally valid.
Denial of the full deity of Christ [the worst error one can embrace – see previous study]
Jesus is taught to be something less than and inferior to God, not of the same essence or nature or being as God, and not co-eternal with God. Very common both in the history of the church and in contemporary ‘false cults’. Also overtly or subtly present in some sections of the church today. Be alert for the following, all of which either deny or compromise the full deity of Christ:
- Denial of the virgin birth.
- Denial of the resurrection of Christ.
- Denial of the miracles performed by Christ during his life on earth [each of these three are found in churches where secular humanism has effectively removed all references to anything ‘supernatural’. Such people believe that Jesus was just a man – a good teacher, a good moral example.]
- Worship or veneration of other beings, whether human or angelic, alongside of worship of Christ.
- Teaching that suggests such a division between Christ and the Holy Spirit that a person can have one without the other.
- Teaching that suggests that further knowledge of God is either necessary or available beyond or beside Jesus Christ.
- Teaching that suggests that a further experience of or relationship with God is necessary and/or available beyond or beside Jesus Christ.
- Teaching that affirms the validity of revelations of God distinct from and additional to his once-for-all self-revelation in Jesus Christ.
- Teaching that lures a person on to ‘more’ [experience, fullness, knowledge, spirituality, etc] beyond Jesus Christ.
- Teaching that Christ’s incarnation is not unique; that all humans are similarly divine souls or spirits in human bodies.
- Teaching that individual believers are just as much an incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was.
- Teaching that suggests or states that when one looks at the preacher one is looking at Christ or God.
- Teaching that indicates that Jesus is powerless to save or to act on our behalf until we release him by the power of our prayers.
- [Influenced by eastern religion] belief that Christ is a man who found the ultimate union with the ‘god within’.
Teaching that interferes with or reduces the exclusive supremacy of Christ
This is an area filled with a range of teaching and practices not found in the scriptures. The reader is referred to the study on Satan and demons on this website for an analysis of the biblical teaching in this area. The following errors can be noted:
- Dualistic teaching that sees Satan and God as equally eternal
- Teaching that sees Satan and/or demons [including ‘territorial spirits’] as currently vying with Christ [or his angels] for supremacy in specific situations, in a way that puts Satan and Christ on an equal footing, and that makes the outcome of the struggle unpredictable.
- Teaching that makes the outcome of the above struggles dependent on both the prayers and the sinlessness of the church.
- Teaching that sees Christ on the cross as a helpless victim in Satan’s hands
- Teaching that fails to understand the respective roles of Christ and Satan in what happened on the cross
- Teaching that sees demons under every green tree and around every corner, giving them a pervasive presence that rivals the omnipresence of Christ
Teaching that Jesus is a physical saviour
This error parallels the error of those Jews who wanted to force Jesus to be a physical, political Messiah; it also parallels those who followed him simply for his miracles. Today this reduction of Jesus to a physical saviour is evident in:
- Prosperity doctrines [Christ wants you to be, or all Christians should be, healthy and wealthy]
- The teaching that present, physical healing is part of the atonement
- Much of the word-faith, positive confession mindset
C. CONTEMPORARY ERRORS CONCERNING SALVATION
Denial of the need for salvation from sin and judgment
Those who, influenced by secular humanism and/or naturalism, deny everything that is ‘supernatural’, usually also deny the concepts of ‘heaven’, ‘hell’, ‘life after death’. ‘Salvation’ in the spiritual sense of being saved from God’s wrath and from hell, and given eternal life and qualified for heaven, is, therefore, viewed as a meaningless, or at most, a symbolic, concept.
Redefinition of ‘salvation’ 
For the above, ‘salvation’ is redefined in sociological, economic, relational, or political terms. It is applied to any liberating experience that occurs in any belief system, even in the absence of a spiritual belief system. The gospel becomes, for example, purely a social or political gospel, or some form of liberation theology.
Redefinition of ‘salvation’ 
The application of salvation is moved from liberation from sin’s penalty to freedom sin in such a way that the person saved is seen as liberated from the power and presence of sin in their lives. Hence we find the following deliberate or implied errors:
- Eradicationism [salvation includes eradication of sin from the person’s heart or soul]
- Perfectionism: perfection in this life is enabled by salvation
- Teaching that ‘total commitment’ or ‘absolute surrender’ will bring about a ‘second blessing’ after which the Christian will have ‘total victory’ over sin
- ‘Cleansing’ from sin interpreted to mean the removal of sin from the person’s heart, rather than the cancellation and removal of sin’s guilt and penalty.
Salvation by human merit
This has always been a common error. It has several manifestations in contemporary Christianity and contemporary cults:
- Salvation by good works. Salvation [acceptance with God, entry into ‘heaven’] is understood to be on the basis of being ‘good enough’. You do your best, you’re not as bad as the next bloke, so God will let you in.
- Salvation merited by keeping God’s law.
- Salvation by performance of or submission to rituals. In the New Testament era this specifically focused on circumcision, and, to a lesser extent, ritual cleansing and keeping Sabbaths and holy days. In the contemporary scene this may include Sabbath keeping [or Sunday keeping], baptism [where it is taught that it is mandatory for salvation or acceptance], participation in Holy Communion, confirmation, ‘going down the front’ [responding to an altar call], ‘praying the prayer’, ‘making a decision’. [Most of these ‘rituals’ are obviously not wrong in themselves; it is the significance given to them that constitutes the error.] If we ever by word or action communicate that those who have undergone or practice these acts are more accepted by God or better Christians than those who have not, then we are by that communication indicating that we believe salvation is, at least in part, conditional on participation in these rituals.
- Salvation by membership of or identification with a particular group or organization.
- Salvation by submission to a spiritual leader, shepherd, mentor, ‘discipler’, or pastor.
Reception of God’s blessing, or of more of God’s blessings, on the basis of human performance
The following teachings are among those commonly found in contemporary Christianity in relation to how the blessing of God, or additional blessings from God, are obtained.
- Blessings are obtained by having no sin in your life.
- Blessings are obtained by having no hidden or unconfessed sin in your life.
- Blessings are obtained by having enough faith.
- Blessings are obtained by having a special kind or degree of faith
- Blessings are obtained by the power of faith.
- Blessings are obtained by positive confession.
- Blessings are obtained by ‘word faith’
- The Holy Spirit is obtained by ‘emptying yourself’, ‘opening’ yourself, surrendering, etc
- Our faith is necessary to release God’s blessing
- The power of our ‘word faith’ or ‘positive confession’ is necessary to release salvation or blessing.
As a devastating flow-on, the absence of blessing [commonly understood as the absence of ‘health’ or ‘wealth’ and/or the presence of sickness, disability, poverty or suffering] is taught to be the evidence of sin in one’s life, or of inadequate or wrong faith.
Denial of grace
Every teaching in the two sections above denies the grace nature of salvation and presents a legalistic message. They place the effective cause of salvation in our human hands and as a result change salvation from ‘grace’ or ‘gift’ [the freely given gift of God which all believers possess in equal measure], to ‘merit’ [something which we have merited, earned or deserved by what we are or what we do; or, in the case of some of the second section, something that we ourselves have a part in bringing into effect.] This destroys the unity and equality of believers, segregating them into the haves and the have nots, and generating pride on the one hand and guilt and despair on the other.
Denial of our human inability and total lostness
All of the above teachings overlook the clear biblical teaching that left to ourselves it is not possible for us to make a single move towards God – that we are powerless, dead, alienated from God, objects of God’s wrath, held captive and bound by sin and Satan, etc, etc.
Denial [or disregard] of justification by faith [imputed righteousness]
The effective result of any or all of the above is the denial or disregard of the strong biblical teaching of justification by faith [that is, the legal acquittal, the ‘not guilty’ declaration, which God, on the sole basis of Christ’s sin-bearing death, pronounces concerning those who believe in Christ.]
As a result of this denial or ignorance of justification by faith the Christian is left with a load of guilt and no real assurance of salvation. He/she is also left with the burden of some how or other having to gain and/or maintain salvation and/or God’s blessings by his/her own efforts or personal spirituality. Rather than resting in the imputed righteousness of Christ believers struggle to merit, and to continue to merit, God’s acceptance and on-going favour by and through their own righteousness.
Denial [or overlooking] of the concept of substitutionary atonement
Whether stated, implied, or simply ignored, any or all of the above effectively deny the biblical fact that Christ really did die as our substitute, taking our place, and paying in full the penalty for our sins. As a result of this denial or oversight, Christians live in the presence of God as though some or all of their sins still have the power to separate them from God, to attract God’s judgment and punishment, and to limit or cut off God’s blessing.
Misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the impact of the cross of Christ on Satan and demons
Some contemporary teaching gives the following false impressions, all of which reduce our concept of salvation:
- That Satan was not totally defeated by the death of Christ on the cross
- That Satan still has authority over believers
- That Satan still has the right to accuse and condemn believers
- That genuine believers are vulnerable to possession by Satan or demons
- A preoccupation with Satan and demons that renders our salvation in Christ ineffective
- Certain aspects of contemporary ‘spiritual warfare’ teaching that assume that Satan and/or demons must be ‘bound’ before evangelism can be effective in a given area or city
We could also mention here the belief that personal sins are caused by specific demons … the spirit of lust, the spirit of anger, etc. Such teaching interferes with both the meaning of Christ’s substitutionary death for our sins, and also the meaning and completeness of the salvation he gained for us. [It also robs the believer of personal responsibility regarding his current sin.] See the separate study on Satan and Demons on this website for an extended study.
Using salvation to excuse godless behaviour
Superficial or inadequate understanding and appreciation of who Jesus is and what actually occurred in his death leads some to an antinomian response. Grace and forgiveness are interpreted as making sin okay, or, if not okay, at least not significant. Thus salvation is wrongly used
- as a mandate to sin
- to minimize the seriousness of sin
- to deny the need for or role of obedience
- to fool oneself that God doesn’t still hate sin
- as an excuse not to obey God’s moral laws
- to opt out of acknowledgement of one’s real sin and real guilt
- as an excuse to deny that one is a sinner who still sins
- as an excuse to deny the need for on-going repentance
- to block the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit towards change and renewal
- to excuse self-righteous arrogance and pride
- to deceive oneself about one’s spiritual condition
- to deny any necessity for good works
- to deceive oneself into thinking that true faith can exist in a vacuum apart from the evidence of good works/obedience
D. CONTEMPORARY ERRORS CONCERNING THE MEANING AND ROLE OF THE MIRACULOUS
Denial of all the supernatural events mentioned in the Bible
This error denies God’s miraculous intervention in human history and human lives, denying miracles altogether, or attributing abnormal and seemingly unexplainable events to natural causes or origins. For example:
- creation of the world
- revelation and writing of the Bible
- the Genesis 6-9 flood
- abnormal events in human lives – for example, the Red Sea crossing, the Jordan crossing, the water from the rock, all the miracles of Christ and the apostles
- the miracles of Christ’s conception, incarnation, resurrection and ascension.
This mindset is found both in those who deny the existence of a real God who is actually there, and in those who deny the present involvement of God in things that happen on earth. Deism, as an example of the latter, believes in ‘God’, but not a God who has any interest or involvement in what happens in the things he created. He is a hands-off God.
Denial of the necessity for or rationality of prayer
This denial comes from those who believe any of the following:
- Karma. My life this time round is the necessary outworking of my karma from my previous life or lives. There is no use and no point in praying for change of unpleasant circumstances.
- Deism: God is there, but not interested and not involved.
- Fatalism: God is there, and involved, but is not and cannot be moved by human supplication or human pain. His purpose for my life [my fate] is locked in.
- Hyper-Calvinism: God is there, and involved, and cares, but he, because he is sovereign, will do whatever he has planned to do, so prayer is redundant and irrelevant.
[The last two of these do not deny the ability of God to do miraculous things; what they deny is that God can be moved to intervene with out-of-the-ordinary actions as a result of human prayer.]
Giving a different role or significance to the miraculous than Jesus and the apostles gave it
While Jesus and the apostles were very conservative about the miraculous, and used it only within well defined restrictions and purpose, in some areas of contemporary Christianity we observe:
- Using the miraculous to manipulate people and their emotions
- Using the miraculous to coerce faith
- Using the miraculous to attract attention
- Using the miraculous to boost personal ego
- Peddling the spectacular
- Using the miraculous for financial profit
- Cashing in on peoples’ suffering with promises of healing
- Failed healing attempts
- Supposed miraculous healings that take ages to be complete
- Supposed healings that only last a short time
- Focusing on the miraculous instead of on teaching God’s truth
- Healing meetings
- Use of supposed miraculous spiritual insight to identify particular ailments present in a crowd
- Use of hypnosis or mind manipulation to produce apparent miraculous actions or results
- Promising healing if the person has enough faith
- Promising healing if the person has no sin
- Teaching that healing is in the atonement – that all believers should be healthy and wealthy because Christ bore our sicknesses on the cross as well as our sins
- Demanding or claiming healing from God on the basis of the previous point
- Teaching that we can or must ‘release’ this healing by our word faith or positive confession
- Teaching that God can’t act unless we ‘release’ him by our word faith or positive confession
- ‘Speaking to’ or ‘into’ the sick or injured part of a person’s body
The last three mentioned use the same methods as historic and contemporary secular and pagan creative visualization techniques. They have almost everything in common with these techniques and practically nothing in common with Biblical practices. That they are currently accepted and practiced in many Christian churches today is clear evidence of the deceptive power of Satan.
In addition, many of the contemporary practices listed above seem to be trying to create heaven on earth. They overlook the fact that, according to the Bible in general, and Romans 8 and Revelation 21 in particular, pain and suffering and crying are part of life on earth until the final judgment day. It is only after that that suffering ceases.
Errors relating to Satan and demons
The following errors can be noted:
- Supposed miraculous protection from Satan and demons by possession/wearing of physical objects – charms, a cross, a rosary, a medal
- Supposed miraculous protection from Satan and demons by repetition of prayers or mantras
- Supposed miraculous protection from Satan and demons by observation of a range of superstitious practices, some of which are residual from old pagan belief systems
- A range of exorcism or ‘deliverance’ practices which differ from the biblical methods of dealing with demons
- Exorcisms that are only partially effective, necessitating a long drawn out process of sessions to achieve complete ‘deliverance’
- A range of practices advocated by the modern ‘spiritual warfare’ movement.
E. CONTEMPORARY ERRORS CONCERNING THE LAST THINGS
Eschatology, the study of the last things, is perhaps, the area of truth with the least acknowledged clarity and definition. This is not to say that God has not adequately revealed his truth in this area. What it does say is that the church finds it impossible to agree on what that truth actually is in some areas of understanding. Because the book of Revelation is written in symbols there are different interpretations of the meaning of those symbols. Sections of the church which agree on all other points of doctrine, and agree on the fact that Christ is coming back, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment, differ at some eschatological points. For this reason errors concerning the last things are placed below in two groups – the first those errors which are clearly divergent from the Scripture, the second those points on which the church in general lacks agreement.
Errors where there is clear divergence from the Scripture
- Obsessive focus on the last things
- Denial of the return of Christ. [Found in churches and groups where anything supernatural is denied. Sometimes the return of Christ is reinterpreted to mean that Christ ‘returns’ in the Christ-like acts and attitudes of his followers.]
- Denial of the judgment day
- Denial of the resurrection of the dead
- The doctrine of ‘soul-sleep’. [Teaches that at death the soul of the believer ‘sleeps’, rather than going straight to be with the Lord.]
- Denial of eternal punishment of the unsaved [denial of ‘hell’]. [Sometimes ‘annihilation’ is taught as the fate of the unsaved.]
- Universalism: Teaches all will ultimately be saved, because Christ ‘died for all’.
- Teaching that the return of Christ has already happened
- Setting of dates for the return of Christ: People claim to have inside information; or calculate the date of Christ’s return based on what they believe are clear indications.
- Interpreting various specific historical figures or government regimes as the 666 or antichrist
- Dispensational teaching that divides the scripture into verses/passages for Jews and verses for the church, and divides the people of God into ‘Jews’ and ‘the church’
- Teaching that sees a re-establishment of the OT sacrifices and priesthood as a means of salvation during the ‘millennium’
- Teaching that tries to bring the perfect blessedness of heaven into the here and now
- Teaching that there is going to be a massive revival before Christ returns
- Misunderstanding of the nature of the resurrection body, or denial of a real resurrection body
Areas of potential error, where there is no clear agreement within mainstream Christianity
In this section areas of disagreement are listed. The author has her own opinion on each, but in view of the lack of agreement among those who are committed to affirm biblical truth in other areas of doctrine, has chosen to avoid identifying any alternatives in these areas as ‘false teaching’.
These are some of the areas in which this lack of agreement is found, and in which each of us is potentially holding to false teaching due to the inability of the church to clearly understand and define exactly what is meant by some verses and passages:
- The role of events in modern Israel
- The role of Israel in eschatological events mentioned in the Bible
- The nature of the ‘millennium’ – is it literal or symbolic?
- The timing of the ‘millennium’ – is it present or future?
- The timing of Christ’s return in relation to the ‘millennium’ – is it post or pre?
- The timing of the tribulation and the rapture
As we each diligently seek to understand what actually is the truth on these issues, three questions should guide us:
- Which option best upholds the deity and supremacy of Jesus Christ?
- Which option best upholds the nature of salvation in Christ as defined in the written Word?
- Which option reflects appropriate submission to the clear meaning of the scripture in context and as it applied to its original readers?