They Said What?

If you are a Christian long enough, it will eventually happen to you. I remember when it first happened to me. It was Philip Yancy. I was puzzled. Shocked. Confused. He had said something in a book about prayer that just didn't line up. What was I to do? Then, he endorsed a new unbiblical translation. I was surprised. It was so obvious that this translation was not accurate and grossly  misleading. Now what? I had this Bible teacher that I liked, respected and read. Now he was saying and doing things that appeared unbiblical!
This will happen to all Christians. You will hear a pastor preach something. You will  read something by your favorite author. You’ll notice something about someone on a social media post. Somebody will say something in church. And when you hear or read it, it just doesn’t sit right. You know it's wrong. You want to rush to judgment, but should you? I want to lay out an approach that we should take when something like this happens. In this article I want to give a guide of how to approach something like this when a respected teacher of God’s Word or someone that you know says something that may or may not line up with scripture. So what do we do when we come across a teaching that may be unbiblical?
  • Nothing/Wait. Our first step should be to not take a step. Too many times we love to jump to conclusions when we come across something controversial. We are prone in our modern age to have a quick take and an immediate judgment. People arrested are not innocent until proven guilty. They’re already judged and sentenced before the first day of trial in the court of public opinion! And yet so much of what we determine is based on so little information! We read a headline and then make a judgment. Instead of rushing to judgment, we should let stories breathe a little. We should give people (especially credible pastors) the benefit of the doubt. A perfect example of this is Matt Araiza.He was a punter drafted by the Buffalo Bills. During the preseason a women accused Matt of rape. Turns out, months later, Matt was innocent and exonerated. But everyone had their opinions and judgements about him as soon as the story broke, even though not all the facts were known.  Or look at the Israelites in Joshua 22. Some of the tribes built an altar and the Israelites almost wiped them out for their “sin”. Turns out, they built this as a remembrance to God for their children and children’s children. They almost wiped out whole people for what they thought was sin that actually wasn’t. (See my blog on this passage here: ) We have to be careful of being the same way. Also, depending on the circumstances you could be misguided because of our emotions. I have been in many circumstances where my initial reaction was anger. But waiting a day or two before addressing it helped me have a cool head and a better perspective. Be patient. Wait for more information. Even the Bible warns us about jumping to conclusions without two or three witnesses to corroborate a story.
  • Take it to scripture. Whenever we come across something that seems unbiblical or not right in some way, check the Bible. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume. Instead take time and research the topic at hand and see what God has to say about the matter.
  • Go directly to the person. It is amazing to me how many opinions people will have on someone without ever hearing the person out. For example, there are so many people who have opinions on Calvinism and Arminianism who have never even read one thing by John Calvin or Jacob Arminius. So many of the opinions we have are opinions we have heard from other people. Yet the Bible teaches us that if we have an issue with someone we need to go to them directly! If someone says something about someone you know, go directly to that person! Now I know that practically may not be possible in all cases.  So if you hear something in a sermon or read something in a book that seems wrong, then go and see if that teacher has written or taught anything else on the topic to see if they explain more of their line of thought. Depending on the circumstances, the person may give a response to what has been said about them. Which goes back to my earlier point of waiting before rushing to judgment. Go directly to the person. So many people make decisions because of what other people told them. Shouldn’t brothers and sisters in Christ get that courtesy of explaining themselves? Why are we always in a rush to decide on things?
  • Look in the mirror. Too many times we are quick to judge and never stop to think to ourselves “Could I be wrong? Could what I think is right, actually not be right?” We need to be open to correction. Not all of our held convictions are biblical convictions. If you easily dismiss this, then you are proving my point of why this needs to be done. Don't be so prideful to think that you are absolutely right when you may be holding a wrong position. You will never grow in your faith if you always assume you are right in what you think and are not open to correction.
  • Check with others. The more the merrier goes the saying and this is true with tough biblical topics. Never settle on one person’s opinion. There is safety in numbers and that includes numbering opinions. This is why the Bible teaches to have a plurality of elders leading the church and not just one or two. Now, I am not just saying to take a survey with every Christian you run into. See what other respected and trusted Christians have to say about the matter. It is always wise to seek wise counsel and to seek it in abundance. Look at Acts 15. When the church was at a tipping point about Gentiles going through Jewish rituals, the decision was hashed out within a group of wise elders. It wasn’t one man's decision. They all went back and forth in seeking God’s wisdom in a plurality. Whenever I run into something involving a prominent teacher, I always look to see what other trusted biblical leaders have to say about the matter.
Now obviously this is not universal. You may not get all the help and information no matter how long you wait. But do we always have to make a determination? I remember growing up so many Christians having a variety of opinions about Charles Stanley and his divorce. And as I grew up, you know what I decided about the matter? Nothing! I don't have an opinion either way. How could i? I don't have all the facts and information. I have actually heard three different accounts of what happened! So I just don't have an opinion either way about the matter. And maybe that is part of the problem: we think that our opinions matter more than they actually do. Let us remember the wise words from proverbs that it is a fool that loves to air out their opinions about something (Proverbs 18:2). It is perfectly fine to say I don't know or to not have an opinion on someone or something. While that is not the way our society handles itself, that doesn’t mean we have to follow suit. I hope this helps when facing something that is taught by a trusted Christian leader. Let us be patient in the matter. Let us resist the urge to jump to conclusions. There is no benefit in making a quick judgment.

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