Friday, September 28, 2007

Check, Check and Check Again

" . . . was the truth intentionally hidden by Jesus himself?
Is it possible that Jesus was intentionally keeping his message
of the kingdom a secret so that it wasn't obvious, wasn't easy to grasp,. . . ?"

--Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 34

Can you spot the heresy in the statement above?* It isn't always easy to spot heresy, but today's post gives some helpful guidelines.

How to Discern: Part 4
by Anton Bosch

This is a principle that holds true in most areas in life. Carpenters speak about measuring twice and cutting once. We teach our children that when they cross the street they must look left, look right and look left again. And when it comes to our faith we must be even more careful and check everything we hear.

1Thessalonians 5:21 says: “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” In other words, not everything is good and can be trusted, so everything must be tested first. The noble-minded Bereans even subjected Paul’s teaching to scrutiny and they were commended for doing so (Acts 17:11).

We live in dangerous times and the world is filled with deceivers, false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing and heretics. Those who preach the Truth are a small minority while the false apostles wield massive budgets with which they dominate every form of media. No matter whether you listen to “Christian” radio, watch “Christian” television look at “Christian” websites or enter a “Christian” bookstore, the odds are stacked against the possibility that you will be exposed to truth. Yet every day thousands are deceived into believing anything that is sold under the banner of “Christian.”

It is thus imperative that we carefully check every word we hear or read. But how do we do that? Here are a few brief pointers:

First, listen to the voice of the Spirit: “…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’" (Isaiah 30:21). Let me make this very clear: You cannot judge a message or a man just based on that inner voice. But if you listen to the promptings of God’s Spirit, you will often feel uneasy about something which simply means that you need to stop and check. In the same way, a good feeling about someone or a teaching does not mean it is right – you must still check. Almost every week I get emails from people who question things because they “did not feel it was right.” In most cases they were correct. Error is presented so cleverly and so slickly that there are times that the problem will not be obvious. Yet an uncomfortable feeling about the message should lead to a check.

It is easy to overreact to the extremes of the mystical and touchy-feely religions and to reject anything that is not written in black and white. But Jesus promised that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). Paul writes “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). Listen to Him. He will often warn you of danger and alert you to the need to check further.

The second check is to ask the question: “Does this line up with Scripture.” Notice, the question is not whether the speaker/author quoted a verse. The question is “does it line up with the general teaching of the Bible.” It is easy to support error with isolated verses which are taken out of context.

Next ask the question: “Exactly what does the Bible teach on this matter.” You will be surprised how much you can learn by simply using a concordance. The first time I heard that people were barking like dogs in churches, and that this was a “blessing from God,” I immediately looked at every verse that spoke about dogs and barking. That little study showed that every time dogs were referred to in the Bible they were symbolic of evil, demons and that which is defiled! So if the devil is presented as a dog in the Bible (Psalm 22:16,20), can the barking of a dog be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit?

The fourth question is whether the teaching is new, or is it representative of what the church has always believed? So when the televangelist says that God consists of nine parts, we should immediately recognize that as contradictory to the commonly held doctrine on the tri-unity of God. Some times new teachings aren't quite so obvious as this, but the point is - they're new.

Off course, this presupposes that you know the basic doctrines of the faith. That is just the problem. Most Christians do not know the fundamentals of the faith and “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). If you are not able to list and describe the fundamentals of the Christian faith, then you are in danger.

I am not asking you to be a theologian, just like you do not need to be a chemist to know that protein is food and arsenic is poison. You must know the basics else you will swallow the biggest lies and be deceived along with many others. When someone presents a teaching that contradicts the basic tenets of the faith you need to be very careful. Check again. Did you misunderstand him? Did he misspeak or does he really believe what you heard him say? We do not all agree on every detail of the faith but there are certain non-negotiable doctrines that are simply not up for discussion and you need to know what those are.

The fifth question is whether the message contains flaws in logic. Our faith is logical and rational, and when preachers make irrational and unproven claims they must be challenged. There are many ways in which preachers and writers break simple rules of logic. Here is one example of a “technique” that is often used: If “A” equals “B” then “C” equals “D.” NO! The first part of the statement has nothing to do with the second. Don’t be fooled by a long list of things that are mentioned but that has nothing to do with the conclusion. Here is a real example: God made Abraham rich with material things; God made Isaac rich (materially); God made Jacob rich (materially); therefore God will make you rich with material things. Wrong. There is no direct link between the Patriarchs, material blessings and you – even though many like to say so.

The sixth question is whether there is evidence of dishonesty. Does the author deal with the material and evidence in an honest way, or does he disregard all the verses that disproves his point and only quote those that support his idea? Does he blatantly change words or their meaning? Does he pick and choose translations to find one that will support his view? Or does he make obvious errors in fact? Remember, if he can lie to you in small things then he can lie to you in the major things – don’t trust him (Galatians 2:24). I just caught you. There is no Galatians 2:24! Yet you will be surprised how often writers and preachers will quote verses that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic. They do this since they know their audience is gullible and will not open the Bible to actually check.

Next week I will deal with questions you need to ask about the author/speaker. You must check both the message and the messenger. Sometimes good preachers can bring a flawed message. In that case you must reject the message but not the preacher. But sometimes a bad preacher can bring a good message. In this case both the message and the messenger must be rejected. The only way you will know the difference is to check, check and check again.

(To be continued)

*The Truth:

"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:" (2 Corinthians 4:3)

Monday, September 24, 2007

The End of Orthodoxy

". . . Yale theologian Hans Frei sought to move beyond the liberal/conservative impasse of modernity and coined the term generous orthodoxy to describe an understanding of Christianity that contained elements of both liberal and conservative thought. However, he also envisioned an approach to Christian faith that moved beyond the views of knowledge and certainty that liberals and conservatives held in common. This entailed the rejection of philosophical foundationalism characteristic in both liberal and conservative theology. . . . "
--John R. Franke, Foreward to A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren (2004), p. 10.

The New Apostolic Reformation is all about changing orthodoxy. But the leaders don't necessarily challenge orthodoxy head-on. Rather they are going about it in a different way. Sometimes they do an "end-run" around orthodoxy. Other times, rather than dismissing the fundamentals of the faith entirely, they propose adopting a more "generous orthodoxy" based on postmodern assumptions about the nature of man on earth. The resultant "re-thinking" has had the effect of adding new tenets, methods, practices and beliefs to the faith. Adding to the faith with "new truths" creates a synthesis.

The new doctrines enter with formulaic precision. The old Christianity is denigrated as ineffective, inefficient, unloving, and out of touch with modern needs and ideas. There is often a grain of truth in this criticism because the Church on earth is not perfect, and many who take the bait at this point become hooked in without discerning the full scope of the intended paradigm shift in orthodoxy.

Marilyn Ferguson, in her ground-breaking book The Aquarian Conspiracy (Halcyon, 1980) that ushered in the "New Age movement" (the public revival of occult Theosophy), described this generous orthodoxy-type process as "paradigm change-transformation" in which "synthesis builds on synthesis."

"It is the fourth dimension of change: the new perspective, the insight that allows the information to come together in a new form or structure. Paradigm change refines and integrates. Paradigm change attempts to heal the delusion of either-or, of this-or-that.

"In many ways, it is the most challenging kind of change because it relinquishes certainty. It allows for different interpretations from different perspectives at different times. . . .

"In paradigm change we realize that our previous views were only part of the picture--and that what we know now is only part of what we'll know later. Change is no longer threatening, It absorbs, enlarges, enriches. The unknown is friendly, interesting territory. Each insight widens the road, making the next stage of travel, the next opening, easier....

"Change itself changes, just as in nature, evolution evolves from a simple to a complex process. Every new occurrence alters the nature of those to follow, like compound interest. Paradigm change is not a simple linear effect, like the ten little Indians in the nursery rhyme who vanish one by one. It is a sudden shift of pattern, a spiral, and sometimes a cataclysm.

"When we wake up to the flux and alteration of our own awareness we augment change. Synthesis builds on synthesis." (p. 72-73)

The following post, relevant to this discussion, is by Anton Bosch in his continuing series "How To Discern."

How To Discern: Part 3

The Roman church has for a long time believed that only the “clergy” may interpret the Bible. In fact, until recently, they did not even allow translations of the Bible into the common language of the people because they did not believe that ordinary people were equipped to read the Bible, let alone interpret it.

Since the Reformation, the Bible has been made available to ordinary people and now anyone in the free world is able to read, study and own Bibles. But the pendulum has swung to the other extreme so that today every Tom, Dick and Harry feels he has the right to interpret the Bible as he feels fit. This is an equal but opposite error to that of the Roman clerical system.

It is therefore important that we understand that while each of us has the privilege of reading the Bible for ourselves, no individual has the right to interpret the Scriptures as he wishes. We can all understand the Bible, and the Spirit will lead us all into Truth, but it is not up to us to formulate our own “new” doctrine. There is a body of truth that is not open for reinterpretation. We refer to this as “orthodox” teaching. “Orthodox” means “conforming to established and traditional doctrine.” (Not to be confused with Eastern Orthodox churches.)

Over the last 2,000 years of Christianity the church has endured countless errors, counter-errors, over-corrections, church councils, remarkably gifted teachers and heretics. Through all these processes the basic tenets of our faith have been established, tested and proven. We have the advantage of learning from 2,000 years of experience. Yet, many fools have risen in these days who feel they are wiser than all the great men who came before and who believe they have the right to attack or add on to orthodox and established doctrine. Anyone who feels they have a “revelation” that goes against orthodox teaching needs to be very sure of his facts.

Is there Biblical proof for the statement that no individual has the right to interpret the Bible without reference to orthodox doctrine? Yes indeed.

Paul quoted a principle established in the Law that “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (2Corinthians 13:1). This principle applied to every area of Jewish life and is carried forward into the life of the church. Even Jesus applied this principle to Himself. Jesus Himself said: “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true” (John 5:31). He then named four witnesses who testify to His claims. These are John the Baptist, Jesus’ works, His Father, and the Scriptures (John 5:33-39). Thus Jesus honored the principle that no individual can make a claim that is not able to be substantiated by multiple witnesses.

There are two essential qualifications for witnesses. They must agree and they must be credible (Exodus 20:16). The Jewish council found two witnesses to testify against Jesus, but they were false witnesses. So whose testimony should we believe concerning Jesus? Should we believe the testimony of John, Jesus’ works, His Father and the Scriptures, or that of two rogues from the streets of Jerusalem? Most false teachers may be able to quote others who believe like they do, but who are those witnesses? Are they people who have a reputation for correct theology or are they just as confused as the one who finds support in their false teaching?

The great Apostle Paul received his revelation and doctrine directly from Jesus Christ Himself (Galatians 1:12). In spite of the magnitude of this revelation, Paul felt the need to check his doctrine with Peter (Galatians 1:18). Then fourteen years later he again went to Jerusalem to check that he was indeed preaching the truth: “And I went up… and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain” (Galatians 2:2). Notice that he checked with “those who were of reputation.”

When building a wall it is no use checking the wall with a spirit level that is not correct. The level may indicate that the wall is plumb when it is not. Too many Christians check their doctrine with the wrong people and the wrong standards. Any doctrine has to be confirmed by those who have a reputation for Truth and correct doctrine. Far too many preachers are like King Ahab. Ahab gathered a team of 400 prophets who would tell him what he wanted to hear but he rejected the one man who he knew spoke truth (1Kings 22). Thus every heretic has a list of names of those who believe like he does, but will not listen to those who hold to orthodox doctrine.

When pilots bring ships into the harbor at Durban in South Africa, the channel through which they must pass is very narrow and disaster waits a few feet on either side. So to navigate safely they watch three lights on the shore. When these three lights line up, the ship is on the right course. The problem is that the shore is littered with thousands of lights. Only a fool will choose any three that line up. If it is imperative that a ship’s pilot make sure that he gets the right three lights to line up, then it is even more incumbent on us to make sure our teaching lines up with the right reference points.

Paul told Timothy “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2Timothy 2:2). Notice how Paul reminds Timothy that there are witnesses to his teachings. Also, he does not instruct Timothy to formulate his own doctrine but to simply carry forward those truths that had already been established by Paul.

Jude says: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Jude does not instruct us to establish or formulate doctrine but rather to contend for what was once for all delivered. Jude’s reference to “the faith” refers to a body of established truth and doctrine.

Job said: “inquire, please, of the former age, and consider the things discovered by their fathers; For we were born yesterday, and know nothing, Because our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you, and utter words from their heart?” (Job 12:8-9).

In this generation, our doctrine should be the purest, the most accurate and the most orthodox because we have the benefit of 2,000 years of church history. But instead of learning from the mistakes and discoveries of those who have gone before, this generation seems hell-bent to disregard the benefits of accumulated wisdom and rather to invent their own peculiar brands of heresy. These are indeed the people Jeremiah prophesied about when he cried: “Thus says the Lord: "Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, `We will not walk in it.” (Jeremiah 6:16).

(To Be Continued)


The problem of synthesizing the faith with pagan spirituality is an age-old one. Moses warned the separated people in Deuteronomy that it could all begin with a bad root of theology or practice, upon which "synthesis builds on synthesis," so that it goes on to bear "gall and wormwood":

"And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them: Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood." (Deuteronomy 29:17-18)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Building on the Transformations Foundation

"There Has Been a Megashift in Your Status

"Very few people realize that the nature of life on Earth is going through a major change.

"We are seeing a megashift in the basic direction of human history. Until our time, the ancient war between good an evil was hardly better than a stalemate.

"Now all has changed. The Creator whose epic story flows through the pages of Scripture has begun to dissolve the strongholds of evil. The new drama is being played out every hour around the globe, accompanied sometimes by mind-bending miracles.

"For reasons we know only in part, God has handed down a somewhat revised set of rules, delegating greater authority to more people. He has apparently decreed that plain folks like you and me are now a central part of an accelerated plan for a total transformation of the world.

"That plan is centered around small clusters of loosely networked but highly committed Christian people who have been empowered to do extraordinary things. . . ."
[James Rutz, Megashift: Igniting Spiritual Power (Empowerment Press, 2005), p. 2]

The quotation above is indicative of the new gospel theology of "transformation" that is sweeping evangelicaldom. James Rutz's book Megashift serves as a new gospel "transformation" manual for the masses, using fancy statistics, selected "facts," and state-of-the-art psychological techniques.

Notice that the premise of the above quotation is that "nature of life on Earth" is changing, that history itself is changing, and that "God has handed down a somewhat revised set of rules." These comments are heresy on their face. Furthermore, they resemble these quotations below:

"For the first time in history, humankind has come upon the control panel of change--an understanding of how transformation occurs. We are living in the change of change, the time in which we can intentionally align ourselves with nature for rapid remaking of ourselves and our collapsing institutions. . . ." [1]

"We can conspire against the old, deadly assumptions. We can live against them. . . ."

Rutz's theology is built on the foundation of the new doctrines and practices of what is now called The New Apostolic Reformation. In particular, his book gives great credence to George Otis of The Sentinel Group and his Transformations and Transformations II video series.

In light of this, we would like to refer the reader to a series of articles that are oldies but goodies (circa 2002):

Updated! 9/17/07 - Transformations or Re-Transformation - A Paradigm Shift For Evangelism by Concerned Christians, 7/02 - This link has been broken for some time. This article is by Mike Oppenheimer and Sandy Simpson.

The Truth:

"For I am the LORD, I change not;" (Malachi 3:6a)

1. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (J.P. Tarcher, Inc., 1980), p. 29.
2. Ibid, p. 35.

Friday, September 14, 2007

How to Understand the Bible

In the context of talking about how to discern heresy, it seems like a detour to be talking about "how to understand the Bible." But Anton Bosch, in this second part of his series "How to Discern," has recognized a key area where saints veer off into error. How do we read the Bible? The answer to this question impacts the totality of our Christian life.

How To Discern: Part 2

Many people will agree that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. The problem however is often how it is interpreted. How can we be sure that our understanding is the right one?

In discerning truth from error, we must begin by understanding Truth for ourselves. Many people try to discover the Truth by analyzing and dissecting error. You simply cannot do that. It is like someone trying to drive a car by looking only in the rearview mirror while trying to move forward. You cannot see where you are going by looking where others have gone wrong. So before we try to judge error or someone else’s doctrine, we need to be sure about what we believe. I agree, that many are prompted by the rise of some error to study truth. But, if you want to learn the truth on some matter, you will only learn it by studying the Bible, not by studying the mistakes of others. So what must I do to understand?

First I must ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). The same Spirit Who inspired the men to write the Bible (2Timothy 3:16, 1Peter 1:21), is available to help us understand what is written. The Bible is not an academic book which can be studied in an intellectual way only. Yes, the Bible is logically sound and intellectually deep, but it is primarily a spiritual book in which God speaks to His people. And His Spirit will lead, guide and counsel us so we may come “into all truth” (John 16:13). Studying the Bible is both an academic and spiritual exercise. Read it in a “spiritual” way without applying sound reasoning and you will not discover the Truth. But study it as academic literature without the Spirit’s help and you will most certainly end in error. Pray David’s prayer: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18).

Second, the reader must be in a right relationship with the Lord. When we are disobedient, in habitual sin or rebellion, we will always read into the Bible what we want it to say. This is the most dangerous way of handling the Word of God. Countless errors have been “discovered” when the reader looked into the Bible for justification for his disobedience or sin. If the Lord has been convicting you about something, you must be obedient to Him first else your reading will always be distorted and you will not see clearly. David was able to say “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts” (Psalm 119:100). Obedience leads to understanding, disobedience leads to error.

Third, we must be open and willing to change our views if they are proven to be wrong. When our prejudice or preconceived ideas overwhelm sound thinking, we will inevitably end with a distorted view of Scripture. We grossly underestimate the power of tradition and preconceived ideas to keep us from discovering the truth. Our traditions invariably are a filter through which we read and which colors the teaching of the Bible. Just think about the word “church.” Every person who reads has an established view of what that word means, even before they begin to read and so when one reads, he sees the Roman Church, or one of a thousand denominations. Others see a building of a particular shape while others see two or three believers agreed and in the name of Jesus. The same word – many different meanings – but only one can be right!

Paul says: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2Corinthians 3:18). By “unveiled face” he was referring to the veil which Israel put over Moses’ face to filter the glory of God’s revelation and to deliver it in a form with which they were comfortable. But we must come to the Word without a veil or filter. We need to be willing to be open-faced in order to absorb the full impact of God’s revelation. The same revelation transformed Moses and blinded Israel. Come to the Word with an open face and it will transform you. Try to veil, limit or modify it and it will blind you (2Corinthinas 3:14).

Sometimes we actually need to suspend what we believe on a particular subject while we do an in-depth study of God’s Word on it. If we don’t do so, we may continue to build on bad foundations. I have found it invaluable, at different times in my life, to actively put all my experience, training and tradition on hold while I seek to understand some aspect afresh. Only the fool keeps going down the wrong road without checking from time-to-time if he is indeed on the right way. Even Paul felt the need to check (Galatians 2:2).

Fourth, we must turn to the Bible first. Many people will turn to their pastor, guru, commentary or Internet before going to the Bible. (Some will only go to these sources and never get to the Bible). If we go to any source outside the Bible first, it will invariably color and bias or thinking, more than it already is. In order to understand a particular subject, you need to enlist the aid of a concordance (preferably computerized) and search for every part of the Bible that speaks to that subject. Then you need to read those sections – not just the verses, but the entire passages. Note down the ones that make a specific point. Only once you have read the whole Bible (Old and New Testaments) on a particular subject, and have collated all the information, can you begin to come to some conclusions. Only after having searched the Scriptures, and have come to some conclusion, should you to turn to other sources. (More about that next week.)

“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1Peter 2:2). It is the pure milk that causes us to grow. If it is diluted with the words, thoughts and traditions of men, it is no longer pure. If it is sugar coated by the eloquence and stories of the preacher, it is also no longer pure. What I am writing here is not the pure milk of the Word – they are my ideas based on the Word. And while my thoughts may help some to understand a few things, it can never have the same effect as when you read, study and understand the Bible yourself.

Finally, we must study the Scriptures with a specific goal in mind. This goal is not to increase our knowledge, or to prove that someone else is wrong, or to justify your own actions. The only valid attitude is to allow God to speak to us through His Word. The reading and study of the Bible is first, foremost and primarily a personal issue. The Lord does not use the Bible to speak to others through us, unless, we have heard Him speak to ourselves first. We can only approach it with trembling hands and with the prayer of Samuel: “Speak, for Your servant hears” (1Samuel 3:10). Only if we truly want to hear and obey, will its truths begin to unfold.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8)

(To Be Continued)

The Truth:

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us, that, denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." (Titus 2:11-12)

NOTE: Some of Anton Bosch's messages are now available online in MP3 format. See for more information.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Herescope 2 years old

Herescope celebrates its two-year anniversary on September 15th.

The Discernment Research Group began several years ago as a group of discernment and apologetic researchers and writers coalesced who were observing the heresies coming via what is called The New Apostolic Reformation. Discernment Ministries, Inc. has been monitoring and exposing the dangers of this movement since its early days. The idea for a Herescope blog was conceived after a Discernment Ministries conference. It was during this time period two years ago that the usefulness of a “blog” for discernment purposes was becoming quite evident. A blog would be a way of getting out current information to an audience plugged in to the Internet, especially those who needed assistance with discernment issues.

Over the past two years Herescope has covered many different topics that are relevant to the sweeping changes happening in the evangelical world. There are so many new heresies and heretical activities that there has been no shortage of material. If anything, we have had to narrow our focus to specific features of the overall transformation of the evangelical church.

As the Discernment Research Group discussed the possibility of doing a blog, one concern was foremost in our minds – that if we exposed error, we felt a necessity to also present Truth. It was becoming evident that many new people in the church pews had never even heard biblical Truth. All they had learned was New Apostolic Reformation heresy, which is substantially new doctrine compared to historical orthodox Christianity. It is truly “another gospel.” With this burden in our hearts, we determined to publish “The Truth” at the end of every post, whether it be a Bible verse or a quote from a good writer or Bible commentary.

We also committed to writing with accuracy, honesty and integrity, and academic credibility. With that in mind, we sought to do something a bit unusual with the blog – actually publish research, not just opinion or news clips. From its inception we determined to use the blog to educate, exhort and warn. We have often delved into the history of the matter so that important background information could be brought forth and the context of the present-day heresy be better understood. We have tried to be factual, and we have taken pains to make sure that we are not misrepresenting someone’s beliefs or doctrines. For every link that you see in an average post, we may have dozens more pieces of documentation.

As time as gone on we have become increasingly uncomfortable about leaping too fast onto the latest bandwagon to “bash” Rick Warren’s latest mis-step, or “hype” things like Ted Haggard’s fall. These are tragedies, not media or marketing opportunities. We carefully weigh whether we have a significant piece of information that would shed light on a current topic. If not, we don’t expose it just for the sake of exposing it. We pray daily that the Lord would continually break our hearts over these situations. Heresy has terrible consequences to human lives and its leaven can very destructive to the Christian faith.

Discernment Ministries is a non-profit corporation, and therefore we are free of any profit motive in the posts that we write. That gives us a tremendous advantage. You will notice that we have reviewed good books by authors we know. These are books that have no professional publisher or marketing agent. You might not have known about these books if we hadn’t told you because they aren’t sold through publishing houses or mass-marketing channels. We decided to use Herescope as a way to tell you about authors like Martin Erdmann, Warren Smith, Tamara Hartzell, Anton Bosch and Mike Oppenheimer and Sandy Simpson.

Many people who correspond with us wonder why we don’t write about various other topics. The Discernment Research Group is a limited number of people, and we have sharp restrictions on our use of time. This is true of all remnant discernment ministries in these last days. We encourage our readers to develop their own good habits for discernment research. Once you have learned how to “google” a topic, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to come up with a better understanding about a particular person or heresy. And a few of you have actually taken on writing projects so that you could warn others! Bless you!

We also encourage our readers to stick to their Bibles. We live in dangerous times when there are many spirits and voices giving people spiritual experiences. So many believers have fallen away from the narrow way when they listened to a Siren Song to entice their spiritual senses – but these experiences did not line up with the Word of God! Run, don’t walk, back to your old-fashioned Bibles! You can trust the Word of God, where God can speak to you through His Living Word, giving you guidance daily and helping you to discern truth from error.

Finally, we would like to publicly acknowledge the wonderful assistance and prayer support that we receive from so many of our regular readers. Thanks especially for the ongoing biblical counsel from Anton Bosch. Thanks to Dr. Dennis Cuddy for his impeccable historical research. A special thanks to Dr. Martin Erdmann for his sound theological knowledge and vast historical research. Honorable mentions go to Steve Muse of Eastern Regional Watch who has given invaluable assistance and donated hours of time to this effort, as has Jewel Grewe and Hester van Boven of Discernment Ministries.

We covet your prayers in the days to come, as the times are darker now than when we began.

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The Discernment Research Group

Monday, September 10, 2007

How to Smell a Rat

To complete the series of articles we have run over the past few months called "Contentiously Contending," Anton Bosch is now writing on the topic of how to discern. Today's post is the first in this segment.

A toddler will eat anything. It does not matter if it is nutritious or poison, it has no ability to discern between food and poison.

As Christians mature in the faith they should learn to discern between spiritual poison and spiritual food. “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). The problem is that the vast majority of modern-day “Christians” are either not born again or have been kept in a perpetual state of babyhood, and are thus unable to discern the difference between truth and error. Because of this, and because we have a new generation of church-goers who do not know the Bible, false teachers have multiplied, and millions believe anything these preachers say.

Discriminating between truth and error is really not that difficult as long as we abide by a few basic principles. The first of these is that truth is absolute. I use the term “absolute” as the opposite of “relative.” For most people – Christian and non-Christian - truth is relative. We hear:

  • “Truth is relative to one’s own experience, background, culture and environment.”
  • “What is true for one person may not be true for someone else.”
  • “What was true in Jesus’ day or a hundred years ago, is not necessarily true today.”
  • “What is true in the jungles of Africa is not true in the concrete jungles of America.”

But truth is absolute. It is unchanging and it is equally true in every time, culture, or environment. God’s truth does not change or have a different meaning in a different environment.

What is truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). The Truth is first a person – Jesus Christ. His Word is Truth. Jesus said: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17). Truth, the Person, never changes: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Truth, the Word, never changes. “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:18-19).

The second principle is that the Bible is complete. Many people think that God continues to give new revelation through prophets, preachers and visions. But that is a lie from Hell to move people away from the foundation of the Word. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son….” Note that God has spoken. The Greek is very specific, this is past and complete. God does not continue to speak. Yes, we refer to “God speaking to us,” but what we actually mean is that God is reminding us of what He had already said in His Word. Jude 3 says: “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” This translation is accurate in that the faith was delivered once and for all (eternity). It is not continually being delivered.

Theologians speak of “progressive revelation.” Unfortunately some preachers do not understand what the term means and assume that it means that God is continually revealing more and more of Himself. No. He gave us the whole revelation in Jesus Christ which has been written down in the form of the New Testament, and that’s it. The next time we will get any more information is when we see Him face to face. We can be absolutely sure that there is no further revelation between the Revelation given to John and the revelation of Jesus at His return.

Anyone who claims to have additional information that is not contained in the 66 books is a charlatan and a heretic. In fact, the Bible several times pronounces a curse on any who add to, or subtract from God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, Proverbs 30:6, Matthew 15:6-13, Revelation 22:18). If a preacher is willing to subtract or change the smallest part of the Bible (a jot or tittle), then you need to be careful. If he will subtract in one area, he is capable of subtracting or adding in other areas. Once you undermine the smallest part of the Bible, then you may as well throw the whole thing out.

The third principle is that God does not change His mind. What God has said is forever established and will never be altered in any way. “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). (Settled means established, firm and unchanging.) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good” (Numbers 23:19). So, to suggest that God has a different plan for people today to what He described in His Word, or that He changed His mind, or that He is making up His plans as He goes along makes God a liar and a man. He is neither. His plans were established from before the foundation of the earth. He knew all the twists and turns that man and history would take from the beginning. He does not adjust or tweak his purpose as time unfolds.

If we can accept that God has no other plan, purpose or will for us than which is revealed in the Bible, and that any deviation from it in deed, word or principle is heresy, we will easily be able to recognize most of the error that goes around.

Don’t be fooled when men tell you that only the educated can understand the Bible. We can all understand it. It does not matter how clever the argument is presented. If its conclusion is contrary to the plain teaching of the Bible, it is error. BUT there are a few simple rules that we must apply when we interpret the Scriptures. It is often these rules that are broken in order to arrive at a teaching which is erroneous. I know that not everybody knows these rules or how to apply them. But every believer who faithfully reads his Bible will know enough to smell a rat and to be on guard.

I believe that no one can get into error by simply believing and practicing the Bible. God gives us enough information for each stage of our growth to protect us. Eve did not know the whole counsel of God, but she knew that God had forbidden eating of the tree. But, she got into trouble when she listened to the Devil’s version of what God had said. If only she had stuck to the simple truth God had given her, she would have been safe.

Every believer can ask this easy question: “Show me where it says so in the Bible.” If the teacher cannot do so, or has to contort your mind or the Scriptures to get a square verse to fit into a round hole, then run for your life – he is dangerous.

God’s word is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). It enlightens and leads us. It does not bring us into darkness, confuse or mislead us. Trust His Word and if man contradicts His word “let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

(To Be Continued)

The Truth:

"But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him." (I John 2:5)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Transforming the World Within

In this day of evangelical fervor over changing the outward world, which is called "transformation," the truth of the Gospel -- the transformation of the inner man -- is neglected. This outward focus on dominionism always supplants the inner workings of the Holy Spirit upon the heart and conscience. What folly! What arrogance!

True transformation of the inner man (Romans 12:1-2) is inextricably connected with the Cross. J.C. Philpot, in the excerpt from his sermon "Crucifixion with Christ" below, begins by noting that this is a mystery:

"The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest mystery of divine wisdom and Almighty power, of eternal love and super-abounding grace, which could ever have been displayed before the eyes of men or angels. I call it a mystery, not only as incomprehensible by natural intellect, but because the very essence of a mystery, in the Scripture sense of the term, is to be hidden from some and revealed to others. . . . Salvation by the cross was of all doctrines the most offensive, and most unintelligible. . . .

"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor. 2:6-8.)

This, then, is the mystery of the cross; this is the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory, that the Son of God, who as God the Son, is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, should take our nature into union with his own divine Person, and in that nature should suffer, agonize, bleed, and die; that by his sufferings, blood-shedding, and death an innumerable multitude of sinners should be redeemed from the curse of the law and the damnation of hell, and be saved in himself with an everlasting salvation.

An excerpt of this excellent sermon is posted below. The reader is encouraged to read and study it in its entirety, for it is good meat in these times of pablum and strange gruel.

"I am crucified with Christ– nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me– and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

. . .1. If we are crucified with Christ, the WORLD is to be crucified to us and we to the world. But which world is crucified, for there are two; a world without, and a world within? Can we take the outward world in our grasp and drive through it the nails of crucifixion? This we can no more do than we can embrace the globe, or drink up the Atlantic. That huge world which lies spread before our eyes is beyond our reach; out of all proportion with our grasp. But we have a worldly "I" in our bosom which is but the reflection of the great world without. For what is the world all around us but an aggregate of human hearts; a motley, mingled multitude of carnal "I's;" so that each individual is but a specimen of the whole, and the whole but a huge collection of individual specimens? It would indeed then be but lost labor to attempt to nail the outward world to the cross of Christ. This is not the task that lies before the child of grace.

His crucifixion is within. His own carnal heart, worldly spirit, proud, covetous, aspiring mind, it is, which is to be crucified with the Lord of life and glory. For it comes to this, that our worldly "I" must either reign and rule; be pampered and petted; fed and nurtured in pride and pleasure; or it must be crucified, mortified, and subdued by the power of God's grace. The apostle therefore speaks of the world being crucified to him and he unto the world. What attraction would the world, with all its pleasures and profits, have to the eyes of one dying on a cross? Or what charms could he, writhing with pain, groaning in agony, dropping blood from his hands and feet, present to the eyes of the gay and glittering world? The cross killed the world to him; the cross killed him to the world. What was a living world to a dying man? What was a dying man to a living world?

Now we cannot be literally crucified. Even if we were, that would give us no spiritual change of heart, nor cause us to be crucified with Christ. It is, therefore, not the actual body or the literal flesh – the mere outward material man which is crucified; but it is the worldly spirit in a believer's heart, the proud, selfish, carnal "I," which, by virtue first of his representative, and then by the power of his experimental [experiential, ed.] crucifixion with Christ is crucified with Jesus, nailed to the cross to suffer, bleed, and die with him.

This inward crucifixion of the worldly spirit, of the natural "I," kills the believer to the world. Do you not find this in your own experience? The world without would little attract, influence, or ensnare your mind, unless you had the world within alive to it. As long then as the worldly spirit lives in you unsubdued, unmortified, uncrucified, your religion is but skin deep. A thin coat of profession may film the surface of the heart, hiding the inside from view; but the whole spirit of ungodliness is alive beneath, and as much in union with the world as the magnet with the pole, or the drunkard with his cups. But, on the contrary, if the world within be crucified by the power of Christ's cross, the world without will have little charm. And this will be in exact proportion to the life and strength of your faith and the reality of your crucifixion.

The world is ever the same; one huge mass of sin and ungodliness. That cannot be changed; that can never die. It must be you who are changed; it must be you who die to it. Now, is it not true that it is the meeting of the two worlds in one embrace, which gives the world without all its power to ensnare and entangle your feet? Let the worldly spirit be but crucified in our breast, then we shall be like the dying man who has no sympathy with the living world. The poor criminal that was nailed to the cross, dying there in agony and shame, could look down with expiring eyes upon the crowd below him, or cast his last glance on the mountains and valleys, woods and rivers of the prospect before him. Might not such a one say, "O, busy crowd! O, once fair and beauteous world! I am dying to you, and you are dying to me. O, world, where now are your fashions; where your maxims; where your lusts; where your vain and gaudy shows; where are you all, now that I am dying here upon the cross? My eyes are sinking into the shades of night. I am leaving you, and you are leaving me. Here we part, and that forever. I once loved you, and you once loved me; but there is between us now separation, enmity, and death." Is not this crucifixion? This at least is the figure of the apostle; and a most striking one, in which he represents the world as crucified to him, and himself to the world.

But you will observe that it is only by virtue of "the cross of Christ," that is, by a spiritual union and experimental communion with Christ crucified that this inward crucifixion can be really effected. There are two things whereby the inward, spiritual, and experimental crucifixion of a child of God is distinguished from that of a Papist, a Puseyite, or a Pharisee. The first is that it is by "the cross of Christ," that is, it flows from a spiritual knowledge of union with a crucified Jesus. "I am crucified with Christ." I do not crucify myself; nor does my flesh crucify my flesh. The second feature is that the whole of the old is crucified; it is not one limb, but the whole body which suffers crucifixion; as the Apostle says, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not sin." (Rom. 6:6.) In the literal crucifixion, though the nails were driven through the feet and hands, the whole body was crucified; so spiritually, though the nails may chiefly be struck through the working and moving members of the old man, yet the whole of him is crucified with them. So not only our worldly spirit, but our whole flesh, with all its plans and projects, with all its schemes, motives, and designs, is nailed to the cross; and especially our 'religious' flesh, for this is included in the "affections" of it, which are crucified. (Gal. 5:24.)

But now arises another question. Is this crucifixion with our consent, or against our consent? To this I answer that it is partly voluntary, and partly involuntary. We may illustrate this by the example of Peter. The Lord said to him, "The truth is, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will direct you and take you where you don't want to go." (John 21:18.) The Lord was here referring to Peter's crucifixion. Do we not see from this that Peter would shrink from being crucified, but that he would be carried to the cross against his will? Yet we read in ecclesiastical history, that when that time arrived, Peter begged of his executioners to crucify him with his head downwards, because he could not bear to die in the same posture with his crucified Lord. Thus we see in the actual, literal crucifixion of one of the Lord's most highly favored followers, there was a shrinking from the cross, and yet a submission to it. "The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak." The natural "I" was unwilling, the spiritual "I" was willing.

So it is with us in a spiritual sense. The coward flesh rebels against, and cries out under the nails of crucifixion; but the spirit submits, and, when favored by divine help, counts itself unworthy of such an honor and such a blessing. But no man ever spiritually crucified his own flesh. This is God's work, who in so doing spares not for our crying. Perhaps we are hugging close some bosom idol, some secret lust, some rising ambition, some covetous plan, or pleasing prospect. This may be as dear to us almost as our natural life. Can we then drive through it the crucifying nails? Or if we could, would that crucify it? No. God himself must take it with his own hand, and drive through it the nails of crucifixion; yes, and so drive them through this worldly spirit, this covetous heart, this proud, unbending mind, this self-righteous, self-pleasing, self-exalting affection, this deceptive, delusive, soul-destroying, fleshly religion, that it may ever after live a dying life. It is he, not you, who thus crucifies it, that its hands can no more move to execute its designs than the hands of a man nailed upon a cross, and its feet no more walk in the plan projected than the feet of a crucified man can come down from the cross and walk abroad in the world. Here is God taking your darling schemes, your favorite projects, your anticipated delights, so that they become to you dying, bleeding, gasping objects.

Have you not again and again experienced this in providence? Have not all your airy castles been hurled down, your prospects in life blighted, your hopes laid low, your projects disappointed, in a word, all your schemes and plans to get on in life so nailed to the cross that they could move neither hands nor feet, but kept dying away by a slow, painful, and lingering death? But did you approve of all this? Very far from it; but you were in God's hands, and could not fight against his cutting strokes. Thus, then, you have a proof in yourself that your worldly schemes and projects were taken by the hand of God, contrary to your wish, for you loved them too dearly to part with them, but were as if torn from your bosom by God's relentless hand, and nailed to the cross, not by you but by him.

And yet mercy was so mingled with these dealings, and your heart was so softened by a sense of God's goodness in and under them, that there was a sweet spirit of submission given you, which mingled itself with this unwillingness, and subdued and overpowered it. Thus you were made willing in the day of his power that God should take the idols out of your bosom with his own hand; you consented generally, that they should be crucified, because by this lingering death only could the life-blood of your worldly spirit be at all drained out of your breast. For crucifixion is a gradual death which drains life and blood slowly away.

["Crucifixion with Christ," Preached at the North Street Chapel, Stamford, on August 19, 1860, by J. C. Philpot]

The Truth:

"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." (Gal. 6:14)