A vital part of your Bible study arsenal is learning to recognize false teachers. Here are three interesting lists — both modern and classic — on how to discern a true teacher from a false teacher. Notice the similarities.
Over 100 years ago, J.C. Ryle, a prominent Anglican clergyman in nineteenth-century Britain, gave 8 symptoms of false teachers in his book Warnings to Churches:
“Many things combine to make the present increase of false doctrine especially dangerous.
- There is an undeniable zeal in some teachers of error—their “earnestness” makes many people think they must be right.
- There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge—many think that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe to listen to.
- There is a general tendency to completely free and independent thinking today—many like to prove their independence of judgment by believing the newest ideas, which are nothing but novelties.
- There is a wide-spread desire to appear kind, loving, and open-minded—many seem half-ashamed to say that anybody can be wrong or is a false teacher.
- There is always a portion of half-truth taught by modern false teachers–they are always using scriptural words and phrases, but with unscriptural meaning.
- There is a public craving for a more sensational and entertaining worship—people are impatient with the more inward and invisible work of God within the hearts of men.
- There is a superficial readiness all around to believe anyone who talks cleverly, lovingly and earnestly, forgetting that Satan often masquerades himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians:11:14).
- There is a wide-spread ignorance among professing Christians—every heretic who speaks well is surely believed, and anyone who doubts him is called narrow-minded and unloving.
All these are especially symptoms of our times. I challenge any honest and observant person to deny them. These tend to make the assaults of false doctrine today especially dangerous and make it even more important to say loudly, “Do not be carried away with strange doctrine!”
Tim Challies, a pastor and author from Toronto Ontario, posted this intriguing list of “7 Marks of a False Teacher:”
- False teachers are man pleasers. What they teach is meant to please the ear more than profit the heart.
- False teachers save their harshest criticism for God’s most faithful servants.
- False teachers teach their own wisdom and vision.
- False teachers miss what is of central importance and focus instead on the small details.
- False teachers obscure their false doctrine behind eloquent speech and what appears to be impressive logic.
- False teachers are more concerned with winning others to their opinions than in helping and bettering them.
- False teachers exploit their followers.
Colin Smith gave this list of questions to ask in his post 7 Traits of False Teachers on The Gospel Coalition’s website:
- Different Source – Where does the message come from?
- Different Message – What is the substance of the message? For the true teacher, Jesus Christ is central.
- Different Position – In what positions will the message leave you?
- Different Character – What kind of people does the message produce?
- Different Appeal – Why should you listen to the message?
- Different Fruit – What result does the message have in people’s live?
- Different End – Where does the message ultimately lead you?”
Related Interesting Articles:
The Apostles Who Don’t Do Anything: The New Apostolic Reformation
An Unconditionally Conditional Faith: Emergent theology Part 1
Understanding Emergent Theology Part 2
(Dis)ingenuous – Emergent Theology Part 3
Why I reject Emergent Theology
Beth Moore Confronts Young Pastor’s Wife for Criticizing Her Direct, Divine Revelation
A Few Brief Thoughts on the Hatmaker Hermeneutic
Part of the Series: Bible Study 201: Learn to teach
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