Christian Heresy Hunters, Discernment Sites – some musings
I do think there is a need and a place for Christians who teach other believers about false teachings and to expose false teachers for what they are.
I do not consider it sinful, wrong, or automatically unloving for a Christian to judge or condemn the unbiblical teachings of other Christians, especially that of prominent pastors, and to publicize it on the internet.
I do, however, have a few misgivings or problems with such sites.
Over the years, I’ve visited blogs and sites by defenders of sound doctrine that can be unnecessarily harsh.
(Defenders of sound doctrine are sometimes referred to derogatorily by their targets as “heresy hunters.” I myself do not use the term “heresy hunter” as a put down. I use it only as a descriptive term.)
‘Everyone But Me Has Imperfect Doctrine’ Attitude
Most annoying to me, though, is that some of these self-appointed Defenders of the Faith have “heretic lists” so incredibly extensive that the names of practically every single Christian who has ever lived resides on these lists – and they conveniently leave their own names off the lists.
Naturally. All of a heresy hunters’ doctrines are absolutely correct on every point but everyone else in Christianity is all wrong, on every matter, at all times. Of course.
I’ve also noticed that a large percentage of such believers who maintain heresy hunting blogs and sites consider themselves Calvinists (or “Reformed”).
I consider myself neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian (which makes no sense to Calvinists; most of them cannot wrap their heads around the fact that not every Christian falls into either group. I’ve given up trying to explain it to them, and I will not argue about it on my own blog).
Many Calvinists I’ve seen on the internet over the years are very harsh, they have too much intellectual pride, and many of them pretty much equate one fallible man’s teaching about the Bible, (Calvin), to the Gospel itself, which to me is a huge, huge, very gross error.
Calvinism is a false teaching (and I will not permit it to be debated in this thread, by the way; should anyone leave such a post here, I will most likely delete it), so I find it funny and ironic that so many of its adherents are behind some of the heresy hunting blogs. Anyway.
I recently visited one discernment blog, which I believe is called Defenders and Contenders (of whom at least one of its owners is a Calvinist, incidentally).
While I do agree with many of the positions of the Defenders and Contenders bloggers (I share their disdain for the “Health and Wealth, Prosperity Gospel” for example), I had to laugh at least one of their targets.
Let’s Pick on Trivial, Harmless Stuff!
The author of one post at the Defenders and Contenders blog, a post titled “A Tribute to the VBS Syndrome”(defendingcontending.com/2009/) linked to a parody flier advertisement for a fictional children’s V.B.S. (that is, ‘Vacation Bible School’).
They accredited this parody work to yet another site known as “Sacred Sandwich.”
The flier was filled with cartoon imagery (including a camel and kids holding balloons), and it advertised various activities children who attended could look forward to, such as playing with toys and eating ice cream, and so forth.
I take it that the point of the VBS parody flier was to ridicule how church programs for kids these days supposedly focus way too much on fun and games and not enough on Bible reading or on teaching doctrine.
On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable target to mock.
However, it’s rather heavy-handed and misplaced to berate church kiddie programs, and especially in such a manner.
Children are not miniature adults.
Most children can’t, won’t, or don’t sit still for long periods of time, and they get bored easily.
Hence, the use of toys, games, and ice cream as enticements to get them to attend and to draw their attention so that lessons about Jesus Christ can be taught.
I would envision the only Vacation Bible School that these heresy hunters would give their stamp of approval to would be a very dry one, in which each child would have to arrive to class in stiff, itchy, velvet and lace Victorian-era clothing, sit ram-rod straight in military fashion in a chair for hours on end, listening to some teacher lecture, in a monotone and on a college-level, about the sermons of Charles Spurgeon.
I mean, what kid wouldn’t want to attend such a VBS, am I right?
In the heresy-hunter version of Vacation Bible School, absolutely no smiling or laughter would be permitted by pupils or teachers. Eating ice cream is a horrid, horrid sin. Carrying balloons would be forbidden by the eleventh commandment and offenses would be punishable by stoning.
I do not think that the sorts of Christians who would lampoon VBS for offering ice cream or games realize how petty, unrealistic, or humorless they come across, and they should care.
When I lived in another state, I used to watch a Christian TV program that aired early mornings. This show had rotating hosts.
One host was always in a foul mood. He was never a joyful, happy guy.
I recall watching one episode where this cranky gentlemen was criticizing how Christian kids are taught about the faith.
This grouchy host was complaining about the lack of solid, hard-core teaching of biblical stories and concepts to children.
At one point, he actually criticized how many children’s Bibles depict Noah and the flood: he thought the typical illustrations which accompanied them were too positive, optimistic, and cheerful.
He disliked a smiling, happy bearded cartoon Noah standing along smiling, happy giraffes and lions on an ark.
He felt such light-hearted depictions did not communicate to children the serious nature or dark realities of the flood and the reasons God sent the flood.
I was amazed.
As I watched this guy, I sat there thinking,
‘Please tell me you’re kidding. What would you prefer, scaring the crud out of a three year old kid? What do you want for the Noah stories instead: computer generated, highly-realistic renderings of dead, bloated, blue and purple colored, human corpses floating about in flood waters? Get real.’
I agree that sin is serious business and that children need to be told about it, but there’s no reason to go overboard and overload them with information that might go over their heads or frighten them unnecessarily.
You can always give the kid more details as he or she grows older.
If a three year old kid were to ask you, “Where do babies come from?,” I think most Christian adults would have the sense not to go into all the full, graphic details of sex and conception, but would, instead, give them an age- appropriate response, along the lines of, “Babies come from mommies and daddies, and grow inside the mommy’s tummy for nine months.”
Why should artistic interpretations or lessons about Noah and the flood for children be any different?
Pastor Rick Warren
I have noticed for a few years now that many discernment ministries are absolutely obsessed in a creepy, John Hinckley – Jodie Foster kind of way with pastor Rick Warren, and I don’t get it.
I don’t agree with all of Warren’s views or practices, but the amount of vitriol and sheer avalanche of attention directed at the man and his every move by Christians on the web is weird. Weird.
There are many, many web pages -by Christians- that are critical of Warren, Warren’s teachings, and his books. Some Christians seem downright hysterical about Warren.
The man can’t so much as sneeze or tie his shoelace without dozens of discernment blogs immediately blogging an analysis or condemnation of it.
I read Warren’s Purpose Driven Life book a few years ago, and I don’t recall there being any glaring problems with it.
I’m a college-educated person who has read the Bible and who used to be heavily immersed in Christian apologetics. I’m capable of spotting unbiblical ideas when I come across them.
Warren’s book came across to me like a simple, sweet little work that was encouraging people, if they weren’t already believers, to consider turning to Jesus.
I have skimmed over a web page here or there which purport to point out the book’s errors, but from what I’ve seen, the person doing the criticizing is nit picking or is reading something into Warren’s text that simply isn’t there.
Edit. After having read an article about how Rick Warren allegedly indirectly supports spousal abuse at his church (see Does Rick Warren’s Church Condone Domestic Violence?; that link no longer works, please try This Link instead or This Link), I’m starting to warm up to disliking the guy now – but I don’t hate him. How he can permit his church to harbor an abuser and not provide support to the abused woman is absolutely beyond disgusting, though.
The Sinner’s Prayer
Yet another issue that some Christians object to (and not just some discernment sites) is “the sinner’s prayer,” and I’ve never understood what the objection is all about (and no, please don’t take that as an invitation to log in to this blog and tell me).
To put it in a nut shell, the Bible instructs people who have been convicted by the Holy Spirit to go to God and tell Him they are sorry for their sins and that they trust Christ’s work at the cross- which is precisely what one does when one says “the sinner’s prayer” to God, so I’ve never understood objections to it.
How else, but by prayer, would one go about conveying acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior to God the Father, by hiring a pilot who is adept at sky writing, and announcing it in the clouds? By painting one’s face white and miming it? Using sign language?
I do think that Christian discernment ministries are necessary, and they can be very helpful, but I don’t completely agree with all the views or attitudes of all the individuals who comprise them.