Posted by: Peter | 22 May 2007

False teachers

2 Peter 2

False Teachers and Their Destruction

1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

At our church we are currently in the middle of a sermon series on 2 Peter. Peter, if you notice, does not mince his words. He calls a spade a spade, in no uncertain terms. You should never be left in any confusion as to where you are with Peter!

In this case false teachers are addressed and condemned in the strongest terms possible throughout this book. This is particularly pertinent when you consider the times we are in right now where, more than ever, so many are bringing the truth into disrepute.

In his latest sermon, our priest Jonathan addressed the 19th century naturalism that underpins what passes for theological thought in much of the Anglican Church of Canada and many other churches. I shall quote you just a little bit here (the full text can be found on this page):

Sermon Image

Above is a reproduction of a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, which he composed in 1885. You will notice that there are two books. The larger of the two is the Bible. The other book is entitled: La joie de vivre (Joy of Life) by Emile Zola. Zola was the leading French novelist in the latter part of the 19th century. In 1884 he wrote La Joie De Vivre. It was part of a series of twenty novels he wrote rooted in a philosophical school called Naturalism. Zola helped establish this school.

In summary naturalism taught:

Individual characters were seen as helpless products of heredity and environment, motivated by strong instinctual drives from within and harassed by social and economic pressures from without. As such, they had little will or responsibility for their fates, and the prognosis for their “cases” was pessimistic at the outset.

What do you think Van Gogh was attempting to do by juxtaposing the Bible with Zola’s La Joie de Vivre? I think he was illustrating what was happening in late 19th century intellectual thought. Although the Bible was still open, it was no longer being illuminated. You will notice that the candle is not burning. Rather than the teaching of the Bible guiding life, it was now philosophies, like naturalism, that were in the foreground of intellectual thought.

Well if that was the case in 1885, I would suggest that in our own day we are facing something similar within the Anglican Church of Canada. Philosophies like naturalism are shaping our theological thought and moral conduct. And it is for this reason that our Communion is currently in crisis.

With these thoughts in mind I was very interested to read Kendall Harmon’s thoughts on Episcopal universalism, and how it seeks to change the very essence of what the Bible teaches. Read it all here – it is well worth the read.

You see, naturalism naturally leads onto theological universalism. If we are indeed ‘helpless products of heredity and environment’, then there can really be no sin, Jesus’ death therefore must have had another purpose (just a good example, perhaps?), and all will be well in the end for everybody. There can be no hell, for there are really no choices anyway.

All this is to illustrate what the current struggle in the Anglican (and indeed other churches) is all about. Many folk would like to reframe this debate in terms of homophobia and bigotry, accusing us of both. While indeed homosexual blessing and marriage is currently the headline presenting issue, that is all that it is.

In reality, the struggle over the Bible passages on homosexuality should really point us to a much deeper problem of the theological naturalism and universalism that currently infects our church. This is our struggle, and it is not against flesh and blood, but against ideologies, against rulers, principalities and powers.

It is not without irony that two of the verses excluded in the new, improved Episcopal lectionary are these from Revelation 21:

18: I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,
19: and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

This is a warning that we should not take lightly! The scriptures should be treated with the deepest reverence, for these are the words that lead us to the Word of God – Jesus Christ himself!

You know the ideology is suspect when, rather than allowing the Bible to inform the ideology, we allow the ideology to subvert the Bible. And that is exactly what is happening in our age, and in our day. False teachers abound, twisting the scripture to their own desire, telling itching ears what they want to hear. In so doing, they lead both themselves and their adherents on the broad, easy, comfortable road that leads down to the outer darkness, the dark beyond all dark.

Our task, at this time, is to stand firm against this tide of heresy – and to bring the great Light of Christ into this dark world. Know that the gates of hell never cease in their assault on the Church. Know also that the gates of hell never prevail – for Jesus Christ is Lord!

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Responses

  1. Excellent post Peter. Our Priest read all the verses and preached on leaving out them out of the readings. He has just come back from Ground Zero at St. John’s in Vancouver. I am looking forward to speaking to him. We are standing firm, but now with summer here you look around and everything is beautiful and things seem to be working so well – so what are we worrying about? The calm before the storm. Pauline.

  2. Would identifying false prophets be considered judgment? I have a problem in that I don’t want to judge, and yet I feel that innocents need to be warned. I think that there are many more false prophets out there than we can imagine, many of them ordained. I suspect most church goers don’t even question what is being preached as long as the message doesn’t cause them discomfort.

    Dave

  3. only six days b4 susan comes back :)

  4. Hello Pauline – thanks, glad you enjoyed the post. Sounds like you haver a good priest – a rare resource these days!

    Hi Dave – I think there is a lot to be unpacked here. There is IMHO a difference between judgement and judgmentalism. The former is a required element for life – the latter not so, albeit that we like indulging in it. I think we are free to judge the fruit of prophets and teachers – and act accordingly. The people themselves, that’s much much better left up to God.

    Hi code – I know, I know – this time here is a deeply painful one. You have my sympathies :-)

  5. Peter,
    2 Peter,Jude and the Pastorals have been great friends as I have prayed for the Anglican Communion and the orthodox brothers and sisters in this struggle.
    One thing that my studies have reaffirmed to me is that we not be afraid to recognise our adversaries for what they are .
    Wm Barclay,in his masterful commentary on James and Peter and specifically 2:10’s ‘audacious and self-willed’,has a wondrous description of them given by R.C. Trench:’Thus obstinately maintaining his own opinion,or asserting his own rights,he is reckless of the rights,opinions and interests of others.’p.330
    That,to me,affirms that there can be no negotiation with them,no ‘listening';only battle or surrender via accomodation.

  6. Hi padraic – I have slowly come to the same conclusion myself – there can be no negotiation, nor any really meaningful conversation. We talk the same ‘language’ but the meanings are poles apart. Any discussion usually ends up in acrimony.

    It is best to let it be, the good Lord is in charge anyway. For us, we are much better advised to concentrate on what the Lord is building than keep getting dragged back to the mire of controversy, as tempting as it is sometimes.

    Blessings,

    Peter

  7. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  8. Peter,
    Hi,and I totally agree that it’s gotten to the point of open hostility for many.
    For myself,when it comes to it,they’re the reefs that are sinking Anglicanism ala Jude 12,revelling in their deceit as they share in the celebrations of the church,caring for nothing but their own lusts being sated(2 Peter 2:13).

  9. only one day left b4 Susan returns!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  10. Heh.

  11. Quite simply ‘they’ are just wrong. Too much searching and appeasement instead of believing and listening to the Lord.

  12. Indeed!

  13. [...] Trenchent self-reflection by an Episcopalian on the crisis in his Church The Age to Come Blog [...]


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