Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Naming Names?

As I've been working on my study of the epistle of Jude, I've been considering how best to approach application of Jude's strongly-worded letter. The whole focus of Jude is to warn his readers against the dangers of apostate teachers, in no uncertain terms. He states clearly his concern in verse 4: "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." See, Jude's issue is not with the atheistic, agnostic, skeptical unbelievers who oppose Jesus Christ and His people. Rather, the issue is with those who would infiltrate the church and teach ungodly doctrines, leading to ungodly behavior and leading others into ungodliness with them.

Now, application-wise this seems to be a no-brainer, right? I mean, today's doctrinally anemic evangelical church is rampant with similar apostates of all stripes. Be they health and wealth gospel promoters, emergent/emerging postmoderns, spirit-filled healing charlatans, man-centered therapists, or just run of the mill heretics, we got 'em all. If Jude were around today, he'd probably write an even stronger letter than his original. So we have plenty of places to apply Jude's exhortation to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."

But what I'm struggling with is the how. On the one hand, it's important for all of us to get the principles down that Jude lays out for recognizing those in the church who teach apostasy and heresies. We need to be people who discern clearly those who would lead Christ's people astray from His truth and the pure gospel. We have to be people who know what it means to contend earnestly for the faith, and when it's needed.

But beyond that, what about pointing out specific apostates among us, by name, and the heresies they teach and promote? Is it appropriate, in the context of a Bible study class, to name names of today's most popular apostates and expose their teachings? I'm really conflicted about this approach. On the one hand, people need to be warned against blindly following "Christian celebrities" who are less than Biblical in their teachings. They need to see what examples of apostasy looks like so they can recognize it in other places when they encounter it. But on the other hand, since so many of these contemporary apostates are so popular with so many undiscerning Christians, it's very easy to offend and irritate people who are fans of these pop-heretics. I know, I've done it before. And there are those who just take issue with any criticism of any self-claimed "Christian" writer or teacher, regardless of how off the wall their positions are. But on the other hand, these people need to be disabused of the notion that it's a mark of true Christianity to accept any and all who teach whatever aberrant and un-Biblical slop at face value because they're sincere or are just "trying to serve Jesus." Being offended is a small price to pay when eternal truth and eternal life is at stake. And after all, Jesus never just looked the other way and talked nice about the religious heretics within the synagogues of His day; His most severe words were reserved for the Pharisees and similar ilk.

So, I'm still conflicted. But as I've considered how to approach application, I've decided that it is necessary in today's church to name names. After all, look at Paul's letters. In his letters to Timothy, he warned against Hymenaeus, Alexander, Phygellus, Hermogenes, Demas and Alexander the Coppersmith. All by name. Paul knew what I am learning - that the purity of the Gospel of Christ and the orthodoxy of the teachings of the church of Christ are of far more value and importance than some momentary offense that some may take at the names of their favorite apostates being pointed out in public. So, I'm sorry if you're enamored with the likes of Bell, Osteen, Schuller, McLaren, Pagitt, Hinn, and a variety of others, but they're no different than those that Jude and Paul were pointing out. And not in my opinion, but in Christ's. That's the One that counts.

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