Day 8: The Effects of False Teaching

Lamentations 2:11-14 :

My eyes fail with tears.
My heart is troubled.
My bile is poured on the earth,
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because the young children and the infants swoon in the streets of the city.

They ask their mothers,
“Where is grain and wine?”
when they swoon as the wounded in the streets of the city,
when their soul is poured out into their mothers’ bosom.

What shall I testify to you?
What shall I liken to you, daughter of Jerusalem?
What shall I compare to you,
that I may comfort you, virgin daughter of Zion?
For your breach is as big as the sea.
Who can heal you?

Your prophets have seen false and foolish visions for you.
They have not uncovered your iniquity,
to reverse your captivity,
but have seen for you false revelations and causes of banishment.

One of the critical themes in the New Testament is the warning against false teachers. Over and over, Christians are warned that enemies of the Church will rise up within the Church itself. Let’s take a little tour and look at some of these warnings.

Acts 20:28-30 :

Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Romans 16:17-18 :

Now I beg you, brothers, look out for those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. For those who are such don’t serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 :

But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron, forbidding marriage and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 :

For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn away to fables.

This is actually a small sample of the things the New Testament says about false teachers. With this in mind, guarding against false teaching should be a major part of what goes on in our churches today. The Bible does teach that we be unified as believers, but it also teaches that we reject false teaching. The two must always go together. If someone preaches unity in order to permit the teaching of false doctrine, they are wrong. If someone separates believers over false doctrine, they are also wrong. In our passage today, we are asked to consider an Old Testament example of the same thing. It teaches us what happens to us when we listen to these false teachers.

What had happened in Judah was that the false prophets that had been speaking against Jeremiah, were failing to show the people their sin. As a result, the people kept sinning until God was forced to destroy them. Jeremiah laments over the fact that even children were affected. He felt the horror of the effects of false teaching. This is yet another warning to us. We need to pay attention to the truth about our sin. We must also be vigilant to remove false teaching from our churches. If we don’t, we will eventually witness God’s hand of discipline on us as His children. He will not allow evil to go on in His household even if we have been lying to ourselves about our situation.

Day 108: Following Their Own Word

Jeremiah 23:33-40

“When this people, or the prophet, or a priest, asks you, saying, ‘What is the message from Yahweh?’ Then you shall tell them, ‘ “What message? I will cast you off,” says Yahweh.’ As for the prophet, the priest, and the people, who say, ‘The message from Yahweh,’ I will even punish that man and his household. You will say everyone to his neighbor, and everyone to his brother, ‘What has Yahweh answered?’ and, ‘What has Yahweh said?’ You will mention the message from Yahweh no more: for every man’s own word has become his message; for you have perverted the words of the living God, of Yahweh of Armies, our God. You will say to the prophet, ‘What has Yahweh answered you?’ and, ‘What has Yahweh spoken?’ Although you say, ‘The message from Yahweh;’ therefore Yahweh says: ‘Because you say this word, “The message from Yahweh,” and I have sent to you, telling you not to say, “The message from Yahweh;” therefore, behold, I will utterly forget you, and I will cast you off, and the city that I gave to you and to your fathers, away from my presence. I will bring an everlasting reproach on you, and a perpetual shame, which will not be forgotten.’ ”

Making up a message from God is a very serious crime. According to what we read here, it will bring “an everlasting reproach on you, and a perpetual shame, which will not be forgotten.” Now, we know that this shame and reproach was paid for by Jesus when He died, but it demonstrates to us that what false teachers and prophets do is as serious as the sins that they claim to avoid. The sins of religious people are very serious because they claim to be speaking for God.

I’m a bit stunned about this since it seems quite different than it was when I was young, but we live in a very religious culture here in the United States now. By religious, I don’t mean that everyone believes in God or the gods. What I mean is that I am seeing what Jeremiah was seeing, that “every man’s own word has become his message.” People are making up their own truth about what God thinks, says or is. If they think Christianity is wrong about something, they simply revise it and continue to call themselves a Christian. Then they claim that everyone that doesn’t follow their ideas is not a Christian. No wonder Jeremiah couldn’t get along with anyone. Everyone had decided to listen to themselves and I can’t imagine a less unified culture.

I do have a word of encouragement for Christians, though. One of the blessings we have as Christians is that we have each other. In a day when everyone follows their own word, we follow God’s and when we do it, we do it together. We can have unity that shines like a light in the darkness. As we simply love each other, we will attract those who are seeking a way out of the violence and disunity of this world.

What is a Worldview?

Does it seem to you like people have completely lost their minds these days? It does to me, but I’m quite sure that the issue has nothing to do with intelligence or ignorance. I believe that what we are witnessing is a fundamental difference in worldviews. You and I may find something to be wrong or foolish, that someone else actually dares to base their entire life upon. We may wonder why people are doing so many strange things or think that our country has become divided and question: “Why can’t people just come together?” The fact is that when people have significantly different worldviews, it may be impossible to be united on even the most basic issues.

A Definition

I’d like to provide a formal definition of a worldview. Here’s one that I think is very helpful for us in our day and age:

“A worldview is a network of presuppositions, untested by the natural sciences, and in light of which all experience is interpreted.”

Dr Jason Lisle, Presuppositional Apologetics,(source)

A “network of presuppositions” is just the interconnection of ideas that you believe to be true about the most basic things in life. When it says that these things are “untested by the natural sciences,” it means that these are things you “automatically assume” to be true without any evidence.

It’s important to realize that everyone has a worldview. That’s because each person has to have one in order to make sense of the world. Also, there’s a reason why you don’t have any evidence for your worldview. It’s because evidence is always interpreted through your worldview. You have to have a worldview before you interpret evidence.

There’s No Way to be Neutral

There are some people who like to think that they don’t have a specific worldview. They believe that they are neutral and accept all worldviews. That sounds pretty good, but it’s actually not logical at all. A person who is trying to be neutral, might say: “It is better to accept all views.” This is an example of an non-neutral existing belief or “presupposition”. It’s one of those presuppositions that is already contained in their worldview. The funny thing is that they are assuming that they are not assuming something. That makes this a worldview that denies its own existence. This particular worldview is irrational and wrong. There’s more on this in my article: The Fallacy of Neutrality.

Refuting an Evidentialistic Worldview

So, “presuppositions” are what you automatically assume to be true without any evidence. That might raise a red flag to you. You might even be thinking: “I don’t have any presuppositions. I require evidence for everything I believe in.” If you are thinking this, your thinking is actually an example of a presupposition.

If you think that you have evidence for all of your beliefs, your presupposition is that it is wrong to believe in something without evidence. You probably agree with the statement: “It isn’t right to believe in something without any evidence”, but once again, this statement is a presupposition. Do you have evidence to prove that this is correct or are you just assuming it to be correct?

I would guess that you are merely assuming it to be true. Have you even listed all of your beliefs? Even if you have listed every one, do you have evidence for each of them? If so, can you prove each one of those? At some point, you will run out of evidence. That’s because you are not all knowing. At some point, you are forced to “just believe” some things. Those beliefs, whether you admit to them or not, are your worldview.

So, truth claims, such as: “It isn’t right to believe in something without evidence” cannot be proven with evidence. This particular worldview is sometimes called Evidentialism or Empiricism.

Why is this Important?

A rational worldview helps us sort through the information that invades our world. It colors everything everything we see and hear, but there can only be one correct worldview and the Bible claims to be the correct one. The Bible tells us that the only correct worldview points us to God Himself and actually makes life better.

King Solomon, the wisest king of Israel other than Jesus, told us this:

“There is no wisdom nor understanding
    nor counsel against Yahweh.”

Proverbs 21:30

“The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge;
    but the foolish despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 1:7

“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt.
    They have done abominable deeds.
    There is no one who does good.”

Psalm 14:1

“The way of the sluggard is like a thorn patch,
    but the path of the upright is a highway.”

Proverbs 15:19

Staying Alert in the Information Age

We live in a world that is full of information. It seems to come at us from every direction. In order for information to be truth, the correct worldview must be behind it. Most things that we hear in the news and from others these days are not based on the correct worldview. Even if words and concepts from the Bible are used, the information may still be a well crafted lie. If we pay attention to the worldviews of those who are giving us information it will help us avoid being fooled. The Bible tells us that God honors this kind of careful behavior. Paul writes:

“…that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

2 Corinthians 2:11

So when you read the news, Facebook, a blog or listen to a preacher, remember how important worldviews are. You may have to ask: “How do you know that?” a few times. If they are expecting you to avoid your belief in the Bible as your basic presupposition, then their worldview is wrong and the information they provide may lead you down the wrong path, even if they sound good or seem right at first. Our basic assumptions about reality should always be firmly in place, like a firm foundation and we must always guard that foundation.

“…for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,…”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Further Study

The Fallacy of Neutrality
In this article, I discuss the problem of neutrality and explain why it is logically impossible to have a neutral philosophy.

Learning to Think Biblically by Ken Ham
In this video, Ken Ham discusses and demonstrates how important worldviews are when you are faced with information today. He also discusses the fact that there are fundamentally only two kinds of worldviews.

A “Neutral” Government?
In this article, I discuss the problem caused by governments, including the United States, when they attempt to pretend to be philosophically neutral. I also discuss the worldview foundation that formed the United States.