By Paul Proctor
March 23, 2011
The Emerging Church controversy has caught the attention of the mainstream media again and in a big way with the latest book from Rob Bell, entitled, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” – a “universalist” view from a popular “Christian” author and pastor that has already drawn numerous objections from many evangelical leaders including several sharp commentaries from the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr. – the latest of which appeared in the Baptist Press, titled, “Rob Bell and the (re)emergence of liberal theology.”
As one of many who have spoken out against the Emerging Church’s errant teachings and practices, I find it encouraging to finally hear a chorus of open rebukes coming from a growing number of well known Christian leaders who aren’t afraid to name the names of heretics and false teachers at work among believers – at least a few of them – something that is quite common throughout the New Testament, but, up until recently, has been all but absent from the 21st century Church as if they were either nonexistent or unworthy of mention.
Frankly, false teachers have had a heyday over the last generation or so amassing huge numbers of unregenerate, unrepentant, biblically ignorant and morally apathetic followers that were persuaded through pleasurable feelings, emotions, experiences and appetites that few, if any, are actually going to Hell. Dr. Mohler accurately summed up the Emerging Church movement in his column as being “a mildly updated form of Protestant liberalism.” I would only add that the eastern styled mysticism taught and practiced by many Emergents carries the movement well beyond mere liberal Christianity and into the occult.
Much of these and other false teachings and practices have been aided and advanced by the widely-held assumption that public rebukes among Christians are to be a last resort only, citing Matthew 18:15 as the scriptural source, which, in the King James version, reads: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Underscore added for emphasis)
Thanks to a very small number of inconsistent Bible translations, which now incidentally includes the newest New International Version 2011, a directive intended to restrain and contain church-unity-disrupting personal offenses between two individuals was edited in such a way as to suggest that all initial chastisement and challenges between believers should be kept private, which is not at all what the Bible teaches.
Is there a better way to advance evil, error and confusion in the Church than to shame and silence the discerners of heresy, blasphemy and scriptural confusion? Not only does this undermine the proclamation and proliferation of God’s Word, it is also a great way to unequally yoke believers to unbelievers and steer them all astray with the insinuation that feelings are more important than truth.
You see, Matthew 18:15 in the New American Standard Bible reads: “(M)If your brother sins[b], go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Omitting the words “against you,” or “against thee,” which appears in the vast majority of popular Bible versions including the 1984 NIV, gives heretics a handy hideout to not only do their dirty work but have their inaccuracies, inconsistencies and indiscretions arbitrarily dismissed through obfuscation, negotiation and consensus.
False teaching needs to be addressed as it happens, in front of those who hear it, that the error and confusion not be left to spread unchallenged. Nor should it be left up to some pastor’s public relations team or a bureaucratic boardroom of good old boys to decide if an open confession and correction would be good for the numbers.
Not only did Jesus rebuke the scribes and Pharisees publicly for their self-serving words and deeds, He gave Peter the harshest rebuke of all in front of the other disciples in Mark 8:33, telling him: “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”
The Apostle Paul also took Peter to task in front of everyone later in Galatians 2:11,14 for separating himself from those who weren’t circumcised. If anything needed to be dealt with in private, wouldn’t it be this? Paul goes on to tell Timothy: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” – 1st Timothy 5:20
In fact, the entire chapter of Matthew 18 is largely about personal offences between individuals beginning with verse six where Jesus says: “…whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” and continues on with Peter asking Jesus; “…how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”
Jesus goes on to answer Peter with the story of an unpaid debt between a king and one of his servants and another unresolved debt between that same servant and a fellow servant. And right in the middle of the chapter, between Jesus’ warning against offending a child and Peter’s question about forgiving a brother and the story of personal indebtedness, is verse 15, where Jesus says: “…if thy brother shall trespass against thee…” not, “If your brother sins…” as the NAS claims. In other words, “against thee” is consistent with the ongoing conversation between Jesus and His disciples and context of the chapter.
So, when an errant pastor, preacher, teacher, author or Emerging Church leader publicly distorts, disputes, dismisses or disavows core doctrines of the Bible, he ought to be rebuked and corrected in the same manner he presented them… publicly, because those he mislead and confused with his flawed theology are watching, learning and passing along to others what they’ve been taught. And, if they’ve been taught lies, and the backroom boys and PR team never get around to correcting them for the edification and benefit of all, then those lies live on, the truth remains hidden and repentance never comes.
“Open rebuke is better than secret love.” – Proverbs 27:5