The New Morality
The "Church" today has a new set of morals that all must follow or face the consequences. The top new rule on that list is to avoid any type of public criticism of a "Christian" leader or "Christian" denomination. It doesn't matter if the leader is spouting things that have been considered heretical since Paul penned Galatians; if you post a critical comment on Facebook, or tweet a warning on Twitter, you will be judged a slanderer of the brethren and deemed to be possessed by a critical spirit.
Criticism is now seen as a hate crime and will no longer be tolerated. "Live and let live!" is the motto of our day. If God wants to stop a false teacher, He has the power to do it without a critic making a bunch of noise and dividing the sheep. And if you really have an issue that you cannot ignore, you should follow the example of Matthew 18:15-17. Go to the person privately and follow the prescribed order laid out by Jesus. To do anything else is sinful, right?
Public Criticism is Biblical
The problem with this new morality, is that it is not the Biblical example set forth by Scripture. Matthew 18 specifically deals with unrepentant sin and not false teaching. Though this passage applies to everyone in the Church, when it comes to Church leadership, there are different standards that Scripture lays out. Also, how would you practice Matthew 18 when a whole denomination has gone apostate?
Heretical and false doctrine have always been dealt with in a public manner, and Jesus sets the example for us in the Gospels. In Matthew 15:1-9, Jesus confronts the Pharisees and Scribes publicly, proving false their manmade traditions. In Matthew 22:22-33, Jesus openly opposes the false belief of the Sadducees that there is no resurrection. Then in Matthew 23, He speaks to the CROWDS, saying that the Pharisees and Scribes are talking the talk, but not walking the walk. He then proceeds to proclaim "woes" upon them. He calls them blind guides, hypocrites and white washed tombs.
You may be thinking to yourself, "Well, that was Jesus, and He is God. He can do that sort of thing, but we Christians should not be so arrogant!" Was the Apostle Paul arrogant when he publicly refuted false teachers and unrepentant sinners? (1 Corinthians 5; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 2 Timothy 4:10-14; Titus 1:10,11) Paul even opposed the Apostle Peter openly when Peter was not acting according to the gospel. (Galatians 2:11-14) Yet Paul is not the only Apostle to name names. John did the same thing to Diotrephes. (3 John 9,10)
There are many instances in the Bible where we see warnings of false teachers coming from within the Church. (Matthew 7:15-23; Acts 20:28-31; 2 Corinthians 11:12-15; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1-6) If we are to stay silent while wolves are among us, then why does Scripture raise the alarm so many times? Should we not follow the advice of the Apostle John?
"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works." (2 John 7-11 - ESV)
John seemed to think that we should not even receive these people. This type of reception would only give credence to their false teaching and could lead others astray. While this may not seem very loving, it is loving to God's sheep. False teachers need to be called out publicly for who they really are. As members of Christ's body, we must warn one another of the wolves among us.
Public Criticism is Necessary
Throughout Church history, we see heretical teachers being publicly named as such: Arius... Pelagius... Socinus... and the list continues. Why have we now decided that publicly criticizing false teachers is not okay? Was Martin Luther sinning when he posted his 95 theses? Or how about Walter Martin, when he wrote his book, The Kingdom of the Cults?
Any Christian who publicly speaks or writes should be open to public critique. This especially applies to pastors. As God's shepherds, they possess a position of high responsibility and they are held to a loftier standard. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) The Church has a right to know if their leaders are qualified to teach. The only way the Church can know, is if open criticism is allowed. Public critique is an indispensable weapon that protects the flock of God.
Please Publicly Criticize Me!
As both a writer and public speaker, I open myself up to this same criticism. Everything I write in this blog that does not fall in line with Scripture needs to be corrected. Every sermon I preach that does not accord with sound doctrine, needs to be refuted. (You can find and download my sermons for your own critique here and here.) If I am never corrected, how will I ever grow in both my life and my doctrine? If I communicate heresy, how will other Christians know to stay away from my teaching unless I am publicly rebuked? So I beg you, if you find my words to be in error, criticize me publicly.
"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:1-5 - ESV)