Our Attitude Toward Error

Robert H. West
Hemet, California

It is axiomatic that all human action originates from specific attitudes. Especially is this true with respect to man's religious involvements. As we view the various religious sects around us and inquire into their origin we always find that they evolved from a specific attitude in the mind of their founders. Also, as we look back upon the many innovations which have found their way into the church we see them preceded by a specific attitude in the mind of their exponents. We conclude, therefore, that having the proper attitude in religious matters is of the utmost importance.

As Christians we are constantly called upon to face both religious and moral error. Being victorious or vanquished in this matter hinges upon whether or not we have the proper attitude toward error. But what should our attitude be? Compromise? Indifference? Animosity? Opinions are irrelevant here. What does the Word tell us?

The basic attitude a Christian should have toward error is that of hate. This statement will undoubtedly shock some folks. But before letting prejudice arise, listen to the inspired oracles: "Through thy precepts I get understanding: Therefore I hate every false way." (Ps. 119:104.) Also, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." (Prov. 8:13.) There are other similar statements in the Bible but these should suffice to show that the above statement, however shocking, is nevertheless true. Do we have understanding through the precepts of God? Then we must hate every false way. Do we fear the Lord? Then we must hate evil.

This hate of error required of us is not by any means to be a latent, stagnant thing. In Ephesians 5:11 Paul states: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. . ." Our attitude of hate toward error leads us to avoid association with every form of error. When we examine a doctrine or practice in the light of God's word and find it to be error, we should immediately sever our attachments to it, if any, and get as far from it as possible. Again Paul's words are here pertinent: "Abstain from all appearance of evil." (I Thess. 5:22.) Few Christians have failed to understand the above principle of abstinence. The problem arises in trying to persuade brethren that this is not all they must do toward error. Read Ephesians 5:11 in its entirety: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them." We cannot obey a part of this command and blindly ignore the rest. If we do not have fellowship with error then we have but one alternative - Reprove it, that is, show that it is wrong; expose it.

There is a growing element within the church, including some preaching brethren, who cannot distinguish between hating error and hating the ones in error. It is these brethren who are avidly opposing public exposure of error and barring the pulpits from gospel preachers who, in accordance with inspired command, openly expose error in every form. Of course we should not hate the people in error but rather love them, endeavor to make them realize they are wrong and teach them the truth. Why can't brethren see that hating error is not hating the person in error? Doctors are never accused of hating their patients because they hate and oppose disease. Why then should we he accused of hating mankind because we hate and oppose the spiritual disease - sin ?

"Reprove, rebuke, exhort" is the apostolic injunction to gospel proclaimers; not just "exhort" alone. Read Paul's sermon on Mars hill. Did he fail to manifest his hatred toward error when he reproved the Athenians for their superstition and idolatry? Did not Stephen hate the error of the Jews when he administered rebukes to them? Did not Jesus Christ hate the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees when he publicly exposed them by name? Why can't we accept these examples as precedents for us today?

May God help us to leave this watery-eyed, compromising preaching to the denominations and start preaching the gospel with the attitude and in the manner God has commanded.

Truth Magazine III:7, p. 24
April 1959