The Causes of Error

Bryan Vinson, Jr.

The enemy of God is Satan. This truth can be expressed in other ways. The enemy of light is darkness; the enemy of truth is error. Error, like all weapons employed by Satan, can be found everywhere. Its forms are numerous; its power tremendous ; and its effects deadly. It is "no respecter of persons," taking its heavy toll of victims wherever the opportunity presents itself.

Christians are God's creation. We have been created in Christ, by God, for good works. Being a Christian means bearing light to stamp out the darkness of sin. Being a Christian means service to the army of Jesus in its battle against error. Being a good soldier involves understanding the foe and his tactics, and being aware of his immediate and ultimate goals. For this reason every student of God's word should strive to equip himself properly by learning as much about error as time and opportunity will allow.

What Is Error?

The only weapon which can be successfully employed against error is truth. A general definition of error could be this: Any doctrine or practice which is in conflict with a true and proper doctrine or practice is erroneous. The Bible concept of error would go a step farther. "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same bath both the Father and the Son" (II John 9). Not only that which is in open conflict with the revealed will of Christ is error, but anything which appears in the realm of his rightful authority without his authority is also error. Additions are errors because the Word of the Lord is perfect, and anything added to that which is perfect will render the same imperfect. We must never forget that change can be brought about by addition as well as by subtraction, and to change that which is perfect is to make it imperfect. Only error can mar the truth and the effectiveness of the same (II Tim. 3:16, 17).


Prerequisite to effective opposition to error is an understanding of what causes error. The sower of the seeds of error is Satan. But more than a sower of seeds is needed to provide the fruits of such sowing. The fruits of error are manifested through men just as the fruits of righteousness are manifested through men. Just as certain "soil-types" of men are needed to receive the seed of the kingdom and enable it to work to the full limit of its ability, so also are certain "soil types" of men needed to give birth to the expression of error.

One of the most fertile fields of error is that of ignorance. All kinds of error, including religious error, flourish where ignorance abounds. Catholicism is a system of error. It is a known fact that it is most widely received in areas where ignorance abounds. Ignorance can be destroyed only by aggressive instruction of truth. Ignorance produces error which holds man in bondage to sin and Satan. Truth can make men free (John 8:32).


The story of Jesus ought to touch and stir the emotions of every man. I cannot conceive of a deeply religious person being void of emotion. But convictions must result from careful study, not from emotional involvements. Emotional expressions should be the result of deep-rooted convictions and not the basis of conviction. It is in this realm of emotionalism that the seeds of error can be firmly planted. How many people do you know who have rejected the essentiality of baptism solely because of their inability to admit that certain of their friends and loved ones are yet in their sins? How many people have you found attempting to justify modern innovations solely on the ground that naked bodies are clothed, empty stomachs are fed, and crooked lives are made straight? That brand of modernism which has taken such a heavy toll in Chicago area was conceived and brought forth in the fertile field of unrestrained emotions. Let us make sure that every doctrine and practice results not from our sense of right and wrong, but from the never-failing standard of God's Word.

The Pride of Life

It is far easier to convince yourself that something is right when that something appeals to you than when it is something you dislike. A shady business deal is not quite so shady when we stand to gain the profit. Unfortunately, the same weakness is evident in the realm of religious conviction. Too many of us have confused conviction with convenience. To make matters more difficult, convenience often works for conviction through the sub-conscious. In this manner we are deceived into thinking that our convictions are the result of honest and careful study. It just isn't convenient for some people to learn the truth. Their position, wealth, and self-pride are at stake. Many preachers would lose their financial security if their convictions led them to stand against popular ideas and practices. I wonder how many preachers in the church today have been greatly influenced by such factors. I wonder how many of them would otherwise stand for the conservatism of New Testament teaching. Loving the praises of men more than those of God is nothing new to our generation. It remains a fertile field for the growth of error.

Dealing With The Source

Our government is engaged in an endless battle against dope peddlers. Its agents probably have no hope of ever destroying this practice entirely, but do hope to bring it under control and by such control greatly reduce the disastrous effects. If they find a field being used to grow the unlawful poppy it is immediately taken over and taken out of cultivation. This is one attempt .to deal with the source.

If we can recognize the sources of error we can in like manner attempt to deal with the sources. If ignorance is a source, then we need to renew and increase our efforts to enlighten minds with truth. If emotionalism is a source, then we need to elevate men to a level where they will respect the word of God as supreme. If "self-interest" is a source, then we need to impress men with the fact that without God we are nothing, and our hope for eternity, the better reward, is dependent upon our relationship to the Christ.

And let us not forget: we can help others best by helping ourselves first.

Truth Magazine, V:8, pp. 2-3
May 1961