False Teachers and Brethren in Error

By Connie W. Adams

It is more and more the line of brethren who appear to be somewhat that in reality we are all false teachers on something, if that term simply means those who teach something which is not according to truth. You see we all disagree with some others on various and sundry points. According to the thinking of these brethren, “false teacher” can only be used to describe a teacher of dishonorable character. Some of us have insisted that when we so described a brother, we were referring, not to his character but to the content of his message. But that does not satisfy some of the leading minds.

It reminds me of the turn Carl Ketcherside took some years ago when some brethren referred to premillennial or institutional brethren, or even some who espoused the use of instrumental music in worship as “brethren in error.” He ridiculed the idea by saying, “We are all brethren in error; just on different things.” Would someone tell me the difference in that idea and the one that says, “We are all false teachers; just on different subjects?”

It appears to me that this approach which is tied to the notion of unity in diversity and that growing out of a false (excuse me wrong) concept of Romans 14 and what that includes and does not include have bought into more of the unity movement of yesteryear than many may realize. There were many at the time that battle was raging who elevated themselves above the fray and gave some sympathy to those who were systematically forsaking the faith and criticized those who were trying their best to stand for what was right. Now again there are some who are too good to join in the battle against compromise and who, from their elevated vantage points can criticize those caught in the struggle.

One well respected brother has already said that he does not know of anyone among the brethren these days that he would call a false teacher. Let that soak in! How about Olan Hicks? How about Stanley Paher who has written a book branding many brethren as “sharks” while he defends the rest as “dolphins”? What of those who are teaching people to remain in adulterous marriages?

I have a question which I wish such brethren would ponder. If a man of honest character and pure motives teaches me to remain in a relationship which will cause me to lose my soul eternally, and I accept that teaching and act upon it, won’t I be just as lost and eternally miserable as if I had acted upon the teaching of a man who is a rascal and who teaches with the  basest of motivations? Are not the eternal results the same whether the teacher is sincere or insincere?

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:1-5-16). You may not always be able to tell them by their demeanor. But we sure can look at the fruit that comes from the teaching. Peter warned of “false prophets among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you” (2 Pet. 2:1). Given the views of some prominent men these days, the time of false teachers was in the first century but now it is different. We don’t have to worry about that any more. You see, we are all false teachers on something and so we can stop worrying about it.

If this does not minimize error, pray tell what it would take? And yet, some of these men want to smile at us and say, “You know, there really is not all that much difference between us.” Oh yes there is! If some of you want to lay claim to being a false teacher on the ground that we all are, or being a brother in error because we all are, then you are welcome to it. “I pray thee: have me excused.” If I teach something which you know to be false or hold to an erroneous position, then please tell me what it is so I can correct it.

Let me tell you what these tactics are. They are sin shelters. They are excuses for those who are not teaching the truth on marriage, divorce and remarriage, and for those who are angry because the error of such men has been exposed. They say they do not agree with the error, but they certainly do not like it that some among us have opposed and exposed it. Well, we ought to love each other! Well and good. But we ought to preach the whole counsel of God and we ought not ostracize and castigate those who have had the effrontery to take a stand clearly enough to be understood. Some of those who have sounded the sweetest and lectured the rest on the true meaning and our working of love have led the way in doing exactly that.

Folks, truth can be known. So can error. If that is not so then none of us has any hope of going to Heaven. I am as concerned about cranks and fanatics and the dangers they pose as anyone else but I am not going to discard “the present truth” in the process — truth which can be known, appropriated, and defended. We could not hope to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3) unless we can first identify what it is. Will any of our learned brethren dispute that? Every debate that every gospel preacher ever had with a proponent of error was conducted on the premise that truth and error are not the same and that honest hearts can see the difference.

While those who disagree with what I have said are pondering these words, I leave you with this question: On what basis would any of you, who make this argument about false teachers being limited to ugly characters, ever describe Billy Graham as a false teacher? Or are you ready to join hands with Rubel Shelley in endorsing him?

Box 69, Brooks, Kentucky 40109

Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 8 p3  April 20, 2000