International Perspective on Global Spiritual Contamination
“Update to “The Poison of False Teachings”
A few years ago, I was researching for an article I was writing on the subject of “The Poison of False Teachings.” I found an interesting comment related to the theme posted by a brother on a French site “VoxDei.” The comment might be sufficient to illustrate the main idea of my article since I cannot locate the original French text. See the additional commentary below.
My original article was written in the spring of 2005 when I had just come back from my second trip to Brazil. While shopping in a Christian bookstore, I was surprised and dismayed to see the same books we could find on the racks of most Christian and secular bookstores in the US. They were translated and sold quickly because of their popularity in the US. Needless to say, discernment is absent and sorely lacking from a lot of Central and South American Churches.
Back in the US, I was hit with the news that the conservative church I was attending since 2001 had started a Sunday School study program with Warren´s book “Purpose Driven Church.” I was helping the pastor in the Hispanic mission; and after talking to him about the book, he invited me to teach a class on the New Age Movement and false teachings instead of Rick Warren´s book. Our Hispanic brothers were very receptive, the discussions were lively and interesting, and often expanded on other ramifications of the deceptive nature of other Christian emergent and other “movements” and their misleading doctrines.
I could sense a real hunger and thirst for knowledge and the need to be equipped to expose the lies when they were witnessing to people in the community. I was greatly helped in my research by Warren B. Smith´s first edition of his book “Deceived on Purpose” that can be purchased at “Lighthouse Trail Research.”
While still in the US, I started blogging about the same time as the book “The Shack” by Paul Young was received so openly with great fanfare in the Christian Community – since, after all, it was only fiction and we Christians also need to be entertained by writers who are not teaching doctrine, but simply are using their God-given inspiration in relating true experiences so touching and personal that they resonate with the majority of readers. Hoorah for sanctified imagination!
Well, back to the present with a movie based on “The Shack” and the recent release of another book “Lies We Believe about God” which doesn´t leave a lot of wiggle room as to the intent in writing his first book. Find the excellent review by the “Lighthouse Trail Research” where you can also purchase the new booklet “The Shack and its New Age Leaven” at this link.
The Poison of False Teachings
There is an ever-pressing need for spiritual discernment in today´s church.
The following is an illustration demonstrating the process of contamination (based on my own experiences both physical and spiritual as a flower grower and supervisor on a chrysanthemum flower ranch in S. California).
Setting the stage:
A greenhouse full of flowers and plants.
It´s time to fertilize the plants to help them grow and to become strong and beautiful.
A tank for mixing, water, a pump and a hose with a nozzle to carry the water, and fertilizer mixture under pressure to spray the plants.
Waterproof protective suit, boots, gloves and a protective respirator mask.
Fertilizer: (Percentage not accurate, solely used for the story).
Chemical contents in a paper bag in soluble powder form.
Inert ingredients: 99.5 %
Active ingredients: 0.5 %
Fill the tank, dilute the appropriate dose of fertilizer, and start spraying the plants.
Change of scene
Now let´s imagine a scenario in which, instead of fertilizer somebody inadvertently, without paying attention to the warning on the label or perhaps intentionally, would mix an insecticide or pesticide into the water.
Everything stays the same, the place, the worker, the plants and flowers, the water, the equipment, even the inert ingredients in equal measure; everything, except the 0.5 percent (more or less) of the lethal amount of poison for the plants.
What would be the effect on the plants? At least, they would wilt, become yellow, lose their vigor, their beauty and even die if the insecticide concentration was strong enough.
Now let´s change the scene once again.
Let´s imagine any church building. We see the building, the people, the praise group or choir, the musical instruments, the pulpit and the pastor preaching from the word of God, the Bible.
Or it could be a Sunday school or a home group meeting in which the leader and participants share their testimonies, stories or illustrations aimed at helping the group understand the lesson.
So you see the parallel with the situation in the greenhouse.
Every time someone (the worker spraying the plants) brings the Word of God and explains simply, clearly and faithfully the Scriptures under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the listeners (represented by the plants) grow in wisdom, understanding, love, inner strength, etc., and are consoled, encouraged in all the aspects of Christian living if they practice the lessons of the Scriptures with diligence and obedience to the Lord´s words and his commands.
The stories, illustrations, parables, poems and personal testimonies can be compared to the inert ingredients that help to carry the biblical message to the participants. They are neutral and serve as a framework for the spiritual content. They can be interesting, fascinating, but what provides the growth in the Christian hearer is the powerful and penetrating Word of God that operates a work of conversion in the sinner, purifying the human heart and spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who through the Word illuminates, establishes and edifies by giving him or her light, strength, peace and consolation. The list of blessings and benefits of the Word of God in the life of the believers is inexhaustible.
The Word of God is so filled with life, power, and is so efficacious that just one verse of the Bible is enough to change a hard and impenetrable heart – to open the mind and change the life of a man and to draw him from death to eternal life, from darkness into His marvelous light – by the power of the Holy Spirit who applies the Word of Life in the heart of the sinner and operates His invisible and yet manifest work. Jesus said: “My words, they are life and they are spirit.”
New change of scenario.
Here we have the same situation, the same building, the same congregation, the same praise group, instruments, pulpit, the same pastors, the same Bible; everything is similar.
It could happen that some illustrations, poems or stories accompanying the message or the biblical lesson contain doubtful and imperceptible doctrinal elements and false teaching, read from a book or watched and remembered from a radio or a TV program. Or even worse, a deliberate departure, addition to or subtraction, or distortion from the very meaning of the words, verse or context – an action forbidden by God himself who made this very clear in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
Let´s suppose that the person doing it lacks discernment and speaks with no knowledge of the origin, nature or the impact of what he is relating. It does not matter; the effect can still have devastating consequences in the life of the people who hear, absorb and assimilate the teaching because poison is poison even in small quantities, even coming from a well-intentioned person. Depending on the vulnerability and lack of discernment of the believer, the influence and its effect will be more or less serious.
In the church, our Father God gave us everything we need: the structures, the equipment, the pastors, the teachers, the brothers and sisters participating in the worship. He gave the breath and the voice to praise him, to proclaim his message of love and pardon, our mind and heart to receive, believe and share the good news of the Gospel. This Word, and the practice of good works that the Father entrusts to our responsibility helps us to grow, mature, and to be conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus. His Word is pure and cannot be mixed with anything else that is impure.
A teaching that is contrary to the Word of God is poison to our soul. We must not allow our mouth to transmit what is poisonous (venom coming from the serpent mouth) to others ears.
Pastors and teachers, of course, bear a greater measure of responsibility when it comes down to exercising wisdom and prudence towards preaching and teaching the Word of God. Indeed, every Christian ought to use the Word (written) as a filtration system to judge what is good and true when spiritual teaching is involved. (See Acts 17:11 as Paul talks about the noble Bereans.) The Scriptures along with the help of the Holy Spirit help us to discern and to protect our minds from error; and we must handle them as an offensive weapon to combat the lies and wiles of the adversary.
Antidote, protection, discernment of the Spirit and preserving our freedom in Christ.
The best antidote if we inadvertently or willingly swallowed spiritual poison is the truth of the Word of God that purifies us (Eph. 5:26-27). Interestingly enough, the hope of seeing our Lord and waiting expectantly for his soon return purifies us also (I John 3:3).
Confessing our participating in the process is important to be cleansed according to 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Deception by false teachers involves both false teachers and those with itching ears who prop them on a pedestal that will eventually be exposed and fall. Unfortunately, the followers will suffer great harm and suffering when their eyes are finally opened. Matthew 15:14: “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
The Word of God is compared to bread. Jesus warned us that our bread must be kept from any addition of the yeast of the Pharisees that is hypocrisy when we embrace the position and conduct of those who spread false teachings and add burdens that the Lord himself has not given us. It is interesting to note that the leavening that the baker uses to make the bread rise can only be effective in a lukewarm environment described perfectly in the spiritual condition of the church of Laodicea in the book of Revelation. Yeast cannot survive or thrive in hot or cold temperatures which neutralize its active properties. It is enough to observe the effects to recognize the causes.
Zeal without knowledge is unprofitable (Prov. 19:2; Romans 19:2).
Knowledge without love puffs up like yeast.
“Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God” (I Corinthians 8:1-3).
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty” (Galatians 5:6-10).
“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5).
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:12-16).
In conclusion, here is a strong word of exhortation to love and walk in the Spirit in order to preserve the freedom to which we were called and for which Christ died.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:13-18).
Additional commentary on the effects of the spiritual contamination of false teachings:
Philippe, a French blogger, shared the following in a comment: (Translation by this blogger)
“I found an article on false doctrines with the following passage with a good explanation of the mixture with false teachings.
In the Greek text of 1 Thessalonians, the name for the impurity rising to the top through the infiltration of an erroneous teaching is “Akatharsis.” The opposite term in Greek is Katharsis, from which the English name “Catharsis” is derived. This term does not mean impure in the sense of “our sin not being washed.” (In that case, a very different word “Absolusio” would be used, where we get the term “Absolution” from.)
It does not mean either “separate the evil and hold on to the good.” The Septuagint translates this from the Hebrew text with the meaning of “take the good from the evil,” using again another Greek word “Ekagageis” found in Jeremiah 15:19. The impurity of “Akatharsis” means that there is a mixture that cannot be washed and for which there exists no efficient process of separation. In “Katharsis,” there is a purifying form of some substance. However, in Akatharsis, we find something which is a mixture of pure and impure.
This mixing is not simply something superficial that can be washed away. We are dealing with a homogeneous blend that needs to be discarded and totally replaced.
It seems impossible to me, once the leaven incorporated to the dough has risen, to separate the flour from the leaven.
Therefore, we must leave the churches that spread false doctrines, because it is impossible to change them.
We need to leave them before we become contaminated ourselves.”
For a deeper study of the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, link to:
1Thessalonians 5:22—The Sin Sniffer’s Catch-All Verse