Thursday, 18 December 2008

Playing the man and not the ball

Just to be clear, let me say that I think Brian Houston, Rowan Williams, NT Wright and Karl Barth are false teachers.

I'm angry at people who treat their teaching seriously, in the same way that a few years ago, there was a sense of outrage that racist politician Pauline Hanson got any thoughtful attention at all from political leaders.

So I wrote this post on the Sola Panel.

25 comments:

Mark said...

Is it a Christianised political correctness that stops people from identifying and speaking against false teachers?

Mark said...

I should probably read the full Sola Panel post, right?

Gordon Cheng said...

Could be, Mark.

Imagine medical doctors waxing lyrical over the latest cancerous mutations and how wonderfully effective they are, and you get some idea.

Anyway I'm just in the office next door today, drop in and we can have a chat about it!

Gordon Cheng said...

Could be, Mark.

Imagine medical doctors waxing lyrical over the latest cancerous mutations and how wonderfully effective they are, and you get some idea.

Anyway I'm just in the office next door today, drop in and we can have a chat about it!

geoffc said...

Define treat their teaching seriously

Why is NT Wright a false teacher?

Gordon Cheng said...

Geoff, NT Wright is a false teacher because he has a view of justification that includes our good works as a necessary part of the basis of God's final verdict on our righteousness.

'Treating their teaching seriously'—well, it means thinking that false teachers have something useful to offer.

Nathan said...

As I wrote in my comment over at the solapanel - I wonder if "wrong teaching" is the same as "false teaching" - it seems to me that motives play a part in the definition. How then do we decide who is teacher seeking truth but making mistakes - and who is wrong.

Paul's model of correcting "wrong teaching" - eg Apollos (Acts 18) and Peter (Galatians 2) - seems to avoid name calling.

I guess if you're going to run around calling people false teachers I think at some point you need to define the nature of that judgment. Are they heretics? Apostate?

Also - what's the difference between us pointing the finger at these three for their interpretation of the bible in a graceless fashion, and others (say that blog that doesn't like the Sydney Anglican Diocese) doing the same to us?

Finally, I think if we limit the ability of theologians (and I exclude Houston from this category on the basis of prejudice) to think and explore the breadth of God through generating new ideas, and considering and positing new ideas then we risk boring conformity, or worse, being wrong. The reformers were all considered heretics or false teachers by the establishment.

I think being a "false teacher" in the biblical sense (one in wolf's clothing), and teaching something wrong are two different things.

geoffc said...

Well certainly they have something useful to offer. Arius had something useful to offer. If it were not for him, the early church may not have gotten together to formulate a doctrine of Father and Son.

But I'm sure you agree with that, and it is not what you meant. But I'm reading another book by NT Wright which has nothing to do with justification, but I'm still finding quite insightful and, dare I say it, useful. And not 'Arius useful', but 'useful for my faith' useful, even if I don't agree with all of it.

What's wrong with that?

The hard thing I find when I read NT Wright on justification is that he is orthodox and evangelical in method. He seems as though he just wants to work out what the bible is actually saying.

John Smuts said...

Gordon - quit beating about the bush and say what you mean. I thought you Aussies knew how to be direct?

Nathan & Geoff - isn't the problem that we don't call it false teaching enough? All the problems you raise are precisely because the stakes are so high, because it happens so rarely.

And because it happens so rarely it appears heavy-handed when it does occur.

If we did it regularly then, ironically, it wouldn't be such a big deal ... if you see what I mean. Then we'd have to get our Bibles out, talk it over and either one of us or both of us would have to repent.

Where as today Gordon looks like he's wearing camel hair and theologians shrug off such comments as beneath them.

Nathan said...

Agreed John, I think we should call out false teaching more often - but I think that's a case of playing the ball.

I don't think Gordon's post makes a distinction between wilful false teaching and false teaching with intentions to be biblical.

I think the underlying premise of playing the man is false. Does that make Gordon a false teacher? No, it just means I disagree with him on this particular point. I'm not going to stop listening to everything he has to say because I disagree on this point.

There's a difference - and more than a cosmetic difference between a Spong and a Wright, and even a Westboro Baptists and a Hillsong.

Mark said...

Does that mean you consider they are not Christians?

What if some of their teaching is true and Biblical, but in some particular area/s, they are false? Does that mean that they are all bad?

Is any one right on all things?

Matthew Moffitt said...

"NT Wright is a false teacher because he has a view of justification that includes our good works as a necessary part of the basis of God's final verdict on our righteousness."

Really? According to Tom Wright:

"The basis of this verdict is the representative death and resurrection of Jesus himself. In view of universal sin, God can only be in covenant with human beings if that sin is dealt with, and this has been achieved by God himself in the death of his Son (Rom. 3:24-26; 5:8-9). Jesus takes on himself the curse which would have prevented God’s promised blessing finding fulfilment (Gal. 3:10-14). The resurrection is God’s declaration that Jesus, and hence his people, are in the right before God (Rom. 4:24-25)."

Gordon Cheng said...

Matthew M it's a good quote from NT Wright that neatly avoids the issue at hand.

Tom obscures his position well, but the quotes within this CHN post from a couple of years back give one indication of where the problem lies.

Matthew Moffitt said...

Thanks Gordo. I can sympathise with Tony - synergism is something to watch out for. However, I'm not sure if that is where Wrigth is at - his arguement about good works being used as evidence on the 'last day' is not saying that they contribute to a person's salvation. They don't show how good the person is, rather, they give evidence of the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer - evidence of person having been justified by Christ and united to him by faith.

One another issue, at uni we were told that there is a difference between false teachers and heretics. What do you think?

Gordon Cheng said...

Matthew and y'all who are making a similar point, I accept there is a difference between someone being a false teacher and someone who is making a mistake, which is all of us.

But these things need to be looked at theologically rather than psychoanalytically ("he seems to be sincere, therefore...").

If we were thinking in biblical terms, and just off the top of my head, I would say that the difference has to do with repentance under correction from Scripture.

So for example, I was mistaken about women's ministry and now I'm not. ;-) In the process there was examination of Scripture, rebuke from friends, and repentance from error.

Paul doesn't appear to have the same expectation that the false teachers he speaks of will turn away from their false doctrine. If he did, I imagine he would treat them differently, eg. 2 Tim 2:24-25.

Matthew Moffitt said...

I don't think that we get to say someone is facing eternal condemnation when like Wright or Barth, they have a genuine Christian faith, love of Jesus, and a desire to submit every aspect of their life under the Lordship of Christ.

geoffc said...

If we were thinking in biblical terms, and just off the top of my head, I would say that the difference has to do with repentance under correction from Scripture.

So for example, I was mistaken about women's ministry and now I'm not. ;-) In the process there was examination of Scripture, rebuke from friends, and repentance from error.


This doesn't seem like sound logic. Under this understanding anyone who therefore maintains your previous view of women's ministry yet doesn't 'repent' of it is a false teacher. This comes close to making views on womens ministry a salvation issue yeh?

Concerning waht I've read on Wright on justification, and those I know who study at Moore with me who are sympathetic to his views, it doesn't come across that they are advocating a salvation that is earned by works. Nevertheless, I could just not get it...

Gordon Cheng said...

Hey Geoff,

I use the women's ministry question as an example of changing your mind under the teaching of scripture. It may or may not be a salvation issue. So if someone were to say 'You have fundamentally misunderstood the very heart of the gospel unless you allow women to preach', then it is a salvation issue.

But leaving that to one side (because it's only an example), we are not talking about secondary questions when we are talking about the nature of justification. NT Wright has this wrong, therefore we got problems. But I don't blame you for being confused, he is a confusing man who pours forth scholarly writings like a squid pours forth ink.

If you believe him, however, you are in danger of becoming a false teacher yourself. So I advise you against it in the strongest possible terms!

Gordon Cheng said...

Matthew, I am not sure how you've reached the conclusion that Wright and Barth have a genuine faith in Jesus. Perhaps you know things that I don't.

But I suppose the question then becomes, if someone is teaching lies about God, what is the godly response when those lies are exposed?

I would have said repentance is the way to go, but what happens if they don't?

The Pook said...

Truth will always be true and error will always be false, regardless of the source.

Nathan said...

I think again "teaching lies" is pretty inflammatory terminology to describe what in my opinion is teaching something incorrect. Do you think Wright and Barth are setting out to mislead God's people?

geoffc said...

Hi Gordon. With all due respect I never said I was confused about NT Wright (though, let's be honest, some things are beyond me that he writes). What I find confusing is that when I read Wright and speak to my "new perspective" friends, I don't ever get the impression that they are advocating a salvation earnt from works. Here it is not Wright that I find confusing, but the fact he is being charged with such an accusation.

Matthew Moffitt said...

Hi Gordon. The problem I have with your assertion to your geoffc is that I don't find Wright confusing. I've read most of the scholarly work that he's "poured forth" and the clarity of his writing is to be applauded - both at a big picture level and in his detailed, verse by verse exegesis.

From what I've read from Barth and Wright, and from the time I met Wright, they both seem to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and God raised him from the dead. I think that's a pretty good basis to assume that are beloved children of the Most High God who cleansed them through the death of his only Son.

Nathan said...

On a tangential note - if a theologian is thinking through an issue and publishes a paper on that issue is that the same as someone preaching from a pulpit?

It strikes me that the implications of the New Perspective are sermons that preach exhorting the flock to Godly, righteous living. Perhaps the preacher's understanding of the imperative will be different - but the message will be the same.

I think theologians should be afforded extra space to think through issues from different perspectives - in order that the rest of the body of Christ may benefit from their thinking. Even when they're wrong - you get a little bit of the "impossible application" of God's character through understanding what he's not. I'm much more comfortable calling Houston a false teacher than calling Wright or Barth false teachers. Williams is a different kettle of fish - I think he's a theologian trapped in a preacher's position at the moment.

I don't know if this creates a false dichotomy of preacher/ theologian because I understand there should always be overlaps between the two.

Leah said...

While I largely agree with Gordon, one thing he said strikes me as very wrong.

If you believe him, however, you are in danger of becoming a false teacher yourself.

I thought the difference between being a false teacher and simply teaching false things is repentance? And surely you have to realise what you're teaching is false to be repentant? If somebody believed NT Wright and taught what he had taught them, you can't label them a false teacher because they honestly believe what they're teaching is true. This does not fit the mold of the false teacher that Paul gave us.