Sunday, October 01, 2006

What About Chewing Off the Meat?

7For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
8Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.
9Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.
10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;
11for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
(2 John 1:7-11; NASB)

It is a popular excuse given by church leadership concerning their use of materials produced by men who embrace heretical teaching, that they are merely chewing off the meat and discarding the bones. However, this excuse will not reconcile with the teaching of Scripture itself when it comes to those who propagate false teaching.

It is true that we may often find benefit from the teaching of those whom we may disagree with on certain non-essential matters of doctrine, and we can certainly find warrant for utilizing the good points of their teaching. This really does not pose any serious threat to the church. However, when it comes to those who are promoting their heretical views as it pertains to key essential doctrine, particularly concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Bible says something clearly different.

The epistle of 2 John gives us a warning concerning the peril of tolerating and embracing those whose teaching is contrary to Scripture. It emphasizes that true biblical love is rooted in truth. If we truly love one another, we will uphold and teach each other God’s truth, admonishing each other in the teaching of Scripture. To do otherwise is to, in effect deny, that we truly care and love God and one another.

The warning given here is that there are many “deceivers” that have gone out into the world. The word deceivers is derived from the Greek word “planos” and refers to one who is considered a vagabond, an imposter who’s intention is to deceive with corrupt teaching. The term “acknowledge” here obviously means more than giving mental assent to the reality that Jesus actually existed as a mere historical figure, a good teacher. If that is all that it meant, then Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses would be within the realm biblical orthodoxy, and we know that is NOT true.

To acknowledge here means to be in agreement with, in other words to embrace the doctrine that is the embodiment of the person and work of Jesus Christ. This means to accept the teaching of the full humanity and full deity of Jesus Christ and the purpose to which He came into this world to accomplish. It of course would include the fact that He was born of a virgin. That He was fully man and fully God in the flesh, and that He died, was buried and rose again bodily to provide the full payment for the penalty of sin. The doctrines pertaining to the person and work of Jesus Christ are at the very core of the Christian faith. Without them, we really do not have Christianity. No one can deny any one of them and be within the realm of biblical orthodoxy. In fact, that person is described as a “deceiver” and “antichrist”. These deceivers “do not acknowledge” and continually deny the reality of a biblical Christology.

The advice given is to “watch” so as not to “lose” what has been accomplished, and to receive a “full reward”. The term “watch” comes from the Greek “blepo”, and means to discern metaphorically with the mind’s eye, perceive, understand, to examine and weigh carefully. All teaching should be examined under close scrutiny under the microscope of Scripture. False teaching is dangerous and corruptive. It will cause us to “lose” what has been labored so earnestly for. Lose comes form the Greek “apolloomee”, and means to destroy, ruin, to perish, in a metaphorical sense, it means to “give over to eternal misery in hell”. Doctrinal error concerning the person and work of Christ is serious and is not to be tolerated in the church. To deny the truth concerning the person and work of Christ bears eternal consequences.

We need to be careful and keep close watch and to “guard” what has been entrusted to us. (1 Timothy 6:20) Every believer will stand at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 1 Corinthians 3: 10-15) and will receive a reward based on how they lead their life and faithfulness in how they helped build the church through partaking in the ministry. Tolerating false teachers provides a venue for the release of man’s false wisdom to invade and corrupt the church. To allow this to happen actually gives aid to the false teachers, dishonors God and causes us to lose part of our reward in the end.

If someone goes out of bounds of Scripture and “does not abide in the teaching of Christ”, that proves that they were never born again. This means that if someone is a genuine Christian, they will continually embrace these fundamentals of the Christian faith. These truths are not open to debate in order to be changed by the latest popular philosophy.

If anyone comes to us and does not bring this teaching, we are not so much as to give them a greeting. To give a greeting here essentially means to give a greeting with affirmation of that person as a fellow brother, with great joy, wishing them success and advancement in ministry with God’s blessing. To do so creates the impression that we sanction their teaching and actually helps give them credibility. We actually aid the spread of their false teaching and make us participants in their evil deeds.

Yet we see much of this happen quite frequently against the better judgment of many Christian leaders. To give an example, many who would not necessarily espouse some of the teaching of Rob Bell, nonetheless feel compelled to utilize his NOOMA videos. These videos do not necessarily contain the error that he has written in some of his books. They have a tendency to make a strong emotional appeal. Bell is a very clever, creative communicator and his videos have a great deal of impact and leave a strong impression on the viewing audience. Not everything is necessarily bad; in fact much of the content appears (at least on the surface) to be biblically orthodox. However, they appear to be more form than substance. And he does have a habit of very loosely quoting Scripture and without giving the reference.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspects of Bell’s teaching are found in his book “Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith”. Bell makes the claim that doctrine is basically comparable to the springs on a trampoline and is merely a tool to help us, as he puts it, find “our lives in God” (pg. 26). The springs can stretch and change. He treats doctrines such as the trinity and the virgin birth as something that can be questioned. In other words, we can keep on “jumping” with our faith without them. This of course is not true. Bell calls into question the very core doctrines pertaining to the person and work of Jesus Christ. I wrote a post some time ago discussing Bell’s beliefs here.

For some excellent reviews of Rob Bell’s book “Velvet Elvis”, you may want to read these:
Review of Velvet Elvis by Greg Gilbert at 9Marks
(For some reason I am unable to get the link to the above article to work. Just go to and at the bottom of the page, enter "Velvet Elvis" in the "Search for" box. The search will return about 3 hits and Gilbert's review should be the first listed.)

Review by Dale Van Dyke at Reformation21

My concern is that people are taken in by the emotional appeal of his videos and much of what he says and writes resonates well with many people. This is especially true with those who have become disenchanted with the church.

When leaders utilize Bell’s materials, they are in a sense giving somewhat of an endorsement of his beliefs, whether they believe it or not. It makes me cringe when I see his books and materials showing up on the shelves of Christian bookstores. Even more troubling is when churches utilize his books and videos. It seems that no thought is given to what will happen when people, after being captivated by the emotional appeal of his NOOMA videos, go into the bookstore and pick up his book “Velvet Elvis”. You can imagine what goes through people’s heads; “Oh, I remember his video that the church showed. It really gripped my heart. I’ll bet this book is great”.

The problem with Bell and others like him is that much of what they say appears biblically orthodox. It provides a covering for their error, especially in the NOOMA videos, and makes them appear somewhat biblical.

To make matters worse, pastors and church leaders utilize his materials including the NOOMA videos, announcing Bell’s name before the congregation and basically giving endorsement of the man’s books and materials. He is presented with positive enthusiasm. In fact, the positive press gives the impression that Bell’s teaching is sanctioned by these leaders who are looked up to in the Christian community. It gives credibility to the ministry of false teachers. Some may do this in ignorance of Bell’s heretical teaching, but others embrace the philosophy of “chewing off the meat and spitting out the bones”. There are far too many bones in the material. Ever get a piece of fish that is so bone infested that it is not worth the effort to attempt to eat it? In fact, the danger of choking on the bones is too great. It is certainly frustrating when there is not even so much as a disclaimer given to warn people. Of course, even with a disclaimer, I don’t think there is really any biblical warrant for utilizing his material. I certainly hope that at this point you can see where this philosophy is biblically wrong. It makes no sense to me at all to rummage through the garbage cans of heresy in hopes of finding one tiny morsel of meat, when you have the option of sitting before a well stocked buffet of good nourishing meat based on God’s truth.

Bell is making inroads into mainstream evangelicalism, with the increasing use of his materials, especially his ever popular NOOMA videos.

This is a very serious issue these days, especially given the rising rate of biblical illiteracy in evangelicalism. The more this illiteracy escalates, the more inept Christians become at spotting the error, especially when it is cloaked in certain elements of truth.

This situation today mirrors the situation of a hundred years ago. My last post of the excerpt from J.C. Ryle’s “Apostolic Fears” is just as applicable today as when it was written. This is also especially true of Spurgeon’s writing. Read Phil Johnsons's weekly doses of Spurgeon. It is as if it were just written yesterday.

Pastors and Christian leaders had better take heed and obey the biblical command to stand as watchman over God’s flock. The spiritual well being of the church is at stake.

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