Always Be Ready...
There was a time when I heard what I would consider a "major heresy" among Church of God people once or twice a year. By "major heresy" Iím not talking a "doctrinal disagreement" about how to apply one of the commandments, or how to calculate a Holy Day. Iím talking about something that strikes at the very core of oneís belief system.
Unfortunately, now that I open the mail for Servants News, I am exposed to a major heresy almost once a weeksometimes more often! If I wanted, I could probably collect all these and open up my own one-stop-shopping store called "Heresies ĎRí Us"!
It seems that our Enemy uses a standard "method of predators" when introducing such heresies. Just as a lion or hyenas will often "target" those on the edges of a herd, or the young, or the feeble, or the injured; so the peddlers of heresy have been finding opportunities as the churches are more and more fragmented. They are currently targeting the disillusioned, the discouraged, the disenfranchised, the spiritually weary, the rejected and the lonely. Those who should have been shepherds among the people of God have all too often simply fleeced the flock, rather than protecting it with the Truth. And those who should have been out searching for the lost, helping the little ones grow up, the injured ones to heal, and the spiritually burned-out to be refreshed, have instead worried about which group they will join, and what salary and benefits will be available.
Unfortunately, most people in the Churches of God have had little time to prepare to deal with heresy. The "theology" of many of the corporate churches has all too often been "theology by booklet." Knowledge of the Truth has been fragmented up into little bite-sized doses of "fact," rather than integrated into a whole. Just as one cannot understand the lessons of history by memorizing dates and names, so one cannot understand the Way of life provided by our Creator through Jesus Christ, Yashua the Messiah, just by memorizing "bits" of the Law or verses in the writings of Paul. In the sterile environment of the institutional churches, most folks didnít need to "fear" getting "contaminated" with heresy coming from "outside"they were effectively isolated by a mind-set which rejected anything not coming from the local pulpit or the central headquarters publishing company.
There was no program or training for the average member to help him or her learn to hear heresy and then use the scriptures to refute it. Ministers, and to a lesser degree deacons and Spokesman'sí Club members, were trained to deal with heresy, but the object was to "protect" the "membership" from all heresy.
Just as a child raised in a bubble will be even more vulnerable if he is ever exposed even to the germs in his own home, so the children of God who were raised in such a bubble are now susceptible to infectious heresy unless they begin to acquire the necessary internal "resistance."
The fallacy of this "protecting" became evident when the source of the heresy began to come from within the institutions. Many have left the false security of the institutional churches once they have realized that heresy can arise anywhere. But it is easy to become lulled into a sense of false security "out here." If anyone is so confident that they are now "mature" and canít be "fooled" again, they do not realize they are still not effectively equipped to deal with heresy.
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! (1Cor 10:11-12, NIV.)
Combating heresy requires more than just citing "booklet sound-bites." It requires the ability to study, use concordances and other Bible references, and to allow the holy spirit to lead you to understanding.
If someone asks you "what you believe," do you find yourself listing facts? "I believe in keeping the Sabbath," "I believe in immersion baptism," "I believe that we are living in the time of the End." While all of those things are true, they should not be the foundation of what you believe.
Even more importantly, if someone asks you "why" you believe what you do, do you find yourself just quoting something you read in a booklet or talking about other "notable people" who also believe it? Do you really know "why" you believe the things you do?
In the past, we dealt mostly with minor heresiesusually a misinterpretation or misapplication of one or more scriptures. They were still based on a fundamental belief in the scriptures of the whole Bible as the source of truth.
But there is a new kind of major heresy abroad among the people of God now. (Itís not really new, of course, but itís new to the vast majority of COG brethren.) Notice this exact quotation from a letter we received at the Servantsí News office a few weeks ago:
"When you became a part of the body of Christ, you left the Eternal and joined his ex-wife Lucifer."
The rest of this letter, and the several articles the author had written and included, declared that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was Satan the Devil in disguise, and that Satan was female and had been created by God as His wife!
This was written by a woman who had been a member of the WCG for 20 years. She left there in 1995, and, after a short stint in the PCG, has been on her own with a tiny home fellowship since then. It doesnít appear she was influenced in "discovering" this "new" doctrine by some false teachershe came up with it on her own by pouring over Strongís Concordance for hours at a time. She is now busily out there attempting to promulgate this "astounding new truth" among the very "body of Christ" she condemns. And she already has a few "believers."
Perhaps her conclusion seems pretty wild-eyed to you, and you feel you could never "buy into" such a piece of nonsense. Having read her "documentation" on this belief, you might be rightI could not make any sense out of it.
But she is not the only one "out there" promulgating similar ideas. There are a number of folks who are "bringing in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought them" (2Pet. 2:1). And not all of them are incoherent. Some are using very persuasive "logic" and "research." And they are seducing long-time Christians into rejecting their Savior, and rejecting the inspiration of the New Testament.
I believe that our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ can be one line of defense against such heresy, if we will actively participate in the process of "iron sharpening iron" to help each of us grow in knowledge of the Truth. The Truth isnít just isolated doctrinal facts. We need to understand the very foundations of our belief system. The following questions are important:
Why do you believe the whole Bible is inspired by God and contains the Truth necessary for salvation?
Why do you believe in Jesus Christ (or Yashuah the Messiah) of Nazareth as your Savior?
Do you know how and when and by whom the books of the Bible were written?
Do you know how the books of the Bible were preserved and transmitted so that we have them for our use today?
Do you know how and when and by whom the English translations we use were made? If you prefer one translation over others, do you know why?
If you find the kinds of questions above somewhat overwhelming, you are certainly not alone! These issues cannot be answered in a dayís study. I would venture to guess that the average COG member would find him/herself fumbling for an answer if "put on the spot" by an unbeliever, false prophet, false teacher or "wolf" who was asking such questions.
But if you are not able to answer such questions, you may be leaving yourself open to deception by such wolves who are already out there prowling and devouring the sheep of God.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1Pet 3:15).
Pam Dewey & Norman Edwards
The above article reflects primarily Pamís experience with some of my observations, admonitions and editing added to it. We hope to include more articles in Servantsí News on these basic subjects in the future. We would be glad to hear from anyone writing such articles. NSE