Sunday, June 26, 2011

The best defense against heresy

A Pilgrim's Progress: The Safeguard of Multiple Voices

Eric Carpenter wrote a great post today. The traditional understanding is that the way you avoid heresy and false teaching is to have one guy appointed as the doctrinal watchdog. As long as he approves of a teaching, it must be OK and conversely if he declares something heretical, it also must be. We have created a de facto Protestant imprimatur. There is a real problem with this idea, an idea sadly demonstrated over and over throughout history: men are prone to wander into false teachings and pastors/elders are not any less likely (and in some ways perhaps more so) to succumb to this. When one guy is the gateway to what is or is not doctrinally sound, that local church is only as sound as the present stance of the pastor. That is why, as Eric wrote, the best safeguard in the church is a church with multiple voices. That is not to discount the value of mature men who help provide a sober, sound voice. As I have discovered there is a place for that sort of maturity in simple churches. It is to say that if the majority of the church is mute and passively observing, they are far less likely to speak up when something questionable is said.

A body of mute Christians taking all of their cues from one man is a body ripe for false teaching.


Eric said...


Thanks for the shout out.

I believe this is a critical issue for the church. There are currently some pastors who are almost beyond questioning. John Piper, for example, could say almost anything these days and get away with it. I certainly don't think Piper would consciously speak heresy, but he might make a mistake here or there. Who would ever speak up to correct him?

Arthur Sido said...


Somewhat. Piper has been publicly flayed because he was courteous when speaking to Rick Warren. On the other hand, for those actually in attendance at Bethlehem could they even meet with him if they questioned something he said on a Sunday? It seems like there is a combination between single voices speaking in the church and hero worship even at the local church pastor level that lead to unhealthy apathy on the part of many.

Anonymous said...

The way people acted after Piper was cordial to Warren was, in my mind, fairly shameful though. It did happen though.

Few people have ever gotten onto Piper for other more serious issues though, like almost identifying the gospel with double imputation. Which, though it is a true and helpful doctrine, is not the same thing as saying, "Jesus is risen, God's kingdom is here, repent and be received into the kingdom."

(Note: Piper is one of my favorite authors and has helped me see many things in scripture I would otherwise have missed if not for him)

Arthur Sido said...


I have to wonder if we wold get into less trouble and raise fewer theological nuances to the level of primary doctrines if we stuck to the simple truths of the Gospel instead of trying to parse everything down to the most extreme level. Of course no one is going to buy a book that says "Love the Lord your God, love one another, preach Christ and Him crucified" and no one is going to a conference full of five minute talks on simple stuff.

Hmmm, that might be a good blog post...

Anonymous said...

It could be. I think the other issue too is that guys like Piper and Warren receive an almost demi-god status in the minds of people.

Similarly to ancient worldviews wherein a collection of deities made decisions that affected the earth. People see Piper and Warren and others, not as helpful guides and fellow pilgrims, but as people whose statuses matter so much.

In a way I feel like Piper needs to be able to be corrected, but at the same time, I wish people saw him as merely a guy. So when he's wrong or even Rob Bell is wrong, the idea would be refuted and the person would fade into the background and Christ would increase.

Oh well.