The Way Of Balaam
Why do some Christians pray to God as ‘mother’? Why do some Christians use labyrinths and mandalas? Why do some believe that different religions are all part of ‘one truth’? What do actively homosexual bishops have in common with militant feminism, ‘interfaith’ worship, and the watering down of core doctrines of the Faith? Are these trends mere signs of an aberrant but harmless spirituality, or are they sinister and toxic to orthodox Christian faith and practice?
Proponents of these trends present them as enlightened, progressive and cutting edge. But are they really? Or are we drifting into paganism? It has been said that Christian orthodoxy (correct belief and behaviour) is never more than one generation from extinction. In other words, as is emphasised many times in the New Testament, we must be on our guard against false teaching. This is because false teaching is a poison to the Christian Church.
It undermines the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thereby bringing spiritual death to people in need of salvation. It subverts the truth revealed to us, and promotes ‘the lie’ – thereby colluding with the ‘father of lies’ himself.
Not least, false teaching brings the judgement of God upon churches who allow it. I believe that the precipitous decline over the last 40 or 50 years in many of the Protestant denominations of North America and Britain is the direct result of the infiltration of unbiblical, and in some cases outright heretical, teachings. As an example, the Anglican Church of Canada declined 75% in attendance figures from 1961 to 2009; this is a church which embraces the belief that homosexual unions are good and normal, and perform ceremonies blessing them.
But what are these false teachings, and how do we recognise them? The issues are complex, but I believe they can be set out in a way that clarifies them. We need to know how to counter these false doctrines – it is not enough to quote a verse or two of the Bible (correct though it is to base our responses on the Word) , we need to have a thorough and sound doctrinal understanding of what the Bible teaches.
You may ask what Gnostic belief is and what it has to do with Christians today. Well, Gnostic sects were among the first groups to twist the Christian Gospel – they had a huge influence and led many astray into darkness in the times of the early church. They were groups that mixed Christian belief with the pagan religions of the Roman Empire, and eastern philosophies.
Their teachings have reappeared from time to time in the history of the Christian church, but are reasserting their influence in our day and age, especially because of the impact of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism in the West. They are subtle and once again will deceive many – but they can be recognised, and they can be countered.
All denominations are at risk
[These heretical movements and Gnostic beliefs] are occurring in mainline denominations, such as Anglican, Baptist, Reformed and Lutheran churches. However these false teachings are beginning to infiltrate large Free Evangelical and Charismatic/Pentecostal churches through the very influential leaders of the ‘Emergent Church’ movement. Western culture has long abandoned its mooring in Christian thought and belief and the effect of this will be felt not only in North America, Britain and Europe, but throughout the world.
A new world order
Many prominent and respected Christian thinkers are warning us that we face the rise of a new world order that is totally pagan in its foundations and which will threaten the Christian Church in a way that has not been seen since the days of the Roman Empire. Not only is this new world order post-Christian, it is anti-Christian.
Frederick Baue, the Lutheran theologian tells us that what is coming is “a phase of Western or world civilisation that is innately religious but hostile to Christianity....or worse, a dominant but false church that brings all of its forces to bear against the truth of God’s Word”. If we are not prepared, if we do not equip ourselves by seeking a deeper understanding of Christian truth and a deeper knowledge of our faith, we will be swept away by what is coming on the world.
How false teachings infiltrate
There are two main ways that false teaching enters the Church; either by subtraction, where parts of the Gospel are denied, or by addition, where additions to the Faith are made. An example of the former is denial of Jesus’ deity, or of the doctrine of atonement. Examples of the latter are more difficult to discern; but it occurs when the message of the Gospel is supplemented by other teachings that dilute or contradict the Gospel.
Wandering off the path like Balaam
Balaam is mentioned by both the writers of Jude and Peter in their discussions about the dangers that false teachers were posing for the early Christian communities. In Peter’s second letter he warns the church against false teachers who in a manner similar to the false prophets of the Old Testament will introduce heresies.
These people are immoral, seductive and will bring the Christian faith into disrepute. Peter equates them with Balaam the prophet of the Old Testament who forsook the right way. From this we gather that these are people who have known the truth and have taught it at one stage, but have no wandered off like Balaam.
I believe that the Christian Church today as never before needs believers that love the Lord Jesus and are committed to standing for the truth. By equipping ourselves with knowledge, a solid understanding of the Word and through prayer, we can experience renewed passion for the Lord among believers and a clearer understanding of His glorious Gospel.