Lately it seems like I see more and more posts on Facebook complaining about the theology of other Christians. While a little healthy debate is normal, even encouraged, labeling someone a heretic or false prophet shouldn't be done lightly, especially on a public forum like Facebook.
I would love to meet two people who have read the Bible cover-to-cover and interpreted it exactly the same way. Methodist founder John Wesley knew that we wouldn't always agree when it came to theology. That's why Wesley taught that the tenets of our faith should be filtered through four different lenses: Experience, Tradition, Reason, and most importantly Scripture. Each person who reads the Bible does so with their own blend of life experiences, religious traditions, and unique way of thinking. Is it any surprise that we don't always end up with the exact same ideas about theology?
When we meet Jesus, do you think he is going to sit us down and quiz us on our theology?
Will he care whether we were baptized by immersion... or will he ask us how much we loved God?
Will he care about our knowledge on the "End Times"... or will he question how we loved others?
Will he care which particular denomination we belong to... or will he ask us who we say he is?
There are enough people and groups seeking to devalue the Bible and ridicule our faith. Do we really need to add to that by attacking each other? You may not agree with everything someone else believes, but does that negate all of the amazing things they have done in the name of Jesus?
Let me add -- there are absolutely people who do terrible, horrible, and downright heretical things in the name of Jesus (I'm looking at you Westboro). And those organizations should be condemned. But a lot of the hateful things I see on social media are centered around teachers and organizations with highly successful ministries that have helped millions of people get closer to Jesus and dive deeper into their faith. People like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, etc...
Each of them have led countless people to Jesus (including yours truly). Does that mean they have it all figured out? No. Preachers and ministers are human too and therefore subject to error. So if you don't see eye-to-eye with every aspect they preach, is that grounds to label them a false prophet? I don't think so.
Part of maturing as a believer is learning how to figure out what you believe for yourself, and being able to sort through different variations of that. This is why there are over 400,000 Christian denominations and organizations worldwide.
And here's the most important thing to realize: There are so many people in this world who need to hear the wonderful news of Jesus! Until every person knows the Truth of the Gospel, do we really need to waste energy publicly ridiculing and spewing hateful messages toward preachers and ministries we don't agree with? Just think for a second about how damaging seeing something like that could be to a person who doesn't know Jesus...
It's okay (Biblical even) to test a particular message or doctrine against Scripture. I think that's what God wants us to do to solidify what we believe about our faith. But we have to stop bad mouthing other believers on social media, especially when it comes to petty differences and nuances in theology. Our God is the creator of the UNIVERSE! There's no way we are capable of understanding Him in His entirety here on Earth.
Now, let me reiterate that there is a time and place to call out Christians for their beliefs and actions in the name of Jesus. There is no excuse for any faith that is physically, emotionally, or spiritually abusive. Preachers who spew hate or use doctrine to enslave or gain complete control of their followers must be stopped.
So how do you tell the difference? The Bible says you will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16-20).
God gave each of us a unique mind and a spirit of discernment. We have the ability to look at a particular ministry or pastor and test their message against Scripture. We may not always agree with them, but that doesn't mean they are a false prophet.
It's good and right to debate and chew over theology. It's good to question what you believe and why you believe it. It's not okay to publicly ridicule other Christians for theirs (especially when you're not giving them a chance to defend themselves first).
We are all vines of the same tree. We all belong to the Body of Christ. Each branch may look a little different from the others, but we all have our own unique part to play. In other words, we're all on the same team.
Our job isn't to be theology wizards. Our job is to love God, love others, and teach them to do the same.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:16-20
I would love to hear your thoughts! What do you think are the "non-negotiables" when it comes to the Bible? Where do you draw the line when it comes to calling out believers and what do you feel is the best method to do so?