As a preacher much of my life centers around studying the Bible and teaching others about what it says. As you can imagine I have many opportunities for theological discussions with folks. I usually enjoy this sort of interaction.
Sometimes I will surprise a person by saying something like, “Who taught you that?”
They may have just been sharing something that they believe to be a biblical doctrine. They may come back to me with something like, “What do you mean? Why do you think I got this from somebody else and not my own personal study of the Bible?”
My response sometimes unsettles them: “Because neither the Bible nor the Holy Spirit teaches that doctrine. That’s a man-made belief. It has to be passed around from person to person. The Holy Spirit doesn’t use the Bible to teach that.”
It might make them angry at first. But as I press them to answer me, they usually come out with the name of the book or the name of the preacher they heard it from! I’m not saying that people are unable to come up with false teaching on their own. But most false teaching is not new.
False teaching that is well-developed, sometimes in a fairly complex system, usually gets passed around like the flu bug.
People catch the bug from other people. People learn false doctrines from other people – and not from the Bible initially. Then once the erroneous seed-thought has nested in your brain, it begins to multiply and project itself into all your Bible study. Then you are capable of self-propagating the bug to others.
Once you catch the theological flu, it begins to taint the way you approach the Bible. You start reading the false belief system into every text. You have your mind-set on this new “revelation” and you superimpose that belief on each Scripture text. When you face opposition from other believers you may get angry. You try to find ways to manipulate the “problem” texts (the ones that don’t say what you’re saying) into agreement with your new (false) beliefs.
This is the pathology of false doctrines. If I sound like I’m one of those rare ducks that has been immune to the theological flu, then you have heard me wrong.
The reason I can say these things so confidently is because I have experienced it firsthand on many occasions. In the next post I’ll share several tell-tell signs that you might have the theological flu.
If you do, wouldn’t you want to be diagnosed as soon as possible?