Have you caught the theological flu?

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?

2 thoughts on “Have you caught the theological flu?

    • Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for taking time to read the blog. As per common false doctrines,I’d have to say that in American life today it mostly boils down to the errors of “moralistic therapeutic deism.” If you’re not familiar with this term, by all means read the article.

      Another common false belief is the “fatalism” of the masses. It looks like this, “Well, if it was meant to be it will be.” Usually people make such statements to excuse themselves from personal responsibility (and not as a real belief in God’s sovereignty!) In other words, “I get to live any way I want without consequences and any consequences that happen in my life happen by fate.”

      A common error by those who may be devout in their orthodox Christian beliefs, is the substitution of mental assent to biblical teachings for the reality of repentance and faith in a living Person, Jesus Christ. They believe the right things about Christ but never actually receive Him. Jesus said that those who come to Him and drink will have a river that flows from their inner man. Drinking is more than simply “thinking”. Drinking involves surrender and embrace, faith and obedience. Intellectualism does not require this.

      On the charismatic side, there are many errors. And I’m a charismatic by some people’s definitions. Usually this involves a form of deistic triumphalism and over-realized eschatology. Lots of big words, but real meaning involved. Deistic triumphalism is my term, for those who believe that the finished work of Christ means that God has done everything He will ever do for us in Christ…and the entire economy of God is now subject to Christians appropriating by faith and exercising our full dominion in the earth. There is a fair amount of truth involved in this…and plenty of error too. Overrealized eschatology means that many charismatics expect to see fully in this life which is only fully promised in the age to come.

      Anyway, that’s a few of the errors I commonly see.

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