What happens when we narrow our focus, as Christians, down to the errors of other professing Christians?
I suppose I should start this off by stating, unequivocally, that discernment of heretical teachings within Christianity is vital. We are told throughout scripture to examine everything carefully, (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, 1 John 4:1) therefore, this falls as a responsibility to every Christian. We should always be alert to what the bible teaches and where other believers deviate from those truths. We need to be able to identify the wolves, point them out, and call them to repentance. This edifies the Body and helps us in our spiritual growth.
That being said, what happens when this is our only focus?
I have grown up playing golf. My father would take me as an adolescent, and I continued playing into my adult life. When I began to play the game I had a favorite club (the 7 iron) which I would pull out to use in situations that didn’t necessarily call for it. I couldn’t help myself, I felt the most comfortable using that particular club. As I began studying the game, growing in my knowledge of the various strategies, and learning how, and when, the other clubs should be used, I inevitably got better. If my focus never oscillated to the other, and very important, aspects of the game, then I would of never learned how to improve. This is not to say that once I learned how to utilize the other clubs in my bag I neglected the 7 iron, quite the contrary, my knowledge of the other clubs complimented the use of my 7 iron. There should be a natural tendency to grow in all areas of the game, the same can be said of our spiritual lives.
As Christians we are told to be students of the bible, and our natural tendency should be to consume as much theology and doctrine as we can. We run a huge risk when our focus is on the latest false teachings of Pastor McHeretic, instead of growing in our knowledge of the precious, and abundant, teachings of our faith. Once we whittle our attention down to a single aspect of Christianity in order to claim expertise, we fail in that pursuit. After all, the various doctrines in the bible explain, and compliment, one another.
We all have favorite Pastors, bloggers and radio programs, but we can get so focused on the latest topic that we neglect growing in the unpopular doctrines of our day. That is why I enjoy Systematic Theology so much. It covers the wide variety of Christian doctrine comprehensively. Furthermore, having a good foundation of all things biblical makes for a sharper, and more discerning, mind. We can not simply follow the trends within our circles, while leaving other aspects of our faith unattended, we are responsible for our growth. We cannot simply say that the Roman Catholic church is heretical because I heard whats-his-face say it. We need to dig into the doctrine of justification to spot the error and prove it wrong using scripture. It’s easy to get caught up into adopting someone else’s stance on a particular teaching without putting in the leg work to understand where, why, and how they came to their position. Christians need to be able to explain why they’re using a different club, instead of using it because the golf pro is using it. There is nothing wrong with becoming an expert on the Word of Faith heresy, but we need to be educated on how the other doctrines within our bibles compliment that view. If one feels they are being called into a discernment focused ministry, it would behoove them to understand more about the bible than what it says regarding false teachers.
We should all be in constant prayer as to what the Lord is teaching us in the various seasons of our life. After learning what our 7 iron does it’s important to constantly improve on how we use it, and that comes with the knowledge about the other clubs in our bag. Learning theology is a lifetime’s worth of study, and to dismiss certain teachings the bible has to offer, due to a narrow focus, is a great disservice to the Holy Spirit’s work. Don’t take a stance on certain heretical teachings unless you have done the research and validated it, biblically, first. This is an unsettling trend within evangelical Christianity today and I would hate for my brothers and sisters to be stuck on the 1st hole of the game with only their trusty 7 iron.