How far is too far (and what to do about it)?

Verses from 2 John 1 v 8-9 have been discussed a bit recently and they jumped out at me again today … and sharing is good for the soul 🙂

8Look to yourselves (take care) that you may not lose (throw away or destroy) all that we and you have labored for, but that you may [persevere until you] win and receive back a perfect reward [in full].

9Anyone who runs on ahead [of God] and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ [who is not content with what He taught] does not have God; but he who continues to live in the doctrine (teaching) of Christ [does have God], he has both the Father and the Son. – Amplified version

Clearly if your belief system is “ahead” you may lose “all” and someone in this situation “does not have God” (whatever “have” means in this case).

Some sets of doctrines are clearly in the “ahead” category (from where I sit anyway).  These are doctrines pushed by this or that movement by one means or another that add to, or directly contradict the scriptures, or need Jai Taurima-like leaps of logic.  Obvious ones are prosperity doctrine, coverings, miracle offerings.  Snake handling (see Wazza’s post “Well, at least these Pentes …”) is an extreme example.

But how wrong do you have to before you don’t have God anymore?

What is this verse saying about losing Father?  After all, we are all wrong.  Wrong about something.  None of us understands and does Father’s teachings fully. And then again no one is completely wrong all the time, as RavingPente pointed out recently even on Phil P’s block he does say good things mixed in with the prosperity doctrine etc.  How wrong is too wrong?

On reflection I don’t think it is so much about how far wrong you are as it is about motivation and what master you are serving. I can abide in Jesus even if I don’t clearly understand the trinity, or how many heavens there are.  But if I concoct a doctrine for my own purposes that is a different beast.

If I need to construct a doctrine it is because I am not “content”, as the Amplified puts it, with what Father has already provided.  It means there is an aspect of the world that would be better for me if this new doctrine were true. It might be that I will feel more secure with a doctrine that says by doing XYZ Father is more pleased with me.  I can then do XYZ on a regular basis and feel better.  If I choose to put my faith in this doctrine I have put my feeling of security ahead of Father.  In a way I have made an idol of my security and put it before Father.

People pushing these doctrines seem to do it for the benefit of their organisations.  For the money, or maybe the prestige or something else.  These organisations have needs and people modify the scripture or use other people’s modification to fulfill these needs.  Miracle offerings, coverings, hierarchical command and control, etc are all convenient doctrines that help an organisation’s  bottom line.  The organisations believe, I suspect, that the ministry is from God so to put it first is OK.  I don’t think this is a correct approach, the end does not justify the dodgy means.

And what do we do about it?

I spent the morning with some great friends in Jesus (an ex-CCC family and an ex-Hillsong family) and individual responses to the issue of dodgy doctrines were quite different.  One person was frustrated about the wrongness of what they had been taught and the damages such teachings cause.  Another was indicating how the different churches have different views but there is no point confronting them about it and trying to change them, all you can do is say what seems right to you and live side by side.

Both these points of view make sense to me.  And correcting my brother’s doctrine does not seem to be very high up Jesus scale of things for me to do (cf the mote in my brother’s eye).  Also, as discussed on another thread, it is the Spirit’s role to convict rather than mine.

So are we to rail at the perpetrators of these doctrinal crimes?  Well yeah, I reckon so.

Not so much to the pastors et al who come up with the weird doctrines because they won’t listen – they have, in my experience, constructed doctrines that prove (1) they are better than you (2) they are more anointed than you (3) they are righter than you (4) if you speak against them you speak from the devil (5) they must ignore all negative speech, etc.  And not so much for the people fooled by the weird doctrines because really they are into it and it is the Spirit’s job to convict of sin.  An not so much “rail” because that is kind of pointless, no one listens to frothing at the mouth.

I think we do need to speak out so that people who are already questioning can see another point of view.  The point of view that the dodgy don’t even want heard (you have probably heard that some churches are saying that such blogging is immoral – you must not speak your mind out loud).

But in the end the most important action to take is the one in verse 8 “look to yourselves”.  It is the easiest thing in the world to make an idol for one’s self and read the scriptures through it – I expect we have all done it.   I pray we can all trust Father to prise those idols from our hands and that we can rely on those constructed half-truths just a bit less doggedly tomorrow than today.

Gods  blessing,


6 thoughts on “How far is too far (and what to do about it)?

  1. I think these issues are dealt with differently by different people and so there is not necessarily a right or wrong way. Speaking for myself, I am a reserved person with a short attention span, so I keep things as simple as possible.

    I find that people are generally repelled by negativity but attracted to positivity. This is something that the pentecostal church in particular continues to use very well.

    So I try to live a life that is positive, speak positive and express my understanding of a more relational based church in a positive way. That way I can talk easily with people from where I am happily at, as opposed to getting involved in debates that I’m not clever enough for.

    Jesus was a lot more forthright with religious leaders. I am being conformed into His image, but obviously have a long way to go! Maybe together we can represent Jesus and you can portray the unpopular side of Him that tells it as it is??!!

  2. Yes, I guess there would not be a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way that you could list as a “how to”.

    I imagine that the more tuned in we are to God on a daily basis, the better we will handle these things on a daily basis.

    Also, our lives are to reflect truth, and we are to lovingly speak truth, but you don’t really find truth separated from love in the NT. Sometimes it may be more loving to hold our peace than be very forthright. Other times forthrightness may be needed (in love – otherwise things may be better off left alone).

    I think sometimes people use the idea of ‘speaking truth in love’ as an excuse for saying what they want to say in judgement, rather than with the interest of the other person really at heart. Then people who don’t respond may be blamed further in some way for their ‘rebellious’ behaviour as they are not seen as ‘humble’ enough to listen to correction. But maybe the two parties just didn’t have the loving relationship in place within which context we can actually trust one another enough to really listen, seek truth and respond.

    Staying humble seems important – since none of us have a monopoly on truth, and we all will find ourselves corrected over time (hopefully).

    Yes, I do agree about the positive/negative approaches. That’s a pretty intelligent approach to discussing more relationally based church life.

    Railing may not always be helpful as it is negative. However, there is a place for people to say what is bothering them, and it can be difficult not to rail sometimes. There needs to be a safe place for people recovering from abusive doctrines to express this – and then hopefully move positively forward and on.

    Good point that Jesus was not always popular (so unpopular that he was crucified). So there must be a point at which truth leads to a lack of popularity; people don’t want to hear it.

    Jesus didn’t act on His own though. So again, it all needs to be in the context of our own intimate relationshop with God, in humility and love.

    Seeking God on these things is important I think. That might lead to different outcomes in different contexts or in people with different giftings.

    “I think we do need to speak out so that people who are already questioning can see another point of view.” – Heretic

    I think that this blog is a good place to explore these different points of view in an accessible way, without rocking the boat in anybody’s church.

  3. “I think these issues are dealt with differently by different people and so there is not necessarily a right or wrong way.” – POM

    True. I am not seriously attempting to be prescriptive. It really comes down to being always ready to give an account for the hope that is in you.

    “Railing may not always be helpful as it is negative. However, there is a place for people to say what is bothering them, and it can be difficult not to rail sometimes” – RP

    Agreed. Although Frank Viola has written a series of excellent books on the subject which seem like a pretty good example of railing to me :). And they seem to be influential.

    “Transitioning” (as it is sometimes called) from religion to relationship with Father in Jesus is at least about change. In the work-force the change process is described as proceeding through four phases (depending on who you read):
    1. Denial
    2. Anger
    3. Investigation
    4. Acceptance

    The people in phase 2 tend to rail at the people in phase 1 and vice versa. To my mind this is perfectly natural “be angry yet sin not” and I think making space for it is healthy for a time but eventually we need to move on.

    I think there is probably a place for railing at abuses in the context of raising awareness. When addressing an individual railing would often be inappropriate.

    Horses for courses then? I think I agree with POM and RP.

  4. Wow – deep thinkers. I’d better turn the TV off before replying next time!!!!

    Good to hear all the veiws. Despite what I said, debate does help me to clarify what I think. Sometimes I throw something in, to see what comes out.

    This blog is a great idea. It is very encouraging to be able to explore and learn!

  5. Ha! Pom, sometimes I do this instead of TV, if I really want to post something up and I’m not too tired. It can be very distracting.

    For me, joining in the discussion has definitely helped me clarify my thinking. Its been pretty useful.

    You are definitely most welcome to throw something into the mix just to see what comes back. 🙂

    This is a fairly organic place, with themes that change over time, and also ones that get repeated. It constantly moves on when people participate.

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