Almost Christian: How to Discern False Teachers in a Spiritual World
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | October 26, 2018
Do you ever feel like there are SO many Christian teachers, you don’t even know where to begin? I feel overwhelmed at times, and I’m in the industry! It’s not just the sheer volume of work (though that’s part of it), but also the overwhelming job it is to discern who is actually biblical and who is simply benefiting from the Christian label.
It can be very hard to tell. False teachers—or even sort-of-true teachers—are everywhere, usually saying things that are a mix of truth and falsehood, or perhaps a mix of gospel and self-help. Our culture has never needed clarity like it does today. I think we all have friends who are “spiritual” but not Christians, or friends who want to believe in Jesus but don’t want the rest of the Christian faith. This is more and more common, partially because of “Christian” teachers who have left the core doctrines of our faith.
We need discernment. We need to be cautious about what we read, comparing it to the Bible and knowing whether something can be trusted or not. Here are four tips for discerning a diluted or completely false “Christian” teaching as you interact with this content in the world.
As you read, be conscious of the worldview you’re reading. You don’t have to be constantly critical (this is not the intent), but simply aware of where the author is coming from and what they teach. You have to be more grounded in the Word than in the book to do this.
Many times “almost Christian” teaching will have a lot of stuff that’s biblical, but it will land in a place other than the gospel. It will provide half-truths that make you nod your head in agreement, but the next moment, it will share something that’s inconsistent with what Scripture says. So read cautiously and slowly, even writing notes or questions down on paper.
Check Against Scripture
Always, always check against the Word. If you read something that sets off an alarm in your head and heart, flag it and see if you can find the concept in the Bible. If it’s a comment about sexuality, look up what the word says on that topic. If it’s a comment about what love is and how it is defined, find how God defined love and how He expects us to do so. Checking what you read against the Word is vital to discernment.
Ask for Wisdom
James 1:5 says that we should ask for wisdom from God, and that He gives it! If you feel like you aren’t sure about a book you’re reading, ask for wisdom. But the Spirit gives wisdom through the Word, so you also have to be in the Bible. He will speak to your heart the truths you learn there, which you can rely on while you read secular books or the books of people who claim to be Christians. Remember: Not everyone who says they are a Christian actually believes core Christian doctrine. They might like to take the title, but perhaps they don’t hold to important doctrinal truths. You need wisdom to discern this.
Just Because Someone Says They’re a Christian Doesn’t Mean They Are
As stated above: Just because someone says they are a Christian doesn’t mean they are. The Christian media audience is enormous. Many people benefit from marketing to this audience even when their message is not consistent with true Christianity. But because so many believers don’t know their Bibles, they aren’t discerning enough to know the difference! Be the one who is. Take time to seek God first and let Him show you what is true and what is just worldly advice.