Why Point Out Attacks on Truth?

Christians sometimes debate the propriety of exposing the public errors of others. After all, love covers a multitude of sin and keeps no record of wrongs. Isn’t it at least, then, unloving to call attention to the theological foibles of others? I do not think so, although I do think it can be a dangerous task.

Scripture has ample instructions and illustrations about the wisdom, value and even necessity of exposing erroneous teaching. Jesus did it. Paul did it. And Paul instructed Timothy and Titus to do it.

Obviously, no one could possibly point out all the error that is being promoted in the name of Christianity today. Nor should anyone–at least, any pastor–try. To make such an attempt would be to relegate your waking hours to nothing more than searching for and exposing error. It would be a never-ending task.

Furthermore, the necessary responsibility to contend for and defend the faith is dangerous. Not because it makes a person unpopular, but because it opens the contender up to many inroads of pride. Spiritual pride always lurks at the door of truth lovers. It is what makes a man feel justified in making jokes about the doctrinal mistakes of others. It breeds a sense of self-importance and doctrinal superiority as the errors of others are addressed. While contending for and defending the Gospel the temptations to indulge spiritual pride are great. Succumbing to them is deadly and must be fought tenaciously. I am so weak and so prone to this that I have asked others to help me guard against at least the manifestation of such pride. Reading Jonathan Edwards on the subject is also very helpful. Be warned, reading Edwards is like taking a spiritual bath in a tub full of razorblades!

So, if it is so dangerous, then why point out error at all? Because truth matters. It matters to God and it matters to us. George Will recently made this astute observation:

A long life in journalism and around Washington, D.C., has taught me not just that ideas have consequences, but that only ideas have large and lasting consequences.

When wrong ideas about the Gospel of Jesus Christ are publicly promoted among those who are in positions of leadership and influence, they ought to be exposed.

By calling attention to the public attacks on the truth which many today hold dear, those who marshal such attacks are at least held accountable to public scrutiny. I do not begrudge a Christian leader to believe whatever he will about controversial subjects. In fact, I genuinely esteem many who disagree with me on matters of eschatology, ecclesiology, pneumatology and even points of soteriology. I appreciate it when such men nail their colors to the mast clearly for all to see. But when someone takes unwarranted, public potshots at the truth that I hold dear, or when he publicly castigates those who disagree with him, or when he violates his own professed theological heritage and declared confessional boundaries, I find that kind of behavior worthy of making public. Exposing such castigations is simply turning on the lights for others to see what otherwise might have gone unnoticed, at least for a while.

In my own denominational context I have lived through an era when theological snipers could assassinate their victims from a distance under the cover of darkness. With the exception of cyber-rags like baptistfire.com, very few engage in those kinds of maneuvers anymore. It is simply too risky for them. Twenty years ago, a speaker could vilify “Founders” or “Calvinism” in a public context and usually get away with it, deceiving unsuspecting people who took the speaker to be trustworthy in his assessments. Today, such vilifications are easily exposed and refuted using the internet. Through the inevitability of public scrutiny, such unjust critics are held accountable. Feelings may suffer in the process. But truth receives the benefits.

That is why I have been willing to point out public attacks on truth.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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