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How – and How Not – to Deal with a Heretic. - Comments (3)

Printer Friendly Category: Articles,Doctrine,GES: Hodges, Wilkin, et.al.
Author: John Malone
Date: 20th August, 2007 @ 05:14:35 PM

I’m a bit surprised at how poorly my brothers understand about how to deal with a heretic. It could be there is too little shepherding to go along with their teaching, and the lack of “laboratory” experience is paralyzing – even crippling – them.

I am up against being sorely misunderstood – not that I will allow that to deter me – in the matter of the Hodges-Wilkin-Bryant-Niemela (HWBN) heresy, which is sometimes known as the “Crossless Gospel,” as dubbed by Tom Stegall (a brother of like mind and like background with me – we were each formerly in the Roman Catholic Organization (RCO)), a pastor in the Milwaukee area.

HERETIC:Titus Chapter 3
9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject

11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

The topic here is a heretic, a person. Therefore the issue is not first and foremost doctrine. Doctrine is not the primary issue: it is an instrument used by the heretic. It becomes prominent because the heretic is found to be advancing error in order to create the schism he does, and to demonstrate the heretic that he is.

According to the passage under consideration here in Titus 3, we come across the heretic in the course of discovering, among other things, contentions in the assembly. This is the tip of the iceberg that is the heretic: his foolish questions, or genealogies, or contentions, or fights. The heretic himself is the main body of the berg.

The direction the apostle gives is not what we are inclined to do. Firstly, he says, avoid the heretic’s material. Secondly, after two (and only two) admonitions, avoid the heretic himself.

Heretics are “turned out,” willful in their opinion (the word “heretic” is based on the Greek word “to choose”), and self-condemned. This is something “to see” with our eyes, and “to know” with the eyes of our understanding.

Problems arise when wrong principles are applied. Let’s take the cases of Hodges. Wilken, et. al. We find solid dispensational Bible guys trying to apply the principle articulated in Matthew 18:15-17 to deal with these fellows, instead of taking into account the whole of revealed truth, including three especially relevant passages found in Galatians, 1st Timothy, and, as above, Titus.

This is a misapplication, to be sure. The principle of Matthew 18 has to do with personal offense, not public behavior in the church. In fact, in this Scripture, where the word “church” is first used in the New Testament, the church does not find out about the behavior until the process of jurisprudence has concluded in failure.

In the traveling show that is Bob Wilkin and the ever-shrinking GES company, they have a couple of side shows to complement the main course, now going by the title of the “crossless gospel.” One such “side show” was conducted in Omaha, and was labeled, “Dealing graciously with an erring brother.” The thrust of that “workshop” was that Paul’s example in Galatia with Peter is not one to be followed. In its place, Matthew 18 is called for.

Therefore, I would like to clarify why it is that Hodges, Wilkins, Bob Bryant, and John Niemela, and anyone else who regularly assumes a platform in churches or other gatherings for public teaching (including me, by the way) are not afforded the privacy protections of Matt 18 when it comes to being suspected of misleading others.

While Matthew 18 does not apply in the instant case, it does provide the basis from which progresses the doctrinal basis for all “church discipline” issues. We see a progression of doctrine from there through Romans 16:17, on to Galatians example because Galatians establishes practice in light of Romans doctrine, then on to pastoral advice in 1st Timothy and then Titus 3.

As there is with all doctrine in Scripture, this one of church discipline progresses. In fact, the failure of Hodges, Wilkin, et. al. to take into account progress of doctrine in Scripture not only shows faulty thinking, but denies their claims to a dispensational approach to – and thereby a right dividing of – Scripture. But the error in the matter fo publicly dealing with those in error is far to convenient in this case to overlook.

So, dismissing Matthew 18 as applying to heretics, we have three other Scriptures teaching us, and one example.

First, the teaching of Rom 16:17 is helpful.

Romans 16:17
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

It’s easy to see this scripture anticipates Titus 3. It also anticipates Paul’s dealing with Peter in Galatia. Some may say, “According to our best knowledge, the Galatian incident happened before the writing of Romans.” To that argument, I say we have the Scriptures as they are. There are some controversies – albeit marginally small – about how the “New Testament” is ordered, but it is not controversial that Romans precedes Galatians, or that the pastorals follow the “church epistles (1 Corinthians through 2nd Thessalonians). This denominates progress of doctrine in Scripture, and if one beholds it, it is a marvelous fabric indeed!

First, in this Scripture, the apostle urgently summons the brethren in Rome to identify certain ones who are promoting a different basis of teaching or practice (it could be either) that is contrary to that which the Romans had learned. Note well that this “different basis” was scandalous to the believers who held the true basis (understanding). Interestingly, this is EXACTLY what the believers are saying about the HWBN heresy: “These guys are not making a laughing stock of those of us who believe in ‘free grace.'”

Indeed. It’s a scandal. It’s not only contrary to what we have learned, it is contrary to what these same men once taught!

Galatians 2:11-14
11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation
14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

Second, in this Scripture we find an application by Paul of the articulated principle of public admonition. He opposes Peter to his face, in public, because he knew Peter’s public conduct in the assembly was wrong, being inconsistent with the truth, and thereby defeating by example the gospel message being held and taught at Antioch. Those who claim this led to Barnabas’ disqualification to travel with Paul are, in my opinion, spot on.

In fact, it would appear the more influential someone is within an assembly, the more directly and forcefully – and publicly – he should be called out for defeating “the truth.” From experience, I’m pretty sure that, when the event occurred in Antioch, there were plenty there who criticized Paul for his forceful and direct approach, albeit not publicly, lest Paul put them to shame also. In any case, the point was made, and, presumably, the Antioch church was spared what ultimately befell the church at Jerusalem.

1st Timothy 5:19-21
19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
20 Them that sin rebuke
before all, that others also may fear.
21 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another. , doing nothing by partiality

Third, we find the two-fold proposition for the elder. On the one hand, he is afforded the special protection of requiring two witnesses. On the other, he is subject to public prosecution in the assembly. This is the true privilege and price of leadership. Therefore, when we see people shutting down this process, teaching against it, or other such clamor, we should beware. It takes courage to be faithful, and it’s costly to be faithful. It’s also not easy to publicly confront church elders when they err.

Now, it could readily be said in the case of Hodges-Wilkin, et. al. that that are NOT elders. In the case of Hodges and wilkin, they are not qualified; in the former case, he is unmarried, and in the latter, he has no children. so each one is untested. And yet, they presume places of leadership in the churches that welcome them, and so, one may readily claim they presume to themselves the stature of an elder, albeit not the responsibilities.

It’s my view they should be publicly confronted for their errors (sins).

Comment by Mark Mancuso » 21st August, 2007 @ 01:51:52 PM

John,

This is a helpful article. “The spiritual man judges all things,” except in the USA. Our lack of proper judgment of these matters reminds me of what is said of the saints in Corinth that wouldn’t judge the man who had his father’s wife. The Word of God calls them “arrogant.” Today, the man who judges is called “arrogant,” and the permissive man is called “loving.” “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (Isa. 55:8)

Scripture warns us that we might sit for the preaching of a different Jesus and a different gospel: (2Corinthians 11:3-4)

3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

“Holding fast the Word of Truth” requires that we obey Matt 18, 1 Corinthians 5-6, Galatians 6, Romans 16, 2 Thessalonians 3, and Titus 3. We in the “Laodicean” generation think it rude and unloving to judge a brother who sins against us, or who is a notorious sinner, or is caught in a sin, or is divisive, or is unruly, or is a heretic.

To permit these brothers to operate in our midst unjudged proves the point that we have become (and don’t know our condition) wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

Comment by zebulun king » 11th August, 2013 @ 09:22:35 AM

Hello brothers,

I would like to know your opinion on a current situation I am in within the church I fellowship.

Seven weeks ago a letter was written to the pasture of our church, and in this letter I was portrayed as a heretic. When the letter was given I was brought before the pastor and a third party and questioned for 3-plus hours about my faith.

This I believe was not a fair trial or attempt to have a discussion. It was more like iron to a grinding wheel. By the end of the conversation the third party stated this man needs to be silenced and not allowed to attend the church or commune in fellowship until he accepts our beliefs.

I have found out that the church leans very heavily on Calvanistic theology which, when I became a member of the church, I didn’t even know who Calvin or Armenian theologies were.

Well, to keep this short I was told in a nut shell, “If you don’t believe once saved, always saved” then you are a heretic. I never said I don’t believe that. All I ever wanted was to have a study on this topic because I had questions.

Well, since this meeting I have willingly submitted to my pastor’s request to stay away while this is cleared up. This is going on 7 weeks and I haven’t had one inquiry about what is happening. Come to find out the 2 elders have left the church, and along with them also my accuser???

I have been silent. I am told this has spoken volumes toward my case. So this has left my wife and children wondering what decision I am going to make. Do we continue to just wait while my accuser spews forth fallacy to the congregation which has caused about 25% of the congregation to leave or be drawn away by these lies?

Or do I tell them I am leaving the church and will attend another, which i don’t want to do?

I want the truth to be told before the congregation, and if i am a heretic then so be it. Rebuke me publicly not in secret where rumors and lies begin and have spread like a wild fire.

Sorry for all the misspelled words. i don’t seem to have spell check on this posting. Thank you for all your insight above. it was very informative.

Peace and grace be to you.

Comment by Chris Jones » 10th December, 2016 @ 11:09:40 AM

Dec 2016.

A question for all.

I am going tru a similar thing to Zebulun King. Over the past 8 or so year our HQ has been stripping away many of our past beliefs, while our particular grouping (branch) are total unaware of this. When I confronted our local pastor, he was totally unaware at first, but later admitted that the head pastor knew. Up to now neither would admit before the congregation that there is tremendous change in doctrine, so remain silent. In act the first pastor told me as long as He is teaching the Gospel “it is ok”. Is this position correct? Doesn’t he have a responsibility to check to see whether his leadership at HQ is teaching the truth of God, or if it is ok to teach truth in one place and error in another? And what is my responsibility as a lay member if one pastor doesn’t seem to care and the other keeps everything under the covers. And what should an ordinary lay member do when he/sees massive error???

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