It’s amazing the things you see on social media these days. Lightening-fast news updates, good info on the latest movie, pictures of fuzzy animals doing whatever fuzzy animals do, laugh-out-loud stories of your neighbor’s kid doing whatever your neighbor’s kid does, a few things you wish could un-see, and more than a few articles or videos that soundscriptural, but aren’t.
Sound familiar? You click on a link hoping to find God-breathed wisdom just to find a few scriptures taken out of context and turned into a bunch of man-made foolishness. Yet it actually does have a slight ring of godliness. Well, sure, it certainly sounds like something Jesus would teach if He were here now. Then again, maybe not. Part of you wonders how this ever made it onto a Bible-believing Christian’s Timeline, another part of you wonders how we’re to ever tell the difference between Truth and counterfeit.
Last week, Jamie led us through the first and best way to spot a counterfeit doctrine: Become intimately acquainted with the Truth. The next way to detect counterfeit doctrines is to get to know them. That’s right, study them, get to know how and where and why they differ from the firm foundation of Truth. Why is this important? Because many counterfeit doctrines can, in fact, look pretty darn close to the Truth sometimes.
For example, study the picture below.
Somewhere in this photo, there is one letter that is different from the others…and it’s very difficult to distinguish it from the rest. The difference between a Q and an O (the differing letter in the photo), though small, is one that changes queen to oueen, quack to ouack, and quazi to ouazi. The slight change creates a new word that no longer makes any sense. Even seemingly inconsequential differences between doctrines can lead to big changes in meaning.
One example is the assertion that Muslims and Christians may worship the same God. This idea can cause Christians pause, especially when understanding the similarities in the Islamic views of God. But a detailed investigation into the religion will prove that, though a complex matter, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same triune God of the Bible.
Another vivid example is Penn Jillette’s re-write of the 10 Commandments. The famous comedic magician, author, and atheist chose 10 biblical sounding creeds by which all people should live, including love as one of the highest ideals in life, not putting things or ideas above other human beings, putting aside time to rest, respecting all human life, keeping your promises, not stealing, not lying, and not being envious. Sound familiar? Yet a deeper search reveals that within these slight variations, even by Jillette’s own admission, God’s Truth is removed.
Even closer to home, religious leaders such as Joel Osteen and Rob Bell, among many others, present counterfeit doctrines dressed up in gleaming smiles, promises of riches, and hopes of eternal bliss for the unsaved. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But is it True?
Without thorough training in Truth, and without further delving into the counterfeits to find where they differ from that Truth, we can be deceived into believing an O is really a Q. To be truly prepared to give an answer for the hope within us, and to successfully navigate the often confusing world of counterfeits, we need to understand what other belief systems claim and how those claims differ from Christianity.
Indeed, without truly understanding what others precisely believe, it will be difficult to abide by the principle of presenting our own beliefs and hope with kindness and respect.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” As Jamie wrote last week, immerse yourself in God-breathed Scripture. Get to know the scent and the sound and the feel of God and His Truth. And then examine other beliefs in the light and context of the Real Thing. This is the second step in detecting counterfeit doctrines. “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5).