How To Spot False Teaching

A wolf in sheep's clothingWell, from my point of view, anyway! These are a few pointers that I find to be all too consistent with teaching that doesn’t square up with the totality of what God has revealed in scripture. If they help you identify such things, great. If not, don’t take it personally. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive or inarguable list; just my perception of what to look for when an interpretation doesn’t fire on all cylinders:

  • Scripture is not quoted. The interpretation relies solely on logic.
  • Scripture is quoted out of context. Surrounding or related verses are studiously avoided, because they would invalidate the interpretation.
  • Scripture is quoted and freely interpreted. In other words, at some point in the text of the interpretation, the teacher says something like, “The scripture says (this), which means (that).” The free interpretation may or may not be supported with logic or other scripture. Usually not; you’re just supposed to accept this as the truth and not question it.
  • Scripture is quoted and controverted. The teacher says, “The scripture says (this), but it doesn’t mean (this). This may be accompanied by options like (this … anymore) or (this … to all Christians), etc.
  • Scripture is ignored. When other relevant scriptures might call into question the interpretation, they are simply not dealt with.
  • Sources other than scripture are quoted instead of scripture. And, as above, other sources which might call into question the interpretation are ignored.
  • Logic is torturous. The reasoning by which the interpretation is constructed is difficult/impossible to follow, or can be shown to be flawed. It may feature one or more logical fallacies, which can be challenging to discover.
  • Questions are avoided. If there is an opportunity to respond to the interpretation, the question may be changed or another question answered.
  • Language is strongly slanted. When an interpretation stands on shaky ground, prejudicial language is frequently called into play.
  • Unrelated scripture is quoted which implies that those who disagree are, for instance, “wresting scripture to their own destruction” or “will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” or somesuch. (This is a pre-emptive strike version of the ad hominem attack; among the logical fallacies. It is meant to persuade by intimidation.)
  • There are no crows around. The straw man arguments have scared them all away.

Well, that’s my list for now. I think I’m pretty familiar with them because I have not only encountered them, but have used some of them before. I’m not proud of that, but I am trying to repent and do better. Hold me accountable.

Can you add any more?

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