How should we feel about false doctrine? That’s quite an interesting question. Many times, debates get out of hand precisely because we are reactive about our answer to this, instead of proactive. Why would that be a problem? Mainly because then our pride gets in the way. “He didn’t agree with me when I obviously am right—and he even seems to think my view is stupid! I’d better let him know who’s the real stupid one!” And off we go.
Doctrine in Christianity is very important. There’s no doubt about that. But there’s also a difference between disagreeing with someone about the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation and disagreeing with someone about who Jesus is! This is where “theological triage,” made popular by Al Mohler, really comes in handy. But I’m asking a slightly different question: How should we feel about false doctrine?
That naturally leads us to the question of what false doctrine is. Is it just any teaching that we believe is not true? In that case, there seems to be a variety of feelings we could (and probably even should) have. Is it any teaching that, by embracing, one has removed himself outside of Christian orthodoxy? Or is it any teaching that, by embracing, one has removed himself from the Gospel altogether (these are not all one and the same). I submit that “false doctrine” carries the connotation, in normal Christian usage, of deceptive teaching as it relates to the core doctrines and/or a false teaching about the Gospel message (with respect to salvation).
So how should we respond to this particular form of false teaching? There is a sense in which we can (and maybe even should) be angry. That someone would deceive others by false teaching straight into Hell should incense us! 2 John 9-10 says it well: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. . . . If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” However, this becomes tricky when we’re reactive. When we’re reactive, even in these situations, even though it is ostensibly about God, it’s really about us. We need to be willing to show the love and patience of God. We love them and treat them well, but we do not condone their actions nor give them aid in their work.
What about those with whom we disagree? Well, I think we ought to refrain from being angry with them. We have our reactive and pet doctrines/teachings, and we often say things to people online we never would say in real life (perhaps partially because we tend to objectify people [view them as objects]). This doesn’t mean we can never correct people, or instruct people in greater doctrinal truths. This doesn’t mean we must be passionless with respect to the things of God. This will mean a minimization of self, and it will mean a seeking to place the concerns of your brother or sister into full view (cf. Phil. 2:4).
I firmly believe this is the sticking point. We should not be seeking to tear down these others. We should not be seeking to lift up ourselves. We should not be angry with people for teaching things we do not necessarily embrace. We should seek the welfare of our fellow Christians, deeper understanding, and teachable moments, as well as being willing to change our own position if needed. What do you all think?