The dangers of learning indiscriminately from media
Dear BPCWAians, Last week, we saw how much media has become an almost indispensable part of our modern lives. How should Christians respond to the influx of online information in our lives? How can we guard ourselves against it? We are not saying that only BPCWA has sound information, but we must take note of God’s warnings and be discerning when we receive information:
2Pet 2:18-19 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. (19) While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
Check on the backgrounds of the sites that search engines bring up. Do note that online search engines do not differentiate between Christian, cults, non- Christian or anti-Christian websites. An unsuspecting reader may be led on to read further when he comes across phrases like “Who goes to heaven”, or “what is the resurrection” and weblinks pop up that seem to point us to things that sound similar to what we believe in. Except that that may actually be a Jehovah’s Witness website! A search for the words “Holy Communion” can bring up 7 Catholic sites out of the first 15 suggested links. Another search of “Is Jesus God” brings up among the searches an online radio site with a title that questions Christ’s deity, saying “If Jesus Never Called Himself God, How Did He Become One?”. This last was an interview with someone who claimed to have been an evangelical Christian but who is now an agnostic. If you think that reading articles of theological colleges are sound, think again. Unless you know the background of the theological college, you could even be learning from a Catholic seminary or liberal Bible college! A search for the hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” may bring up the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on YouTube. The fact is that it is not only Christians who are interested in propagating our faith through digital media. New evangelicals, liberals, Roman Catholics, cults, and other religions are too. And they do it on websites that may seem very interesting and informative, and which may attract your attention.
Do not readily accept everything even from seemingly “conservative sounding” Christian websites. Even sites which may claim to be evangelical or “orthodox” and have a Statement of Faith that may have a façade of soundness may not be as conservative as it seems. An example is Christianity Today, which was founded by Billy Graham. Here, articles may put Christians side by side with Roman Catholics, accepting of their practices and promoting the mindset of ecumenism. Even very popular Reformed websites with largely sound doctrines are often against Biblical separation. Their articles may frown on those who practice separation, or they may propound incorrect but catchy sounding concepts like “All Truth is God’s Truth”, or introduce psychology or philosophical principles into Christian thinking. This can also be the case with listening to sermons of Reformed preachers. They may believe and teach strongly about total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. It may all sound so safe because they agree with us on those 5 points of Calvinism. But in their practices and sermon illustrations, they may support new evangelicals, teaching against separation for the sake of “Christian love” and “unity”, the kind that are at the expense of Truth.
What are the dangers? If you are not careful with what you read or hear, it can change your convictions. Having listened to them, and perhaps even having been moved by their “zeal for Christianity”, and heart stirring sermons, you begin to think that they are actually quite “good people” and are teachers of “good things”. And soon you may wonder, “why separate from them over some doctrines when they are doing good?” In time, you too would oppose the stance on Biblical separation. Websites and sermons may contain much truth. But a form of truth that is mixed with subtly introduced deceptive errors is perhaps even more dangerous than those of cults. A Christian who thinks that the organisation is very popular and thinks that the website is sound will read more and more of those articles with his guards down. He may be enthralled by the arguments that the writer seems to bring up, or simply because the writer or speaker is famous or from a theological college (maybe even a Reformed one!). Reading much of his readings, he thinks it is fine to accept all of what the online writer or speaker teaches. He will then slowly but eventually imbibe their insidious errors into his thinking. In time, as he reads more and more of these writings, and as these “sound” websites introduce other popular Christian teachers or speakers (some of whom may be ecumenical or new evangelical), he will get drawn into their emotionally charged testimonies. Eventually, the believer will begin to think as they think – possibly adopting a social gospel mindset and embracing the message of love and unity for all, regardless of truth. The lines of truth and error will then be blurred, and in time, he will even hate churches like ours, when we obey God’s command to practice unity in truth and biblical separation from falsehood. While this mix of truth and error is most prevalent on the internet and other such digital media, it can also happen when one reads print media like books. For example, years ago, Adelphe spent many Bible Study sessions critiquing a book for women that had gross misinterpretations and misapplications of the doctrine of grace and graciousness. In this book, quotes and Bible verses were used out of context to substantiate what the writer wanted to say at that point of time. Even to the extent that at times she contradicts herself in other parts of the book! Yet, it came under a very appealing title to catch the attention of women. Sadly, this state of affairs is all too common today. Someone who may have gone through the critique of such a book may still fall prey to other false teaching that they read online – Be not highminded, but fear (Rom 11:20).
Today, false prophets can enter and promote their falsehood without even coming in through the church door. They may enter your homes and your minds through what you read and accept. This is why we must “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1) – by testing what we read against the truth of the whole of God’s inspired Scriptures. Be very discerning. Do not entertain any deceptive teachings in your mind as you browse through the internet or read books.
Prov 14:15-16 The simple believeth every word: but the prudent [man] looketh well to his going. 16 A wise [man] feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.
Yours in our Lord’s service