Is It Negative and Unbiblical to Name False Teachers?

by Brannon Howse

After a Worldview Weekend Rally in Rockford, Illinois on Sunday night, November 21, 2010, I was informed that the church we had been renting for the previous several years did not want us to return. What makes this especially sad is that this is the church in which my wife grew up, and it has raised five generations of her family, dating back to the great grandparents on both sides of her family. One set of great grandparents, in fact, were two of the original 13 founders of the church. The reason given for rejecting us is that our 2009 rally was thought by some of the church staff to be too negative. They thought it inappropriate to publicly call false teachers by name. I asked what their senior pastor thought about that evening’s Worldview Weekend Rally but was informed that the senior pastor had chosen not to attend the conference at all.


I am not going to name the church because the people who attended the conference and live in the area know which church I’m talking about. I am not telling you about this incident because of any personal offense but to highlight how biblical truth has become an offense to some of America’s churches. 


Many churches claim to love truth, but what people really love is a man-centered Christianity that helps them obtain success in their marriages, finances, and family lives, as well as a positive attitude that produces health and success without the pain of dying to self, picking up the cross of Christ, and being persecuted for proclaiming truth. Second Timothy 4:3 warns that eventually many Christians will only want to hear what makes them feel good and appeals to their flesh: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”

That weekend I spoke on the topic of my book Grave Influence, and I did name such Emergent Church false teachers as Brian McLaren, who has said the cross and hell are false advertising for God. I named Bill Hybels, who signed the Yale document stating that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Hybels has also hosted McLaren at his church. And I mentioned Rick Warren, who sits on the advisory board of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which seeks to bring the religions of the world together. I named Rob Bell, who has proclaimed an abundance of heresy and who has also spoken at Bill Hybels’ church. 


I spoke on why the number of adherents to pagan spirituality is doubling in America every eighteen months and explained that many New Age practices—such as “Christian” yoga and contemplative prayer—have come into the churches of America. I told how Christians could proclaim the Gospel to a postmodern culture that has become more interested in spirituality than theology. I also warned that many churches are being compromised from within by church staff who do not adhere to the biblical mandates and purposes of a New Testament church. Many are an inch deep and a mile wide in their doctrinal and theological understanding and commitment. I warned that the remnant should understand that our greatest opposition will not come from the government but from those who have the title “reverend” or “pastor.” 


I, and the other two speakers who joined me at the conference, used many scriptures to equip those in attendance to understand the times and know how God would have them to respond. 

Worldview Weekend is thankful for the churches that still allow us to rent their buildings, but we are being forced to rent more and more hotel ballrooms because so few churches have leaders, staff, and pastors with clear discernment, courage under fire, and an unwavering commitment to biblical truth in our age of nonjudgmentalism, tolerance, and Christian happy talk.


No one ever said being a watchman on the wall and warning of impending danger would be a popular job, but if popularity is what we seek, then we are not seeking to be faithful to the One we serve. Thus, we will have failed in our calling. 


Warning the Church of emerging dangerous, unbiblical trends as well as false teachers, a false gospel, and unbiblical theology and doctrine has now become negative in the eyes of many of today’s hirelings. In John 10:11-13, Jesus says we will encounter some who claim to be shepherds or pastors but really have little concern for the sheep:


I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.


Worldview Weekend will not be deterred in speaking truth, no matter how unpopular it becomes with individuals or members of a church staff. 


Needless to say, I was concerned about how my wife would respond to the Rockford criticism, since she was raised in that particular church, but her response revealed to me ( again!) how blessed I am that God gave Melissa to me as a helpmate. She said, “Why are you surprised? You knew this church was becoming increasingly liberal over the past few years. I was shocked they let Worldview Weekend return for the 2010 rally.”

Melissa encouraged me to shake the dust from my shoes and go out and find a hotel ballroom. She also encouraged me to continue taking Worldview Weekend to Rockford because of the people—including her life-long friends—who come up to her at the resource table to express their gratitude each year that Worldview Weekend returns to Rockford, Illinois. 


In fact, on our last night there, a physician who is a member of that church handed my wife a letter he had written to his children after the previous year’s Worldview Weekend. He wrote:


…I attended a Worldview Weekend Rally at [name of church removed] on Sunday evening, November 22nd, and found it to be very helpful, informative, stimulating and timely. 


This father went on to recommend that his children read some of the books written by the speakers:


At this point in time, all three books impress me as being coherent, credible, plausible, relevant, responsible, strategic and timely. I believe that they qualify as priority reading for serous Christian believers and church leaders who need and want to be alert to the crucial times in which we and our families are living. 


The doctor’s letter reveals a common response and a common problem I’ve seen all across America: lay leaders are often more biblically grounded, discerning, and committed to truth than some of their own church staff. 


So: Is it negative and unbiblical to name false teachers? Negative? Are you kidding? I think it is very positive. And unbiblical? Not at all. The Bible is filled with examples of Jesus and others calling false teachers by name. In 2 Timothy, for example, the Apostle Paul names numerous people:

∙ 1:15—Phygellus and Hermogenes
∙ 2:17—Hymenaeus and Philetus,
∙ 3:8—Jannes and Jambres,
∙ 4:10—Demas,
∙ 4:14—Alexander the coppersmith. 


In 3 John 9, John names Diotrephes. Jesus called out false teachers in Matthew 23 and Luke 11. 

I believe God allows false teachers in order to test whether or not the Church will be faithful in its biblical mandate to expose false teachers and protect the sheep from spiritual poison and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Ephesians 5:11 makes it clear we are to expose false teachers: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” 


If a pastor will not point out the wolves among the sheep, then this should be a clear warning to the flock that the shepherd does not have its best interest in mind. Such a hireling is not called of God but is simply involved in an occupation for personal gain as revealed in 1 Timothy 6:5 (“who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain”). Such non-shepherds show that they are more interested in their reputations and in being seen by the larger, unsaved community as tolerant and nonjudgmental.


False teachers give sheep the opportunity to test the commitment of their shepherds/pastors. If the pastors on your church staff fail this biblical test, then it is time for the church to replace its hirelings with real shepherds. If your church will not do this, then it is time for you to find a new flock. 


Show me a shepherd who will not name false teachers, and I will show you a false teacher. Pastor Jim Bublitz offers further insight into the positive results of identifying false teachers by name: 


From those words it is clear that God allows teachers of error for the same reason as He does persecutors of His people: to test their love, to try their fidelity, to show that their loyalty to Him is such that they will not give ear unto His enemies. Error has always been more popular than the Truth, for it lets down the bars and fosters fleshly indulgence, but for that very reason it is obnoxious to the godly.

The one who by grace can say “I have chosen the way of Truth” will be able to add “I have stuck unto Thy testimonies” (Psalm 119:30, 31), none being able to move him therefrom.


“For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Corinthians 11:19).


Committed Christians must publicly name false teachers because it is impossible to privately correct public false teaching. 


While writing this book, I received an email from a junior in high school near Atlanta, Georgia. This young lady explained that because she had attended two Worldview Weekend rallies in Atlanta and heard me expose the false teaching of Emergent pastor Rob Bell, she was equipped to reject his false teaching when a Bible study group at her Christian school decided to read one of his books. She had the courage and conviction to politely hand the book back to the group leaders and warn them of Bell’s false teaching.

This student’s testimony has come to mind many times and has deeply encouraged me to continue speaking truth no matter how negative or offensive it may be to the non-discerning. If I had not named Rob Bell, how would this student have known to reject his book and false doctrine? If I had not named Rob Bell, would she now be spiritually deceived? If I had not named Bell, would this young woman have been able to warn her peers about Bell’s spiritual poison?

The late Vance Havner wrote, “We live what we believe; the rest is religious talk.” Living what we believe includes our willingness to name false teachers and to endure the criticism and persecution that will surely follow. To do any less is treason to our calling, to our mandate, to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 


When we expose false teaching and false teachers, we proclaim and defend the authority, accuracy, and application of God’s Word—the very thing false teachers seek to undermine. Living what we believe requires speaking biblical truth and warnings no matter how offensive it may be to the spiritually immature, the nondiscerning, or the wolves that creep in among the sheep. 


Jude 3-4 commands all believers to contend for the faith that is under attack from false teachers: 


Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 


Truth is never negative to those who seek to serve the truth. 

Copyright 2012 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.