The Expository Files


 Unscrupulous Tactics


{Since I'm in a sentimental mood about the past, on the occasion of my 60th birthday, here's something I wrote in 1978, shortly after I met Jon Quinn.}

{This was first published in THE SPIRITUAL DEVELOPER, Jan. 1, 1978. That was a semi-monthly publication of the Mulvane Church of Christ, Mulvane, Kansas. I worked there in the 1970's. While this article was written almost 30 years ago, and some of the references may be understood only by considering the history of that time, the main observations continue to be relevant. I have polished the grammar, corrected a couple of typos, but otherwise have left the article in original form. -web}

"Unless the contrast between truth and error is kept up, truth itself will lose its brightness, its efficacy, and its sanctifying influence over its devotees. Men will cease to regard it as of value, if error is not kept in contrast with it."

These words come from the pen of David Lipscomb. Though originally written in 1898, they reflect Biblical principles essential to our survival as a distinct people. Unceasing vigilance is needed to separate truth from error. And this vigilance demands that false teachers be exposed. If there be any who doubt the propriety of the practice, they should read the following: Acts 15:23-29; 17:17; 18:28; Gal. 2:11; Eph. 5:11; Phil. 1:16,17; 1 Tim. 1:3, 18-20; 5:20; 2 Tim. 2:17,18; 4:1-2; Jude 3, etc. The soft, sentimental, com-promising attitude of some towards error IS ERROR.

But I have one plea to make in this article: LET'S NOT BECOME SO AGGRESSIVE, HASTY AMD ROUGH THAT WE RESORT TO UNKIND AND UNSCRUPULOUS TACTICS! Whether or not the job of exposing error ought to be done IS NOT THE QUESTION here; I'm con­cerned, in this article, with THE TAC­TICS EMPLOYED IN DOING THE JOB.

Some Examples

1. MONETARY REWARDS. I receive several bulletins published by "conservative" churches every week. Ever now and then I get one with "$100 REWARD" written across the top in huge letters (I nearly "pitched" one a few years ago, thinking it was just another Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstake). The aim of such a monetary reward is to challenge someone to prove some false doctrine, or meet a preacher in debate. I realize how difficult it is to get denominational preachers to discuss the teachings of the Bible. I'm fully aware of how hesitant some "liberals" are to talk about the "issues" that divide us. But I do not believe that this justifies the practice of offering money to people to study the Bible. And I can't under­stand how we can criticize the "liberals" for their carnal rewards in their bus ministries, then turn right around and offer a false teacher $100 if he'll try to prove his doctrine. I don't believe you'll find any Biblical basis for this.

2. NO SOLID EVIDENCE. Before marking anybody as anything, we ought to double-check our ground of evidence. There are men who are false teachers and should be marked as such. But, when we put that "name" on someone, WE SHOULD BE READY TO PROVE THAT HE IS, IN FACT, A FALSE TEACHER. Conclusions must be justified by sufficient evidence (see 1 Thess. 5:21; Eph. 5:10; Acts 24:13; 25:7). You may think that brother so-in-so doesn't "bear down" on this point the way he ought to, or you may think he is weak on some subject, BUT THE REAL QUESTION IS: HAS HE TAUGHT SOMETHING THAT IS NOT IN HARMONY WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT? If we don't have any real solid proof, we had better be careful about using the term: "false teacher."

3. DISTRACTING PERSONAL REMARKS. In exposing false teachers, great care must be exercised to STICK WITH THE REAL ISSUE AT HAND. If a young preacher, for example, is a false teacher, castigating him for being a "21 year old boy" does nothing for your case. A false teacher is a false teacher, whether 21, 81 or 101. Age is not the issue, THE FALSE DOCTRINE IS. Distracting personal "slams" and insults do nothing toward resolving differences among brethren and they have no place in preaching the truth.

4. GUILT BY ASSOCIATION. It is believed by some that if a brother can somehow be associated with a known false teacher, that makes him a false teacher. But that's just not so! If I'm closely associated with a known false teacher, that may be a good reason to be concern­ed about me. Further, I need to be warned that that association may be detrimental to me (l Cor. 15:33; Eph. 5:11). But the mere fact that I'm "associated" with a false teacher does not make me a false teacher! The "guilty by association" theory must always account for the nature of that association. Jesus was associated with "publicans and sinners," but before we charge Him with guilt, we must consider the nature of that association (see Matt. 9:19-13).

5. BEING DISRESPECTFUL. I don't care how false a teacher is, or how grossly wicked someone is, common decency and respect must never be surrendered! Being bold is necessary, not being ugly and insulting. On a recent radio program in Wichita (Remember, this was 1978, -web), Madalyn Murray O'Hare was the guest. Listeners were allowed to call in by phone their questions or comments. One young man told her where she could go! Others called in with no valid questions or comments, they just wanted to give her a good verbal lashing. I stand firmly opposed to the destructive work being done by this infidel (that is what she is). In fact, I was one who called in with a question designed to show a flaw in her philosophy. There is NEVER A TIME when it is permissible to be unkind or vindictive (see Rom. 12:1-21).


Let no one accuse me of discouraging the aggressive and urgent work of upholding God's truth. I'm committed to that work! But let us never think that the end justifies the means, or that "anything goes" if we are right. Let us never think that fairness and respect can be ignored in the interest of exposing error. "... Let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith," (Gal. 6:10). See also 2 Tim. 2:24-26.

By Warren E. Berkley
Special Topic
From Expository Files 14.11; November 2007