Here is an old joke that I vaguely remember my Father using: People tell me that on every public bus there is always one nut-job. A complete wacko. An absolute loon. Look around, they’d say, and you’ll always find one. So I keep riding the bus to find out, constantly looking for the one nut-job. I could never find him.
I’m going to be honest here. Just like the joke about being the one nut-job, I’m afraid of being the false teacher Scripture warns about. It is a creeping fear crowding behind me right up until I walk towards the pulpit. Then, even when I open my mouth, I can feel the fear behind me whispering a warning: don’t fall into the false teacher’s trap.
Now, don’t start telling everyone “Rey says he’s a false teacher.” Hear me out.
The reason for my fear is that false teaching has an attractive pull in (at least) two directions. It not only draws hearers but it’s attractive to those who are handling the truth. And because it’s strong allure, I think it’s more pervasive than we think.
I don’t expect most people to read this. It is exceedingly long with my original document clocking in at 29 pages and long lists of verses. I don’t expect most people to interact with this trimmed down version; the Internet is fraught with shallowness. I do expect most people, especially Trichotomists, to ignore it, the verses, and the sources. But, this is my way of putting a stake in the ground and arguing why the position is wrong, where it’s wrong, and when it matters. I do allow for a view of trichotomy that is holistic in its approach, but I’ve rarely seen that nuanced a position at the lay level.
To deal with man being three parts, I want to show first what Trichotomists say; then the Biblical Data and how the Scriptures, in both Testaments, respond to pointed questions; give some answers to the arguments and show how the Scripture corrects the incorrect teaching; and finally show a path forward for the trichotomist.
For years, Christian writers forced pens to bleed ink on the subject of false teachers. They warned, they begged people to be ready, they called out the false teachers, and they repeated the whole thing. We often nod, hum a hymn, and don’t give it much thought.
Let me put some meat on those bones.
At church, we are rightly warned about those wool-wearing wolves but we never think of them as already here, among us, teeth bared. We mention them in a nebulous sort of way, waving our arms in that direction over yonder, but most of us never stop and wonder if they’re sitting next to us, smiling and saying “amen” during the sermon. Or maybe, arms raised, leading the singing. Or possibly, speaking, behind the pulpit.
For most of us Christians, false teachers are a distant threat reserved for tele-evangelists.
A friend of mine, Jewish by birth, told me he was off to visit family during Passover. Unsure if I knew the history of the holiday, he told me how the Jews were slaves of Pharaoh and was rescued by God via a bunch of miracles. Then he added, “it’s all lies, anyway. Holidays are just an excuse for families to see each other.”
It got me thinking about how people seriously misdiagnose the motivations of true Christianity.
An excuse for family get-togethers? A way for people to be good to each other? Just another religion on a spectrum of beliefs?