If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
Paul talks about the false teachers again and again. As usual, he condemns them in strong and descriptive terms, offering no flattery and showing no sympathy. He condemns not only the doctrines, but the persons. He condemns not only the actions, but the motives. He does not invite the false teachers to engage in dialogue with him to produce mutual respect and understanding. Christ’s government does not negotiate with theological terrorists.
Contemporary believers take the opposite approach. They avoid outright and graphic condemnations. When they must express disagreement, they introduce their statements with flattery, citing the false teachers’ credentials and contributions to the church’s mission or to the academic world. Although they must disagree, they stress that they sympathize with the false teachers’ perspective. They try to focus on the false doctrines, and not the persons who promote them. Certainly, they will not take it upon themselves to condemn their motives. Contrary to the examples of the Lord Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles, who often speak to people’s motives, which by definition would make this a Christian thing to do, they rather think that this is an unchristian thing to do. The only people they would condemn as harshly as Paul does are those who condemn false teachers as harshly as Paul does. With the rest, they prefer mutual flattery and compromise.
These modern believers operate by an ethical standard that comes from the world, from the non-Christians, and not from Scripture. They have become proper and professional according to the world’s standard. For a little respect, for a little academic credibility, they have sold out to the unbelievers, and have become their whores. Then they have the gall to turn around and condemn those who follow Paul’s example as unloving lunatics who use “name-calling” and “ad hominem” arguments. Guess who taught them to say that!
Admittedly, there is no need to unleash a barrage of invectives every time we detect a tiny disagreement. Some doctrinal differences can be discussed cordially, and corrected over a period of time. The errors that Paul has in mind, whether by direct contradiction or by implication, would undermine some central principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That said, the fact is that many doctrinal errors and differences do precisely this. They are more than tiny disagreements, and they do challenge the supremacy of Christ or his status as the sole mediator between God and men. If, as a matter of principle, a Christian refuses to condemn false teachers in the most harsh and vivid language, offering them no flattery, sympathy, or compromise, and to condemn their persons and motives, but even criticizes those who do, then, to say the least, he falls short of the biblical model. He is unfaithful to the Lord Jesus.