Still Be Discerning about Discerners Discerning Discernment Ministries

Bible study author, speaker and blogger Michelle Lesley deals with a very contentious subject: Discernment blogs and podcasts.  Some Christians choose not visit discernment blogs for all sorts of reasons. In her excellent piece, Lesley offers a balanced perspective on the pros and cons of discernment ministries. We were thrilled to learn that one of the discernment blogs she recommends is Berean Research!   She writes:

Discernment

Recently, one of my favorite blogs, ParkingSpace23 (a fantastic, doctrinally sound blog I’d encourage everyone to subscribe to), published an excellent article by John Chester called Still Be Discerning about Discernment Ministries. It’s all about John’s thoughts on discernment blogs and podcasts and why he has chosen to swear off of them.

John seems like a thoughtful guy and he handled what can be a touchy subject evenly, calmly, scripturally, and with grace. As someone who frequently writes on discernment topics, it gave me some good food for thought and an opportunity to biblically examine both my writing and reading/listening habits. It’s a great article, I was thankful for it, and I agree with a lot of his points.

But while John has decided not to partake of discernment blogs and podcasts, I still find discernment ministry to be an important aspect of this blog as well as my personal spiritual “diet”. Does that mean I think John, or any other Christian, is wrong for not wanting to regularly read or listen to discernment material? Absolutely not! But I’d like to present a bit of a different perspective regarding the value of discernment ministry.

In the first few paragraphs of his article, John draws a distinction between two different types of discernment ministries- a distinction which I think is both astute and important. John differentiates between what I would call “propositional” discernment sites like CARM, and, if I’m understanding him correctly, mine – which generally post single, position paper-type articles on a given false teacher or false doctrine – and what I would call “daily news” discernment ministries such as Berean Research and Fighting for the Faith – which report on the shenanigans du jour of false teachers and apostate churches.

John’s position is that the propositional discernment ministries [PDM] can be helpful when needed, but he is not fond of the daily news discernment ministries [DNDM]. I think both can be beneficial, assuming they’re done biblically. Take a look at John’s points and my counterpoints, and then you can prayerfully decide whether or not it would be profitable for your sanctification to include discernment media as part of your spiritual fare.

John’s point: “[DNDMs] often spend much time dissecting sermons or blog posts that someone with even a rudimentary sense of discernment would have stopped listening to or reading within the first few phrases.”

Michelle’s counterpoint: “Someone with even a rudimentary sense of discernment” is the crucial phrase here. Perhaps John is blessed to pastor a body of believers who are good bereans and most of the Christians he knows are discerning. I hope that’s the case. It should be the case that every believer has “a rudimentary sense of discernment” and immediately rejects false doctrine when she hears it. Nothing would bring me more joy.

But, sadly, that’s not the case. In fact, in my experience, the exact opposite is true, especially among Christian women. The vast majority of Christians are very undiscerning when it comes to false teachers and false doctrine. Often, people lack discernment because they’re false converts. But because most churches don’t proactively teach discernment, there are also plenty of genuninely born again believers who take at face value that anything which wears the label of “Christian,” is sold at a Christian retailer, or is proclaimed by a Christian celebrity is biblical and trustworthy.

I know, because I used to be one of those undiscerning Christians who hadn’t been taught any better by my church. Sure, I could pick out charlatans like Benny Hinn or Todd Bentley, and I probably would have described people like Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis as “wrong” or “that’s not what Baptists believe” without really knowing why. But the Beth Moore Bible studies that every church I’ve ever been a member of has pushed on its female membership? I had no idea she was teaching false doctrine, especially since my own church was endorsing her books.

It wasn’t until I Providentially “stumbled across” Todd Friel’s TV program, Wretched, one night several years ago that I began to understand what false doctrine was, why it was wrong, biblically, and how it could hurt me and the church. And it wasn’t until I discovered Chris Rosebrough’s Fighting for the Faith that I learned how to compare everything to Scripture – to listen to sermons with a discerning ear and read Christian books with a discerning mind. Todd and Chris taught me the discernment no church ever bothered to mention to me. And from the myriad of discerning Christians I’ve known, heard from, and read about, people like me are the rule, not the exception.

It’s not right that the church isn’t teaching Christians how to be discerning. I think every biblically responsible discernment ministry would agree that it is the church’s job, not a discernment ministry’s, to teach Christians to be bereans. But that’s not happening. And I thank God for those ministries who are standing in the gap- who have helped thousands of Christians like me.   Continue reading

Related:

Discernment Challenge: If you see something, say something by Amy Spreeman

Dopplegangers and Discernment by Clint Archer

Online Discernment Ministries: The New Lepers by JD Hall

 

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6 Responses to Still Be Discerning about Discerners Discerning Discernment Ministries

  1. Darrel June 25, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

    Upon close inspection find that most of these “DM’s” are nothing more than a controlled opposition that has their own special brand of heresy they love to hawk. PS23 is a prime example. All of it’s “contributors” are proud graduates of John MacArthur’s schools. There is probably no one in this country more steeped in false and heretical doctrine than John MacArthur. From his own “testimony” that is completely void of repentance, to his lies about the blood of Christ (to him the blood of Christ is utterly meaningless), to his ‘take the mark of the beast and later get saved’ nonsense, the list grows on. Yet NO ONE will even dare to question him, this blog included, along Lesley’s, they (nearly) all give him a pass, sweep his lies under the rug and continue to praise him, his books, conferences, etc. All of which are a stench in the nostrils of God. JM is considered to be untouchable on every level and yet he is the enemy of Christ. If this comment is not deleted it will be a surprise. Appeals to Marsha and Amy to investigate this man have been ignored. The evidence—words from MacArthur’s own mouth, his books, etc.—is readily available but fear has gripped the hearts instead of good sense.

    MacArthur is not the only one who fits this bill, but perhaps he is the “biggy.” In the minds of these so called discernment ministries MacArthur has long ago been deemed infallible, above scrutiny and reproach, and therefore untouchable. Do you seriously think that God is pleased with those who hide the truth from other believers? See what He says about “suppressing the truth” in Romans 1 and the fate of those that practice this deceit. You want to known as a “discernment ministry?” Then get to it and DISCERN.

  2. Manny1962 June 25, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

    Can anyone please tell me why John MacArthur has never clarified the issue with the mark of the beast?

    Also, aren’t we to pray to receive discernment? Isn’t discernment one of the gifts or ministries The Holy Spirit bestows on Christians as they follow The Lord? Read Scripture and pray? So can anyone please clarify for me how is it that a congregation can teach someone to be discerning? Isn’t discernment a gift, supernatural and not man given or invented? Are t we commanded to develop discernment as we ask in obedience?

    I’ll be frank, as a young Christian I held pastor Mac Arthur in high esteem, he spoke pointedly, he named names, he called out heresy, he called Rome what it is, apostate, it was a time when no one was doing that, I remember when no pastor would call out Rome for being a false religion, less Babylon The Great Harlot of Revelation. Nonetheless, his remark on taking the mark of the beast and then salvation still being possible is beyond the pale! It is erroneous, it is against what is written in scripture, I just cannot understand how he could say it! It does not make sense to me! As I’ve grown in my Christian walk, I’ve decided to follow no man except Jesus Christ.

    • Darrel June 26, 2016 at 10:23 am #

      According to 1 Cor. 12:10 the gift of the Holy Spirit described here is not so much a generalized ability to know right from wrong, rather it is very specific to say “discerning of spirits.” This correlates with 1 John 4:1-3. It is based on evidence and not some nebulous, nondescript feeling. Most people’s “discernment” never gets past their emotions, especially when their favorite person is on the “chopping block.” Instead of judging righteous judgment, their thought process is clouded with sentiment and partiality, both of which are foreign to the Character of God. Most “discernment ministries” have their list of acceptable targets and a list of untouchables. By maintaining these two lists they show that their interest is pleasing men and not God for if their interest were only God and His Christ, there would be no boundaries or taboos to be avoided, no man would be infallible or untouchable. There are at least two other common characteristics of most DMs: nearly all ask for money and nearly all who claim the designation of DM have little or nothing to say in the way of teaching the Scriptures, preaching the Gospel, or in any way attempting, even in a most modest way, to glorify the Lord Jesus. They are always in “attack mode” against their favorite whipping boy or girl, while they ignore the red flags concerning their golden boy or golden girl. This is deception of a very stealthy kind which most refuse to even consider may be directed at them, but it is.

      The information gleaned from DMs may be correct, but not always, especially with the agenda driven ones, whether the agenda is to “attack” one person while hiding another that is just as heretical as their target or a simple ego trip to charm money out of people, or whatever the agenda. The Lord has nothing to do with such partiality, though the claim of being “Spirit-lead” is oft repeated. The fact is that such DMs and the people that run them are mocking God instead of serving Him.

      If we are going to discern in a Biblical manner then know that it will entail the “discerning of spirits” which means making a judgment call as to whether a person is saved or not; genuine or pretender—refer to the Scriptures given above. This is not just unpopular but unacceptable to most and even deemed to be unchristian. Nonsense! This is precisely where “discernment with partiality” comes into play as it seeks to give cover to the real problem. When a person claims to be a “Christian” that is all that is needed for him to have carte blanche for any and all of his aberrant beliefs and doctrines. To most it is an almost “unpardonable sin” to question the salvation of another, but that is what real discernment is all about. This is why so many “believers” are so confused today, they hear a “Christian” make some off-the-wall statement that has no basis in Scripture and give him a pass as being an “errant brother” when in reality he is no brother at all, rather a flaming heretic that should be exposed as such. But heaven forbid that we should be judgmental; if anyone believes that, they have believed a lie.

      There are some who have claimed to be saved one day and have the “gift of discernment” the next and yet they can’t discern their way out of a wet paper bag. Heb. 5:13 & 14 tells that those who are still ‘on the baby’s bottle’ have no skills in the arena of discernment. It is only those who have ingested the Word of God for a long enough period of time to become mature believers that are qualified “to discern both good and evil.” It’s “good” and “evil” not just evil. One wants to “discern” and does not have the slightest idea of Who God is, what His Attributes are (at least two dozen) and what His Word says? Get real!

      Discernment is nothing more than a game for too many who claim to have the “gift.” Time for hearts to be examined——–discern your own heart!

      Manny, your words are much appreciated here, a light in the otherwise mostly dark world of “commenter.”

    • berlorac June 26, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

      Hey Manny,

      1 Corinthians 12:10 speaks of a gift of the Spirit that Paul calls the “discerning of spirits.” Obviously, because this is a gift given by the Holy Spirit, not everyone has this gift. This gift is, therefore, a more heightened awareness of false spirits (cf. 1 John 4:1).

      However, all Christians are to grow is discernment (Philippians 1:9). The Philippians passage is not necessarily the same as the 1 Corinthians passage. Rather, Paul is telling the Philippians that he wants them to “test the things that differ” (the literal Greek of v. 10), which comes from the study of the Word through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We must know the Word so that we can recognize the false doctrine, the things that differ from the truth.

      So, I agree with you that specifically “teaching discernment” isn’t really what Paul is saying. Growing in discernment, according to Philippians, means we must yield to the Holy Spirit in His desire for us to study His Word. This is Paul’s prayer for us (v. 9).

      • Manny1962 June 27, 2016 at 11:53 am #

        Thanks B! God bless brother! Long time indeed!

  3. Manny1962 June 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    Thank you Darrel for clarifying, and thank you for your kind words, God bless you my friend……….Blessed be God who lights my way!

    I’m still baffled how so many Christians cannot see or will not see what is happening, not just in this country, but throughout the world!

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