Berean cogitations

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Can God use false teachings or practices for his purposes?

Earlier, I talked about "rejoicing in pretense." In that article, I took issue with the notion that Paul condoned false teachings, since he supposedly knew that the gospel would be preached nonetheless. As I explained in that article, I do not believe that's what Philippians 1:18 was teaching!

Now, one might ask if God can still save people through erroneous teachings or unbiblical practices. One person recently asked me, "Why are you so concerned about what churches do? You seem to doubt God's omnipotence. Even if a practice is wrong, surely God can still use it for his purposes!"

First of all, I do not doubt that God can use wrongful teachings or circumstances for his ultimate good; however, this does not make them justified. When Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, God was able to use those circumstances, but that did not justify their heinous deed. Similarly, God used Judas's betrayal to accomplish his purposes, but Judas's action was still wrong.

Second, we must remember that Satan is a master tactician. Satan and his minions would surely allow some good to result from wrongful teachings, if this would help perpetuate the deceptions. Consider the Mormon church, for example, and the wholesome family values that they exude. On the surface, their church seems to accomplish a great deal of good, yet their wholesomeness masks a litany of spiritual deceptions.

One person talked about how a criminal turned himself in after reading The Purpose-Driven Life. "The book is producing good fruit!" he exclaimed. "Surely this proves that God has blessed its teachings!" However, such an approach is faulty, for it evaluates one incident in isolation, while ignoring the balance of the evidence. Satan would surely allow the occasional criminal to repent. Like an experienced general, he knows that one must sometimes lose a battle in order to win a war. He might even allow some people to be saved, if this would allow his deceptions to take root in the church.

Note that the Bible never commands us to evaluate teachings or practices based on their fruit. I believe this is because we will seldom, if ever, see the totality of the fruit that they produce. Rather, we are to test them against what God has revealed in His divine Word, for the Almighty knows best.