It is not always easy to distinguish false from different. Often, the absence of a word or the over emphasis of another can bring new meaning to something that had not been there before. For example, take this simple sentence; “I did not say smoking is a sin.” Sounds pretty straight forward. But change the emphasis; “I did not SAY smoking was a sin.” Or, “I did not say smoking is a sin.” Or, “I did not say SMOKING is a sin.” Each point of emphasis changes the impact or meaning of the sentence. This is true with false teaching and its confusion with different teaching.
When Jesus was trying to redirect his disciples understanding he warned them to beware “of the teaching (leaven) of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt 16:12).” In this warning, Jesus is helping them to understand that false teaching can have debilitating effects. It can bring death where life was originally intended. It can suffocate that which was to breath life. Now false teaching, keeping impotent rules and regulations under the guise of building righteousness can cripple a believer’s walk with Christ. It can lay a foundation that will not stand scrutiny.
Different is – well – different. Looking at a passage of scripture differently does not make the result false or even the conclusions false, just different. Let’s look at a discussion I’ve been following off and on for several weeks on another blog. It pertains to creation. The point of the author of the article is that Genesis 1-3 may not have ever been intended to be taken as a literal account of “creation.” In fact, it may be a ‘re-creation” more than an original creation. Part of his argument goes to the age of the earth and what science says about that concept and how it does or does not square with a biblical account. Six days may not be six literal days at all, but six eons or ages.
Now, does looking at something from a different perspective make it false. I don’t think so. Let’s take the account in Matthew 16 where the disciples are apparently so dull in their understanding that they have not figured out that their lack of forethought – bring more bread than they did – was diametrically opposed to what Jesus meant when he first said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (v 6).” In fact it seems so incredulous that they would respond as they did that perhaps, as some think, this account could not be historically accurate. Does that make the story any less significant? It won’t be but a little while and these same dullards will rally round the confession of one that says Jesus is “the Christ, the son of the living God (v16).”
Yes the Pharisees and Sadducees, then and now, have compiled their list of dos and don’ts – minutiae of the Law that strive to dictate how one behaves in order to achieve righteousness. Not much different than the leaders of the Jerusalem church sending a letter along with Paul and Barnabas to the gentiles imposing on them only certain rules in lieu of circumcision. Did their rules impose a false doctrine or was it simply different? Some thought it was false others merely different (Galatians). A choice even the Galatian Christians were having trouble understanding.
I like different. I think I can tell different from false. What matters and what does not matter. In some respects that is what discipleship is all about. Discernment is key. Does my faith raise or fall based on six literal days of creation or six ages? No. If someone were to teach that Christ really did not rise from the dead, does neutering the resurrection impact my faith? Absolutely. Oh, I could live a good life without the resurrection. But I could not have eternal life.
There is much to be learned on many fronts. Some of it different than I may have previously thought. therefore, I’m hoping I know leaven when I see it.
Father, truth is truth. It is your truth. Give me eyes that see and a heart that seeks understanding, even from the different. But let me stand firmly against that which is false.