It is a rarity for me to call out a single person’s gross error on my blog. I cringe writing blog posts like this one. I’m far more interested in building up and encouraging by passing along teaching that exhorts and equips.
Today, however, that is not the case. There are things that happen, so grotesque and profane, that I cannot let them pass without comment. In this case, my encouraging word is to watch and be exceedingly careful listening to much of what is being taught of late.
Early last week I watched a repulsive video of a woman giving a sermon before the First Presbyterian Church in Mankato, MN, a sermon in which she said, literally, “God lied and the serpent told the truth.”1 The speaker, Rebecca Todd Peters, was referencing the Genesis 2 account of Eve and the forbidden fruit, using her vapid line of reasoning to justify support of the moral agency of women in the beautiful act of choosing to abort their unborn children, calling it, of course, Reproductive Justice. Her comment was shocking to hear and it is shocking to type it out now.
“God lied and the serpent told the truth.” ~ Rebecca Todd Peters, Professor of Religious Studies – Elon University
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
– Isaiah 5:20-21, ESV
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
It is difficult to find a more glaring example than the blasphemous professor Peters to illustrate the truth of Jesus’ statement “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.”2
Scripture assures us we will be able to discern between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. In the case of Peters, she makes it easy to see her wolfish fangs through her tawdry sheep costume. Such is the case with pretty much anything produced by Peters’ alma mater, the theologically bankrupt Union Theological Seminary in New York.
They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
– 1 John 4:5-6, ESV
Other wolves are much more skilled than Peters at disguising themselves, pretending to be ministers of light and righteousness when the truth is they are workers of evil and servants of Satan.
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
– 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, ESV
So, how are we to know the difference? How do we distinguish between sheep, goats, and wolves?
The Spirit of Truth
Jesus spoke at length and in myriad ways regarding how to identify his disciples. Above, he said we are to look for their fruit. In his parable of the soils and seed, he said the same thing.
But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.
– Mark 4:20, ESV
The seed that fell on the good soil and produced good fruit is seed that seeks after truth above all things.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
– Acts 17:11, ESV
There is no substitute for spending focused time in the Word, examining the scriptures daily, hiding God’s Word in your heart.3 As you do this, ask God to show you what is true.
Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
– Psalm 86:11, ESV
In his trial before Pilate, Jesus said he was born and came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Then he said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”4 Listening to the voice of Jesus mandates that we spend time in the four gospels, reading and meditating on the words of Jesus.
The Spirit of Falsehood
The spirit of error can be significantly more difficult to detect. We know that is comes from Satan, and we know that Satan is a master deceiver.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
– John 8:44, ESV
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
– Revelation 12:9, ESV
Never underestimate the ability of Satan to deceive. We could start by recognizing that he persuaded a great host of angels to align with him and ultimately be cast out of heaven. Satan is very good at what he does.
God placed in the body of Christ, apostles, evangelists, pastors/shepherds, teachers—all of them to equip the body for work and ministry, and that for building up the body of Christ—till we are mature and unified in the faith, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”5
Referring back to 1:John 4:5-6 above, John lays out some principles that are so simple, yet bulging with truth. He starts by saying, “We are from God and those who know God listen to us. Perhaps this is why Acts two, describing the earliest church says they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.”6
We find the apostles’ teaching in the pages of our Bibles, and a sure sign of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is the rejection apostolic teaching as authoritative. Even as early as the first century such false prophets abounded. As Christ-followers, we are charged to “test” them rather than blindly follow them.
Returning to our original speaker, the one who accused God of lying, we can and should pray for the scales to fall from her eyes. That said, she, and others like her, seem to have hearts so hard there is nothing that can be said that will budge her from her heretical positions. It calls to mind the words of Jesus, that we are to wipe the dust from our feet against such people.
It breaks my heart to write anyone off, but unless God miraculously softens her heart, there is little any of us can say to Peters to change such a deeply deceived heart and mind. The apostle Paul told Titus, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.”7
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
– 2 Peter 2:1-2, ESV
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
– 2 Peter 2:17-19, ESV
These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
– Jude 1:12-13, ESV
Such people will not listen to truth. Take great care around them. Guard your heart with diligence.
2. Matthew 7:15-16a>
3. Psalm 119:11>
4. John 18:37
5. Ephesians 4:13-14, ESV
6. Acts 2:42
7. Titus 3:10, ESV