December 18, 2017

Are False Teachers Born Again?

Warren Vanhetloo

There shall be false teachers who shall bring damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them (2 Peter 2:1).

After writing a reply to a reader, my mind continued cogitating on a part of my answer which may deserve further explanation to be fully appreciated by the present generation.

The assertion read: In the last century as theological liberalism gained precedence in most of the denominations, only God could have distinguished between those who were believers taken in by false teachings and those who never had come to know the Lord.

Those who continued to teach the fundamentals of the faith displayed loyalty to the Lord. Those who doubted or denied any of the foundational teachings of Scripture may have or may not have been true believers. That is not for us to judge.

I grew up and was saved during those years of Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. Soon after I came to know the Lord, at 15 or 16, I came across books by liberals and readily read them. At that time, I saw no real difference between what they were saying and what I was hearing at church. I may have been wrongly influenced about certain things, but I did not lose my salvation, though without doubt my spiritual growth was stunted. No doubt, because of the blurring of distinctions in those days, many remained in such a stunted condition through the rest of their lives.

Personal Bible reading and Bible study groups made a real difference for me. Knowing the truth from the Word made teaching contrary to that which was in the Bible clearly “human” rather than divine instruction. That did not take special wisdom or special instruction. Things cleared up marvelously when I obtained a two-volume condensation of The Fundamentals (see # 1320 Jan 29). Suddenly black was solidly black and white was a splendid brilliant white. The Word was not different, but the “glaze on my glasses” was gone.

Those who wrote the original (90 essays, printed in 12 volumes) articles about the unchanging foundation stones of Christian belief cited the Word of God and contrasted the contrary teachings of liberals in a way that made it clear to me. I was committed to what the Bible teaches because I was truly regenerate. Others were opposing or denying teaching of the Bible. Both cannot be right. God speaks truth, or God is a liar. God says Scripture is His infallible message to mankind. Some were calling God a liar. Jesus said He was from God, come into this world to save the lost. Liberals were saying Jesus was a mere man, born like any other man, and limited the same as all other men. He was just a better teacher and unfortunately died early.

Jesus taught He would lay down His life to redeem mankind. Liberals taught a variety of supposed ways to get to heaven. God says there is only the one way. Jesus proclaimed that all men must be born again to be right with God. Liberals promoted good works, clean living, being kind to the poor, etc., things Jesus had indicated should be characteristic of one born again, but of no value to get to heaven. Jesus declared He would come again to take His Own unto Himself. Liberals were teaching that the rapture and millennial reign of Jesus were extremist interpretations.

The typical American view of all this was quite different. People would judge, “He believes 99 per cent the same as historic Christians; for a mere one point of difference you would call him an apostate, a denier of the faith?” Of a person’s teaching, we can judge; of his relation to the Lord, only God can judge. But one who denies the existence of God, the genuineness of His Word, the eternality of His Son – that is, the fundamental teachings of Christianity — is not to be considered a Christian. Men would point to the character and ministry of a teacher and not be bothered that he denied or opposed the teaching of Scripture. Many were deceived through those days. Similar deception is still possible in our day.

The late Warren Vanhetloo, A.B., B.D., Th.M., Th.D., D.D., was Adjunct Instructor in and Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

This testimony was first published in “Cogitations,” February 4, 2010. Cogitations was Dr. Vanhetloo’s retirement ministry of encouragement to Christians delivered daily by e-mail until his passing.

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