Essay / Theology

When a Preacher Teaches Error

Dr. Torrey, What attitude ought one who believes in the Bible as the infallible Word of God to take toward a pastor who does not thus believe in the Bible and who is undermining the faith of the young people in his church, and some others, by teaching that the Bible has many errors in it?

First of all, you ought to pray for your pastor; pray that God will open his eyes to the truth and also open his eyes to see the great harm he is doing.

Three godly men in a church in a New England city who had a pastor who was a brilliant man but who taught error instead of truth got together to pray for their pastor. Every week they met for prayer, oftentimes praying far into the night. They said nothing against their pastor to others but they said much for him to God. Every Lord’s Day they went to hear him preach and to watch for the answer to their prayers. One morning it became evident, before the pastor had gone far in his sermon, that God had opened his eyes to the truth and God gave to that church under that pastor’s ministry the greatest revival that that city had ever known.

2nd. After praying much and earnestly, you should go to your pastor in a spirit of humility and love and talk to him about the harm he is doing. Many a pastor has no realization of it what ever.

3rd. The probability is that, if you have his eyes opened, you will have occasion to rejoice as much in his work as you now lament over it. But if it should be that the pastor hardens his heart and will not see the truth, of course, you cannot support him in his error. In that case, you should pray that the church may have its eyes opened to see the harm that is done and should deal with the unfaithful pastor.

If the church will not do it, then, of course, there is but one thing to be done, to withdraw from that church and go to some church where the truth is preached. Colleges and theological seminaries and individual teachers and ministers that are undermining the faith of many, especially the young, are being supported today in their error by the gifts of men and women who are thoroughly loyal to the truth. Error would never have gained the foothold that it has in orthodox churches today if loyal believers had not allowed themselves to be misled into supporting institutions and individuals in the inculcation of error. The gifts to the church come largely from those who believe in the whole Bible, and yet the have not seldom been used for the support of men and institutions that were tearing down the faith that the givers were trying to build up.

It is not persecution to refuse to support a teacher that you believe to be teaching fundamental error. It is only good common sense. Of course, every man should have liberty to think for himself, but if his thinking leads him to hold views diametrically opposed to those of the persons who are supporting him, he ought to be glad to pay the price of his convictions and to suffer the withdrawal of support on the part of those who believe he is in fundamental error.

The one who supports a teacher of error is a partaker in his evil works. (II John 11).

First published in The King’s Business III:12 (December 1912), p. 335.

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