In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and T.A., I very much enjoy your ministry and I was telling a friend about it when she responded that you attack people in ministry without first going to them, according to the scriptures, specifically Matthew 18. I don’t see you attacking anyone, but I wonder, when you have doctrinal differences with others if, indeed, Matthew 18, applies. Does it?”
Tom: I don’t think it does, Dave. Well, I know it doesn’t.
Dave: Well, Matthew 18, says, “If your brother trespass against you, go to him alone.” This is a personal, private matter between two Christians—presumably they are Christians; it says “your brother.” That’s nothing that you would publish or that you would make public. You would keep it private.
Tom: You would deal with it before the Lord, as brother to brother. At least, you begin that way.
Dave: Right, but when someone is publicly teaching false doctrine—things that aren’t true— for example, we have just mentioned this lie, “Islam is peace.” Well, what am I going to do? I’m going to go to President Bush personally and say, “Brother Bush, that really isn’t right for you to say that.” No, it has nothing to do with me personally. Or, Robert Schuller says if he came back in a hundred years and found that all of his descendants were Muslims it wouldn’t bother him. Am I going to take that up with him personally? No, it has been broadcast to the world, whether it’s in books or radio or television. It must be corrected publicly. At least I have the right to give my opinion. They gave their opinion—why can’t I give my opinion?
Tom: And many people disagree with your opinion, Dave, and my opinion, and we would say, “Well, that’s your opinion—search the Scriptures.”
Dave: Right. This is not a personal attack upon someone.
Tom: Although sometimes it does develop into that.
Dave: Well, it shouldn’t. And I would not consider it an attack if someone tells me what I’ve said that was not true—publicly. Please, whoever is listening out there, if we have said things that are not true or that are not biblical, please correct us! We don’t want to carry on like that.
So, Matthew 18, as you said, Tom, absolutely does not apply in these instances. Paul said to Timothy, “Those that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” Even in a fellowship of believers: somebody is doing something—he is sinning; you don’t just go to them privately and say: “I don’t think you ought to burgle any more houses,” you know, or, “I don’t think you ought to commit adultery any more.” No, that has to be exposed, and there must be repentance.
But that’s not what this is talking about. Something between two brothers, you don’t gossip about it, you don’t pass it on to others, you don’t spread it. In other words, the idea is, let’s confine this problem to where it is at the moment. Let’s not make the conflagration any greater, but let’s try to put it out. So you go to your brother alone. If he will not hear you, then you take two witnesses, and if he will not hear them, then you take it before the church. I would take that to be the local church—you don’t broadcast it to the church universal.
Tom: Well, Dave, along these lines, do you believe its been almost sixteen years since The Seduction of Christianity came out?
Dave: Don’t tell me, Tom, how old I am getting—time goes.
Tom: And the reaction to that book, initially, and then down through the years, people wrote and said: “Well, did you go to Robert Schuller? Did you go to this person or that person?” Because Seduction was one of the first books dealing with the issues that it dealt with that actually named the names of the people who were—our concern was that they were preaching these things, teaching these things, in error, and they wanted to know if we went to them first.
Well, we certainly checked out what they had to say, and in some cases, rare cases, we had an opportunity, but then after the book came, out it seems like doors were opened for us to discuss some things. But Dave, very few—I can only think of one or two—instances in which we had an opportunity to talk to the person after the fact, and there was any change of heart or change of mind. In some cases, they agreed with us but did nothing about their books—didn’t change one jot or tittle in the books that we were concerned about.
Dave: Yeah, that was the problem. You could sit down with someone, and in private they would agree, “Yeah, you’re right,” but then not change what they had already said publicly. Well, of what benefit is that? If people are being led astray by the thousands, and perhaps even by the millions, what is the point of talking with someone privately and coming to an agreement? “Oh yes, what I said was wrong,” but then they don’t correct it. So there’s only one way, and that is to deal with it publicly, and Paul did it himself.
Galatians, chapter 2, it says, “When Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, and I said before them all, Peter, what you are doing is wrong. You are not walking honestly according to the gospel.”
Tom: Dave, look what it did to Peter’s ministry: look, his donations went down, his book sales, all those things were problematic, and that’s something…of course, I hope you all know I am kidding! Look what Peter says in his epistles about Paul.
Dave: “Our beloved brother Paul,” and refers to his epistles as scripture.
Tom: We need correction; we need godly correction, but sometimes pride doesn’t let us receive it—or greed, or whatever it might be.
Dave: Tom, we all know, 2 Timothy:3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, it is profitable [or to be used] for doctrine, correction, reproof, instruction in righteousness.” That’s what the Bible is for—it should correct my life, and we should be able to correct others, and they should be thankful for correction.
Tom: And earlier in 2 Timothy, it tells us how to go about it, in meekness, humility, and so on.