There are many ministries out there today that are dedicated to exposing false teaching, pointing out false prophets, and making the church aware of aberrant movements. These ministries have been sometimes called “heresy hunters” and with the rise of the internet, heresy hunter websites and ministries are becoming more common.
It is true that we must be on guard against false teaching and false prophets. Jesus warned about being deceived by false prophets, and Paul, Peter, and Jude all wrote to be on guard against false doctrine and false ministers. I have written previously about the danger of mixture, the problem of hype, and the need to avoid prophetic manipulation and false prophets.
But I am of the opinion that most of these “heresy hunter” ministries do more harm than good. Anyone that becomes known in the Christian world becomes an immediate target for these ministries. Statements get taken out of context, movements are painted with a broad brush, and accusations are made without proper information or process. On top of all of this, most of these type of ministries do not believe in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, so anyone who is operating in the power of God is especially targeted as a counterfeit.
As a result of all of this, many genuine men and women of God get called “false prophets” by these heresy hunters. Instead of “defending the faith”, fear, paranoia, false accusation, and disunity is the fruit.
Recently, I have started to notice another trend; something that I will call “Pharisee hunters.” With the rise of grace teaching, and the debate over hyper-grace, I am noticing some of the “grace camp” become very quick to call other ministers “Pharisees.”
Terms such as holiness, repentance, the fear of the Lord, and spiritual disciplines—which are all clearly taught throughout the New Testament—have become red flags to some of these grace teachers. Anyone who speaks on the need for holiness becomes labeled a “Pharisee.” If you talk about seeking God with prayer and fasting, you get called “religious.” Calls to repentance are seen as unnecessary, and the fear of the Lord is seen as an “Old Covenant concept.”
The teachings of Jesus, Paul, and Peter would all have to be excluded from the Pharisee hunter’s belief system. All three spoke of the fear of God. All three spoke clearly of the need for holiness. (Yes, holiness must be empowered by grace; but grace does not remove the requirement for holiness). Repentance was core to the message Jesus in His earthly ministry, and He preached it to the churches in the book of revelation after He was resurrected. Spiritual disciplines were taught and demonstrated by Jesus, Paul, and the early church.
I think that both heresy hunters and Pharisee hunters have this in common: they have both reacted to error and caused another error as a result. And they are both doing damage to the body of Christ.
We must absolutely stand against false teaching; but not in the way of the heresy hunter. We must walk in discernment and love the truth, but not be controlled by a fear of deception. We must be careful what we label as heresy, and who we call a false prophet. Remember, when Paul warned of false teachers he did it with tears in his eyes, not stones in his hands (see Acts 20:31).
We must not succumb to the religious spirit of the Pharisees; but we must avoid the way of the Pharisee hunter as well. We must embrace the whole counsel of God’s Word, not throwing out parts in the name of “grace.” Legalism must be dealt with, but we must not take on a distortion of grace that is not biblical. We must not lower God’s standards, but walk in them by the grace God gives through the cross.
Please, don’t be a heresy hunter…but don’t be a Pharisee hunter either!