Why Open Letters?
Though the bible never records an "Open Letter" per se, it plainly demonstrates the general concept. Just as the scriptures do not mention the word "Trinity" they plainly teach the concept in many other ways, so it is with openly declaring the doctrinal errors of teachers in the church.
The Apostle Jude, for instance, admonished first century Christians to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The word contend in this context means to struggle, fight or to strive as in a contest or with an adversar. That Jude issued such a command demonstrates that "the faith" was being compromised and that action was needed. Though difficult to accept, we might be naïve to think that "the faith" was being compromised in Jude's day, but not in our day - millennia later.
Paul also addressed this very issue. "Mark them," implored the Apostle, "which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned" (Rom 16:17). The Greek word translated "mark" in this passage is the word skopeo. James Thayer says this word means, "to look at, observe, contemplate, to mark." 1 Strong explains that the word means "to take aim at." 2
To take aim at? Could Paul possibly mean that we are to "take aim at" leaders in the Christian church? Indeed dear reader, flawed doctrine within the church arrested the Apostle's attention and evoked such staunch exhortation. Undaunted by the threats of men, Paul also warned Timothy about Hymenaeus and Philetus whose teaching "will spread like gangrene" (2 Tim 2:17) and "upset the faith of some" (2 Tim. 2:18).
Though it is difficult to imagine that our most popular leaders deserve open confrontation, kindly consider Paul's open rebuke directed to the most prominent church leaders of early Christianity. "But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel," noted Paul, "I said unto Peter before them all" (Gal 2:14). Here, Paul withstood Peter openly because when those we trust are teaching what they ought not to teach others are led astray as was Barnabas in Galatians two.
Open declaration of doctrinal error is scriptural, especially if the teachers were shown their errors but refuse to repent. This general concept is also demonstrated in Matthew 18:15 - 17. Therein Jesus teaches that we are to approach a brother privately, but if he refuses to hear, our Lord commands us to - "tell it unto the church" (Matt 18:17).
Jesus also demonstrated this idea of openly declaring dangerous errors. "Get thee behind me Satan," declared our Lord to one of His dearest disciples, thus demonstrating the loving, redeeming purpose of open exhortation. "So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans," warned the Master, "which thing I hate" (Rev 2:15). In this friend, the church at Pergamum needed no guesswork to determine whose teaching to avoid. Why? Because the Master marked and openly exposed erroneous teaching.
Also in Revelation chapter 2, Jesus warned the church in Thyatira about the false teaching of the self-proclaimed prophetess Jezebel. Keep in mind dear reader, these teachers weren't the leaders of some obscure cults cowering in some dark theological corner. They were in the Christian churches and widely accepted!
"I have a few things against thee," rebuked the Lord, "because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols" (Rev 2:20). The Greek word translated sufferest in this context means to tolerate. By merely tolerating bad teaching, the church at Thyatira earned an open rebuke in the eternal record! Jesus expects His church to test her teachers and their teachings.
It is not my intention to attack, demean or to call into question the character of the teachers addressed in these open letters. I have no knowledge of them personally or of their character, only of their doctrine - which is seriously aberrant if scripture is our rule. I do not believe for a moment that these icons of modern, pop Christian culture intentionally lead the masses astray. These are sincere men. They are however, sincerely wrong men - sincerely deceived men.
Contend we must gentle reader, for sincere but sorely deceived teachers unwittingly water down the word of God and "distort the gospel of Christ" (Gal 1:7). "And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially," lamented the Almighty, "saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace" (Jer 6:14). Beguiled by big ministries with big names followed by big academic degrees, multitudes swallow theological swill served up by a name they are told to trust. Gentle reader, I pray you will consider these letters and see if the concerns of your servant are not warranted.
1. James Thayer, Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database, 2000, Biblesoft
2. Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.
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