Someone said to me, the last time we were out with the Pastor on Saturday morning handing out tracts, ‘I’m saved, so I don’t need your church.’ As there’s not a lot you can say to that except ‘good’, I didn’t bother saying even that. There’s no reason at all it shouldn’t be so, and even given the well-known human capacity for self-deception, he was probably no worse than the rest of us when atheists wonder why we worship a God whose existence we can’t prove.
If he has emulated the Bereans and Paul and tested his revelation against Scripture and the teaching of the early church then fine. But what are we to make if what he says cuts right across the usual readings of Scripture? You don’t have to go very far to find folk whose teaching does just that. Well, maybe they are saved, but if they are deceived, and if they deceive others, what then?
In the old days, Christians sometimes took a short-cut and burnt such folk, and some of those they deceived. In the Islamic world they still take drastic action against such folk; they’d not, however, be keen if Christians treated them in such a fashion, but since we’ve largely given up on that sort of thing, we shan’t find out.
The Catholic Church can excommunicate those in its ranks who preach heresy, although I think it rarely does nowadays; it can also deprive those who are Catholic teachers of their licence to teach as Catholics. Protestant churches tend to throw folk out, and they still have quite spectacular rows with each other. Anglicans, well, at the risk of teasing Struans, is there any opinion an Anglican Christian can express and be deprived of the name of Anglican?
The fact is that for all we worry about false teaching, there’s really nothing one can do about it – except to try to use good arguments to drive out bad. Out here in the Wild West of the Internet, everyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s, and if you don’t like someone else’s facts, you can make your own up. But men have done that always – we simply have wider and more instant access to it than any generation in history.
Patience, a thick skin and knowledge of your Bible is a great help in this endeavour, but as someone once commented, there never was a heretic who could not quote Scripture; indeed we know from Scripture that the Devil himself is dab hand at it, as we see in Matthew 4.
It is this search for certainty, as I commented earlier, which leads folk into one of the bigger churches, and if that settles them, fine. Those of us in smaller churches need to be very Berean like though. I don’t know what you do if you’ve been told personally you’re saved. How you know it is not a demon, I’ve no idea, it isn’t as thought demons come to you in their true image and tempt you; not even fallen mankind is daft enough to fall for that one.