The world as well as the religious segment has long complained about "name calling." There are also strong movements underway within churches of Christ to remove all identification. The devil, I submit, has always sought vagueness, veiled accusation, and anonymity (Gen. 3: 4, 5). Opposition to "name calling" usually falls under two categories: doctrinal and spiritual softness, and the protection of error and the means of accusing the faithful preacher who exposes error and the errorist. The identification of errorists is certainly scriptural (2 Tim. 1: 15). There does not appear to have been a hard fast practice among inspired preachers in the matter of identifying false teachers by name. Sometime, they did call the name and on occasion, they withheld the name of the false teacher (2 Tim. 2: 17, 18; I Cor. 15: 12, 32). No doubt, the prevailing circumstances determined the need as to the degree of identification. Let us now explore the scriptures to determine more about such exposure.
Before we become more specific in our study of error and teachers of error, we must first appreciate the fact that God recognizes the truth and hates error. The Godhead that consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit singularly accent truth and denounce error (Duet. 32: 4; Jn. 1: 14, 14: 6; Jn. 15: 26, 16: 13). It is in the word of God that we learn what is the truth and, by contrast, what is fallacious (Jn. 17: 17, I Thes. 2: 13). Man is morally obligated to speak the truth, handle it aright, and walk and worship in the truth (Eph. 4: 15, 25; 2 Tim. 2: 15, 2 Cor. 4: 2; 2 and 3 John; Jn. 4: 24).
Possible situations regarding religious teachers. The scriptures reveal a number of possible scenarios relative to those who purport to be teachers of the word. One may sincerely preach the truth in love (Phili. 1: 17, Eph. 4: 15). One may preach the truth, but have impure motives (Phili. 1: 15, 18). We also observe that one may teach error but have a good heart (Acts 18: 24-28). In the just referenced case of Apollos, he did not continue to teach partial truth when he learned the whole truth. Had Apollos refused the truth explained to him by Aquila and Priscilla, he would have ceased having a good heart (see Jn. 7: 17). Moreover, there is the circumstance of one teaching error with an intent to deceive the hearers (Eph. 4: 14, 2 Pet. 2: 3, 10, 12, 15, 18, 19). Regardless of the situation, when error is taught it must be exposed for the sake of others who might be adversely influenced. However, there must be accuracy in such name calling, having verified the damnable teaching of the person. We cannot always know the motives, but we can and must know the teaching.
The scriptures are replete with instances of name calling. Jesus called names in that he clearly identified false religions (cp. Matt. 23: 23). Paul called names on a number of occasions (2 Tim. 2: 17, 18). We find Luke naming individuals (Acts 13: 8, 18: 24). John, the apostle of love, did not hesitate to mention people by name (3 Jn. 9). Nehemiah the great prophet of God called names (Nehe. 6: 14). Moses is also seen naming certain men (Num. 16: 1).
Proposed reasons for not identifying teachers of error. "You must first privately go to the person and talk to him," we are told. In this connection, Matthew 18: 15 is sited. However, the text and instruction of Matthew 18 is pertaining to personal transgressions or to one being directly sinned against, not to simply the matter of a general teacher of perverse matters (see Matt. 18: 15-21). Some discourage identification by saying, "he is not a false teacher because he is honest in his inaccurate teaching." As seen above, when error is propagated, it must be challenged and the proponents revealed. If the teacher is truly honest, he, as Apollos, will repent of the false teaching and will embrace the truth. We also hear, "he is only off on one point." One damnable error is all it takes (Jas. 2: 10, 2 Pet. 2: 1). Promoters of falsehood are defended with the argument, "look at all the good he does." We also often hear it said, "he promised not to teach it publicly." While one may not publicly teach believed error, that person will not teach the involved truth. Hence, error by omission (Acts 20: 27). Besides, many who say they will not teach their false beliefs publicly will privately peddle them.
Reasons for calling names and identifying sources. In a given case, there can be different reasons involved for providing clear identification. There can and should be the effort to expose and limit evil (I Tim. 5: 20). It is obvious that naming certain teachers is involved in the enjoined "marking" process (Rom. 16: 17). It is also possible that the person calling the name may be prompted out of envy and political strife. However, unless we have some means of knowing, we must not assign motives, but consider the evidence of the charges and determine the guilt of the person so named.
Application of the observed biblical truths. One section of Bible Truths is "Quotations." This section simply provides statements made by different men and it has come under frequent attack. "You should not have identified the author of the statement," I have frequently been told. I ask, why not? If I have known my motives (I believe I do), my goal has been to challenge the error and reveal the proponent of the digressive teaching. Let us now illustrate the too often forgotten biblical practice of naming names.
"We take the position that a Christian's sins do not damn his soul! The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul .All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger .The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul." -Sam Morris, Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Stamford, Texas (A Discussion Which Involves A Subject Pertinent To All Men, pg. 1, 2.).
In all probability, Mr. Morris was attempting to stress salvation by grace. However, he went too far. Being of Baptist background, I have heard Baptist preachers say essentially the same thing that Sam Morris said. Involved in such a belief is also the Calvinistic teaching of once saved, always saved. Such a belief is patently false and closely resembles the false teaching mentioned in Romans 6: 1, 15.
Many argue that Masonry is not a religion. Hence, one can be a member of a religious order and not experience any conflicts in being a Mason. Consider the following official quote:
"Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion and its teachings are instruction in religion Here we meet as brethren, to learn to know and love each other .This is the true religion revealed to the ancient patriarchs; which Masonry has taught for many centuries, and which it will continue to teach as long as time endures." (Morals and Dogmas, pg. 325.)
Regarding water baptism, Edward Hiscox wrote the following:
"Baptism is not essential to salvation, for our churches utterly repudiate the dogma of 'baptismal regeneration;' but it is essential to obedience, since Christ has commanded it. It is also essential to a public confession of Christ before the world, and to membership in the church which is his body. And no true lover of his Lord will refuse these acts of obedience and tokens of affection" - Edward T. Hiscox (Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, pg. 20, 21).
I too, repudiate the dogma of baptismal regeneration. However, one can teach, as do the scriptures, the essentiality of water baptism without advocating baptismal regeneration (I Pet. 3: 21).
Beloved, one chief reason Jesus came, died, and was resurrected was his church, his spiritual bride (Acts 20: 28; Eph. 5: 22 ff.). Being in Christ or his spiritual body (the church) is of the utmost importance. It is in this relationship with Jesus that one has redemption, forgiveness, and freedom of condemnation (Eph. 1: 7, 3, Rom. 8: 1). There is only one body, having distinctive teaching, goal, and structure (Eph. 4: 4; 2 Jn. 9; I Tim. 3: 15; Acts 14: 23). Religious division is unmistakably condemned (I Cor. 1: 10 ff.). Contrast these biblical truths with the teaching of Mr. Billy Graham:
"Join the church of your choice and glorify God." (My Answer, 12/15/55).
"Real competition serves purpose, even in religion If they were all united into one congregation and under one organization, they might not reach as many people or put as many people to effective work for Christ." (My Answer, 3/12/54).
"Whenever anyone points a critical finger and demands to know why there have to be so many different churches all serving the same God, I am always tempted to point out how many different styles of hats have to be designed for both American men and women. We all belong to the same human race, but we all have enough physical differences to make it impossible for us to wear the same style of hat with equal satisfaction." (Peace with God, pg. 193).
Genesis chapter one presents creation having taken place during a six day period of time. These days are obviously six twenty-four hour days. However, Shane Scott who served as a teacher at Florida College (viewed as the seminary for the churches of Christ by some) taught the following:
"Some Bible believers insist that the world, according to Genesis 1, was created in six twenty-four hour days. I believe, however, that the days of Genesis 1 should not be interpreted literally. The 'days" of creation in Genesis 1 cannot be literal .." (Shane Scott's present teaching , click on to document.)
I have been asked, "Don, how would you like it if someone quotes you and calls your name?" I am quoted all the time and I have no problem with it, as long as I am accurately quoted. Those who teach must be held responsible for their teaching. Teachers and preachers should have nothing to hide and should always be "set in defense of the gospel" (Phili. 1: 17). I find my name and attached quotations when I do searches on the Internet. I am pleased to be quoted. When I find my material being quoted in a context of negation, I read the material to determine the accuracy and if I could have been wrong in my teaching.
In closing, teaching must be examined (Acts 17: 11). Teachers must welcome such examination (cp. I Jn. 4: 1). The doctrine that one must not call names and quote from those named is diametrically opposed to the scriptures, as we have seen, and is the ideal climate for false teaching to thrive.