Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The author of the article I reviewed on my previous post (DOMINIONISM) used the word “cult” to describe the movement she was warning against.  Among many of my points of disagreement with her, was the use of this word to include what would appear to be the majority of Christians in America.  Apparently her definition of “cult” is different from mine.  A comment on that post made me realize I need to clarify my usage.

Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary gives a number of definitions of cult, but I believe the one Ms. Burton had in mind was number 3:  “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious”; also:  “its body of adherents.”

This is a broad enough definition to include just about any group the user of the term would disagree with.  After all, the definition didn’t specify who the “regarder” should be.  My apologies to Ms. Burton.

The definition I had in mind is a bit more specific and is, I believe, the usual definition used by evangelicals, who popularized the word in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s to describe quasi-Christian groups.  (I confess I could not find the source for my definition.)

A cult, by this definition, is a group that has at least the following three characteristics:
·        It has as its authority, the Bible plus some other authority which is often claimed to be divinely inspired (such as The Book of Mormon, Science and Health and Key to the Scriptures, etc.).
·        Its doctrine holds to a low view of who Jesus Christ is (A god rather than God, a glorified man, etc.).
·        It is exclusive and holds that there is no salvation outside the group.

Also a cult usually has, or at least was started by, a charismatic leader and often it is numerically small, but growing and thus perceived as a threat to orthodox Christianity.  There is also often some suggestion of “mind control.”

Though some groups are easy to identify by the above points, others are not always that clearly distinguished, and it seems that the word is losing its popularity among evangelicals.  Perhaps it is best to simply critique a movement for its individual teachings and not simply slap a label on it.

But though evangelicals may not use the term as often anymore, it has been picked up by secular and theological liberals, as seen in the article reviewed in the previous post.  And evangelical Christians have now, in their eyes, become cult members!

After all, if biblical doctrine is ignored, we do look rather cultish!  Our movement was started and is led by a charismatic Leader.  There is “mind control” (the Holy Spirit).  And Christianity is exclusive.  There is no salvation outside of Jesus!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


The other day I received a reference to an article:  “Following the Dominionist Threat Through the GOP’s 2012 Candidates” on the website:, with the comment, “Interesting.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.”

So I checked out the site Politicsusa, which claims to be “Real Liberal Politics – No Corporate Money Masters,” but I didn’t spend a lot of time there.  I did a quick read of the article and e-mailed back, “I’ve known about ‘Dominion Theology’ for a long time.  I’ll have to write some thoughts on it sometime.  Much of what the article says is true but I don’t believe it’s as tight a conspiracy as she implies.”

As usual, once some thoughts get stuck in my brain, they refuse to leave, so I’ve been chewing on them a while and I feel that I’d better write them down.

The following thoughts are both an attempt to critique the article and to critique what the article critiques.  I suppose that if I do this properly, I may offend my friends both on the right and on the left, though I don’t really intend to.

First, the article.  The author is Leah Burton, of whom I know nothing except what she has revealed of herself here.  She is apparently not a regular contributor to the site, but has been invited to submit a series of articles “leading up to the 2012 national elections,” because of her expertise on the topic, the movement which she refers to as “a very dangerous religious-political movement,” “religio-political extremism,” a “sect” and “a Bible-based cult,” among other things.  Ms. Burton is apparently quite concerned about this movement/cult that she says “has co-opted Christianity, the Republican Party” and apparently “conservatism” in general.  This is alarming, if true!

However, her broad brush strokes soon raise suspicions.  In this frightening movement (conspiracy?) which she says is “known broadly as Christian Dominionists,” she tells us, are included some well-known protestant denominations as well as some lesser known.  It is difficult to see how a “cult” can include the largest protestant denomination in America (the Southern Baptist Convention).  I had thought that cults were usually small and well out of the mainstream.  She also includes “the pre-millennialists, the post-mills” and seemingly any school of thought that could be considered evangelical.  And she doesn’t say that the “cult” includes just some from these groups.  Her implication is that it includes all; her use of the word “the” seems to make this clear.

By the time I’d finished reading the third paragraph, I had begun to realize that, by her definition, I would probably be considered a member of this “cult.”  And sure enough, she tells us a bit further on that “you must be ‘born-again’” is “the secret decoder-ring phrase that gets you in this exclusive club.”  (Didn’t Jesus say that this was the requirement for getting into the Kingdom of God?)

As she continues attacking the alleged beliefs of these “radical Christian fundamentalists,” she ends up including just about anyone whom we would consider an evangelical Christian.  She warns us not to confuse these persons with “the majority of Christians in America who are mainline Christians.”  Her math here is inaccurate.  The members she has included in this “cult” make up the majority of Christians in America!

She goes on to attack their “end times” beliefs, their desire to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:16-20 and their pro-Israel position, which she says is “schizophrenic,” as they are Jew-haters.  She attacks their anti-abortion views and sees them as only concerned about the fetus and not about the children who are born.

She concludes:  “No longer do we have the luxury of simple partisan politics in America.  After the infestation of the Republican Party by the political wing of the Dominionists we are now unable to think in terms of Democrat vs. Republican, or Liberal vs. Conservative – it is now a matter of freedom versus theocracy.”

This is a poorly written article.  One thing it clearly demonstrates is that the right does not have a monopoly on conspiracy theories!  By including such a broad spectrum of evangelical Christians in this movement/cult, she discredits her own warnings.  Most of us know people who would be involved and as I mentioned, many, myself included, would be considered by her as co-conspirators.

It seems to be a broad attack on any who are evangelicals not only for their political beliefs, but for their exclusivist religious beliefs.

Ms. Burton does, however, have a pretty clear idea of what the philosophy is that she is fighting.  Her definition is pretty clear.  “Defined in its simplest form, Christian Dominionism is a political approach to Christian faith based on a literal interpretation of Genesis Chapter l verses 26-28 of the Christian Bible.  Believers perceive themselves as the ‘chosen’ or the ‘elect,’ commanded by God to ‘subdue’ the earth and ‘have dominion’ over all living creatures.”   I would only disagree with her calling the interpretation of Genesis 1:26-28 “literal.”

And here is where I must confess that I agree with her.  I agree that what I’d call “Dominion Theology” is a real danger.  However – and this is extremely important – it is not a conspiracy, but a philosophy, an insidious philosophy.

Ms. Burton, in her third paragraph, seems to include all the persons in these groups in this vast conspiracy.  A few changes in wording would make it more accurate.  Dominionism as an “umbrella” does not include all the groups mentioned, but as a philosophy has penetrated the thinking of many who are members of these groups, usually without their being conscious of it.

This is not to say that Dominion Theology is not a “movement” with organization.  It is, though I would hesitate to call it a “cult.”  Dominion Theology, also known as Christian Reconstructivism and Theonomy had its beginnings with Rousas Rushdoony, a Christian minister, and his organization, the Chalcedon Foundation, founded in 1965.  It continues to this day through various ministries and newsletters, many of which are scholarly .  While their beliefs cover a broad field, they include along with Ms. Burton’s definition above, the belief that God’s laws as enumerated in the Torah (Exodus through Deuteronomy) were not given just for the nation of Israel, but are applicable today for any nation, especially the USA.

When it comes to eschatology (the doctrine of last things), Dominionists hold, of course to postmillennialism, the belief that we the people of God are to bring on an era of peace under the law of God before Jesus returns.  (Of course, Ms. Burtons’ inclusion of pre-millennialists seems ironic.)

Dominion Theology is best summed up by Gary North, one of the leaders in the movement:

“Adam forfeited his lawful inheritance when he rebelled against God.  Satan appropriated this inheritance as an illegal squatter.  He conquered the world in one day by Adam’s default.

Jesus’ ministry restored the inheritance to His people.  He announced a worldwide ministry of conquest, based on the preaching of the gospel of peace.  Christians are required to pursue the same program of world dominion which God originally assigned to Adam, and reassigned to Noah” (Genesis 9:1-17).
(Gary North, as quoted by House and Ice, Dominion Theology, pages 23, 24.)

Though the movement itself is not large (contra Ms. Burton’s claims) and few actually would call themselves by any of the labels used, its philosophy has, to a greater or lesser extent, influenced the thinking of many evangelicals, primarily, but not exclusively, those on the religious right.  Some evidences of its influence:
·        The attempts to rewrite history to show that America is a “Christian Nation.”
·        The desire to enforce what is perceived as a biblical morality through secular law.
·        The belief that social ills of any sort can be corrected through politics.
·        The resurgence of postmillennial thinking among many evangelicals.
·        The Great Commission is seen as a means to this end, rather than a reaction of love and obedience. 

There are also of course, some serious biblical and theological problems with Dominion Theology:
·        It doesn’t fully take into account the depravity of man.  Humankind apart from Christ can never bring anything near perfection to this earth.
·        It makes the gospel of Christ secondary, almost just a means to an end.
·        It ignores the fact that the Mosaic Law was part of the Covenant that the LORD made exclusively with one nation – Israel.
·        It apparently ignores the biblical history.  The one nation that had the Mosaic Law given to them failed miserably – over and over.
·        The biblical picture of this age is one of increasing depravity, rather than improvement.

I must admit that I have not studied this philosophy extensively.  Many of the above observations would probably be rebutted by Dominionists.  They have written extensively.

But I have studied it enough to know that it is dangerous.  And though I personally am unacquainted with who would refer to themselves as any Dominionists, I have seen this philosophy affect the thinking of many persons I do know.  This is a great danger!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Two Foundations
Matthew 7:24-29

It seems that almost weekly we are told of some prominent public figure who has failed morally.  Politicians and preachers seem to be competing with each other for the prize of the week, which is usually that of becoming the subject of late-night comedians’ monologues.  Often as we are told on our news media of the latest scandal, we are appalled (at least I am), not only at the sin committed, but its brazenness.  How could they be so stupid?  Well, perhaps it is because they were not building on the right foundation.

Am I?

“So then, everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them is like a wise man, who built his house on the rock.  And the rain came down and the rivers rose and the winds blew, and they smashed against that house and it didn’t fall, because its foundation was on the rock (24, 25).

And everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t do them is like a stupid man, who built his house on the sand.  And the rain came down and the rivers rose and the winds blew, and they crashed against that house, and it fell!  And what a big collapse! (26, 27)

And so it was when Jesus completed these words the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He was teaching them as One Who had authority and not as their scribes” (28, 29).

Jesus has come to the final words of His Sermon on the Mount.  As He draws nearer and nearer to the conclusion, we can almost feel the intensity increasing.  He keeps confronting His hearers with choices that they must make, expressed by various sets of twos:  two gates, two roads, two destinations, two trees, two fruits.  In this paragraph He presents a final pair from which His hearers must choose.  The choice here is the foundation on which one builds:  the rock or the sand.

Some will argue over whether this should be called a parable or not; I would call it one.  A parable is simply an extended simile or an extended metaphor.  In this case, it is an extended simile, a comparison of two unlike things which have something in common.  Notice the word “like.”

Not every detail in a parable has meaning so we should be careful not to let our imaginations run wild.  This parable seems clear.  There are two builders:  a wise man and a stupid man and two foundations:  rock and sand.  These also correspond with the previously mentioned sets of two.

The houses of the two builders are not compared.  We are left to assume that the differences are not in their construction or materials.  Perhaps they were both expert craftsmen and used only the best materials.  Nor are we told what the houses represent.  Perhaps they represent one’s present life.  Very possibly they represent the ministry of the prophets or teachers, if Jesus is continuing the warnings of 7:15-23.  Paul used similar metaphors in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, speaking of one’s life and ministry.

Jesus gives a pretty clear explanation of who the builders are.  The other elements of the parable are less clear.  From other passages we find that Jesus is often referred to as the Rock, or Stone (21:42; Acts 4:11). And we may want to use that same interpretation here.  But the implication here is that the Rock represents Jesus’ “words” or His sayings, and He is probably implying that it especially is the words He has just been speaking, i.e., this Sermon.

It is not simply that these are wise words, good advice to follow.  Jesus doesn’t simply say “My words,” but “these words of Mine,” which gives them special emphasis.

The concluding comment by Matthew (verses 28 and 29), though it follows a set formula (see 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1), also tells us something about Jesus’ words.  He tells us not only what the crowds' reaction was, but why they reacted the way they did.  “He was teaching them with authority.”  They had undoubtedly heard some good teaching before, even some that was based on the authoritative Scriptures of the Old Testament, but Jesus’ teachings were inherently authoritative.  His authority’s derivation was directly from the Father (Matthew 28:18).

Jesus doesn’t tell what the sand represents.  I suppose that the implication is that it is anything that is not the rock (1 Corinthians 3:11).

As far as the rain, the floods and the wind, we are not told what they represent.  They are the same for both houses.  We may think of them as everyday trials and the hardships of life, but in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament, they sometimes represent trials sent by God to reveal and judge the actuality of one’s life or speech.  In Ezekiel 13:9-16, the false prophets of Ezekiel’s day were told that “flooding rain and hailstones” would destroy the wall that they had built.  The parallel is not exact; there the destruction was due to faulty construction, while here it is due to building on the wrong foundation.

The warning is broad enough here to cover both groups in Jesus’ audience:  His disciples and the crowds.  And it has that same application today.  There is a warning here, both for believers and unbelievers, as well as an assurance for believers.

To withstand the vicissitudes of life we must build on the only foundation, Jesus Christ and His Word.  Anything else is bound for failure.  We may build a beautiful structure – a “successful” life, a successful ministry, but neither has permanence without Jesus.

It would be oversimplifying to simply say, “build your life on Jesus and His Word and everything will turn out – you’ll have a great success in your business, your family, your ministry, whatever”, but that seems to be the implication.  To not do so would definitely be to fail.  And we need to remember that God’s ruler for measuring success is different from ours.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens, but the one who does the will of My Father, Who is in the Heavens.

Many will say to Me in that day ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’

And then I will declare to them ‘I never knew you!  Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’”

This passage raises a number of serious questions and has frightened a number of people.  In fact, it has often been used to frighten people.  The main questions that are raised in people’s minds have to do with their eternal destiny.  Is this a warning that my behavior determines whether I’m saved or not?

I’ve looked at a number of commentaries and most seem to lean in that direction.  Often James 2:14-19 is referred to (“Faith without works is dead”).  So the claim is that Jesus is telling His hearers that unless they can produce works as evidence of their faith, then their faith is unreal and they can’t be saved.

A few comments on the phrases used in the text.  First, the phrase “enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens” (or as used elsewhere “enter into the Kingdom of God”) is used frequently by Jesus and is synonymous with “have eternal life” or “enter into life” or “be saved’.  See Matthew 19:16-25, where all four expressions are used in parallel.  It is apparently what Jesus was talking about when He told His hearers “enter in through the narrow gate.”  It speaks of that future time when we enter into Jesus’ eternal Kingdom.

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says “Amen, I tell you, unless you turn and become as the little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens.”  In John 3:5, Jesus tells Nicodemus that the new birth is the requirement for one to “enter the Kingdom of God.”

Then the phrase, “The will of My Father.”  This is another expression that Jesus uses frequently.  In John 6:40 Jesus says “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

So, if I may boil this down, Jesus is not coming up with multiple requirements for salvation.  There is one requirement:  faith in Him.  Whether we think of it as child-like faith or the new birth, it is the one great desire of the Father.

Jesus is still dealing with the warning against false prophets (verses 15-20).  His warnings there were in the second person (“watch out,” “know”) but here He switches to the third person.  It is those false prophets who are speaking here.  As He said in that warning, the test of a prophet is fruits.  Now He adds that it is not simply addressing Him by the title “Lord” that makes one a true prophet.  One can even acknowledge the lordship of Christ without saving faith.

There will be those who profess their miraculous deeds as qualifications for entrance to the Kingdom.  The works mentioned in verse 23, are the works one would expect a prophet to do.  Jesus doesn’t question the validity of the prophecies, exorcisms and miracles, which would seem to indicate that they were genuine.  Nor does He question the assertion that they were done in His name.  All of this is irrelevant.

The real issue, the requirement for entering the Kingdom is a relationship with Jesus.  Only those He knows will enter.  Does He know us?  Jesus gives this warning at least two other times (Matthew 25:12; Luke 13:27).  Familiarity with Him, good works done in His name, do not count.  It is only genuine faith in Him.

Monday, June 6, 2011


“It seems that expecting people to be convinced by the facts
flies in the face of, you know, the facts.”
Chris Mooney 

I read an interesting article (by Chris Mooney) in the May 30th issue of The Week, entitled ‘Made-up Minds,” condensed from a longer article in Mother Jones.

Mooney was attempting to deal with the strange phenomenon that people hold to all sorts of bizarre ideas, and cannot be convinced otherwise, even when confronted by facts to the contrary.  Actually, people often hold more tenaciously to their ideas when presented with contrary evidence.

Mooney presented an array of examples of such tenacity:  doomsday cults, global warming opponents, birthers.  He pointed out that education has little to do with it; in fact, those who hold these contrarian views the most tenaciously are often quite well educated and thus better able to defend them.

Mooney credits this anomaly to something known as “motivated reasoning” which he says “builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience:  reasoning is actually suffused with emotion.”  He explains, “We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close.”  He attributes this to our “fight-or-flight reflexes.”

“In other words,“ he tells us, “by the time we’re consiously reasoning, we may instead be rationalizing our prior emotional commitments.”  He gives an analogy:  “We may think we’re being scientists, but we’re actually being lawyers.”

This explains a lot.  When people are confronted with information that may be contrary to their belief systems, they don’t absorb it and check it out for its factuality, they automatically hit the reject button.  Rather than using reason to examine whether the information is true and seek how to fit it in with previous knowledge or to modify previously held views, the emotions take over and employ reason to defend cherished positions.

Do Christians do this?  I’m afraid we – especially evangelicals – are so concerned about maintaining the truthfulness of our positions that we often shut out the possibility of taking in new truth.  We like to think of it as “defending the faith.”

But if all truth is God’s truth, then this is an improper (though natural) reaction.  We should have nothing to fear.

And what’s more, we sometimes employ unChristian means in our reactions to those whom we regard as assailing our cherished beliefs.  We personally attack our “opponents” (i.e., those who present new, contrary information) verbally and question their motives.  And it is not always the essentials of the faith that we desire to defend.  More often than not, it is some little morsel of “truth”; and, it’s often more political than theological.

It seems to me that we may be taking our cues, not from the Word of God, but from talk radio and the TV news networks.  There we find little rational discourse but personal attacks.  When speaking of or to someone with whom the speaker disagrees, motives are immediately brought forth and the truth is ignored.  Interviews become, not discussions, but quarrels.  The truthfulness of a person’s views is not discussed, except as a basis for character assassination.  And yes, preachers and Bible teachers often behave in the same manner.

I recently had the experience of having my motives and character called into question because I had questioned some statements made by some Christian folks on Facebook, people who did not even know me.  It was not the first time and it probably won’t be the last, but it called my attention back to this article.

I suppose I should rejoice; I’m in good company.  The Apostle Paul had his motives questioned many times, and at least one time it was by people that he had personally ministered to, many of whom he had personally led to faith in Christ.  His words to them are informative.

I Corinthians 4:3-5:  “But to me it is the least thing that I should be examined by you or by a human court.  In fact, I don’t even examine myself, yet I am not justified in this, but the Lord is the one who examines me (3, 4).

So then don’t go on judging before the time; wait till the Lord comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and expose the motives of our hearts.  And then each one’s praise will come from God” (5).

The word translated “examine” is the Greek word anakrino, which is a legal term meaning something like “examine before trial,” “investigate,” even “conduct a preliminary hearing.”  It was used of Pilate’s “examination” of Jesus in Luke 23:14.  I t is used frequently in Acts of the “examination” of the Apostles and others by various courts (4:9; 12:19; 24:8, 28:18).  Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 2:14, 15 of the Spirit’s work of “evaluating.”

Throughout the New Testaments, believers are urged to “judge” behavior.  Even in this letter (5:1ff), Paul urges his readers to deal with a brother who was shacking with his stepmother.  Behavior does matter!  But what Paul was speaking about here, was something different.  They were apparently judging his motives.  That was off limits.

If I may paraphrase loosely what I believe Paul was saying to his readers is this:

“You are putting me on trial and examining what you believe are my motives.  It means nothing to me.  I’m not even capable of understanding my own motives.  I have a clear conscience but really, only the Lord really knows my (or anyone else’s) motive.

So stop condemning me for what you thing my motives are.  You can’t know that.  Just wait till the Lord returns.  He’ll reveal to us all what’s really going on in our hearts.  And then He will praise us, if He can.”

So what can we learn from all this?  What have I learned?  How am I to respond to truth claims that seem to contradict my beliefs?
·        Listen.  The one who presents new information which classes with my views is not necessarily attacking me.
·        If all truth is God’s truth, facts can’t hurt me or my belief system.
·        My responsibility, when presented with new or conflicting truth claims, is to examine them to ascertain if they are really true.  Of course, the truth I already know is one standard for examining.
·        If the new information proves to be true, I may need to modify my belief system.  Not all things that I (and other Christians) believe, are essential.

As Chris Mooney says, “If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it in a context that doesn’t trigger a defensive, emotional reaction.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Matthew 7:15-20

“Watch out for the false prophets, the ones who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inside are ravenous wolves. (15).

You will know them by their fruits.  People don’t gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles do they? (16)

Likewise, every good tree produces good fruit, and every bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree isn’t able to produce bad fruit, neither is a bad tree able to produce good fruit. (17, 18)

Every tree which doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (19, 20)

The above passage looks pretty relevant today.  If I were leading a discussion on this passage and asked for suggestions for candidates, I would probably hear the following:
·        That preacher who said the world would end last week.
·        The preacher in Florida who got all that publicity for threatening to burn a Koran.
·        The people from that church in Kansas who picket servicemen’s funerals with their GOD DATES FAGS signs.
·        That preacher up in Michigan who denies hell.

We could all probably come up with some more:  preachers who say bizarre or crazy things; preachers whose own lives and behavior do not align with their moral pronouncements.  These people give Christianity and Christ a bad name.

But are they all false prophets in the sense that Jesus meant?  How can we be sure?  What are our criteria for knowing?

I believe that while there are many preachers out there with whom I would disagree vehemently, I (we) must be very careful about judging them.  Jesus has already warned of this danger (7:1-5).  So before we name some specifically, we need to back up and look at this concept of false prophets.  It did not originate on the lips of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

First, we need to define what a prophet is.  The popular idea is that a prophet is one who predicts the future.  Certainly that is true, but a prophet was much more than simply a predictor.  The Greek word from which we get our English word, the word used here, is prophetes, which is made up of two Greek words, the prefix pro, which has the idea of precedence, “before” or “in front of,” and phemi, “speak.”  The word has the basic meaning of “one who speaks forth” and in the New Testament is one who speaks for God (or a god).  Prediction was only one aspect of the prophets’ work.  The word in the Hebrew Old Testament is NABI, which has essentially the same meaning.

In Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah – the Mosaic Law, Moses gives two criteria for examining whether a prophet was a true or false prophet.  The first, found in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 is, if a prophet – even if his prophecies come true – entices God’s people to worship other gods, he is a false prophet.

The second criterion, found in 18:20-22 is, if a prophet – even though he speaks in the name of the LORD – gives prophecies that don’t come true, he is a false prophet.

So the two criteria for judging a prophet were the truth of his statements and the truth of his worship or behavior.  And if either proves him false, he was to be put to death.

Jesus now gives His hearers what appear to be new criteria:  “fruit.”  We understand that this word is an analogy.  It stands for something, but what?  The word is used frequently throughout the New Testament and usually seems to be speaking of the products of one’s life.  For the believer the fruits are the tangible evidence of the life of Christ in the believer, the products of the Christian life.  In the Gospels the word is found not only in Jesus’ speech but also that of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:8-10).  We find it also in the writings of Paul and James, as well as in the Book of Hebrews.  In some passages it may also speak of converts (John 15:2-8; Romans 1:13).  In Galatians 5:22, 23, Paul describes “the fruit of the Spirit” as the particular character traits produced by the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.

The New Testament is full of similar warnings.  Jesus Himself had much more to say.  All the New Testament writers did.  Paul even picked up Jesus’ analogy and warned that these people were not always outsiders, as he warned the elders of the church at Ephesus.

“I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and men will rise up from your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:19, 20).

In 7:1-5, Jesus had warned of the danger involved in judging a “brother.”  He did not, however, condemn judging in the sense of discernment.  He actually expects His hearers to discern and be concerned about restoring a sinning brother.  And He also expects His hearers to know the difference between a brother and a “dog” or “pig” (verse 6).  He expects His hearers – and us – to be able to distinguish the true from the false when it comes to those who claim to speak for God.

I believe the “fruits” we are to look for in anyone who claims to speak for God are similar to those two requirements of the Law – truth in statements and truth in worship or behavior.

We are responsible for evaluating the truth claims of those who claim to be proclaiming the truth.  We have a standard – the Scripture – the written Word of God.  We have a great example in the Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures every day to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).  They had what could be called a healthy skepticism, even of the great apostle Paul.

And we should also examine the lifestyle of those who claim to be spokespersons for God.  Does their life line up with what they speak?  Are they living a life which would bring honor to Christ?  Do they have a personal relationship with Him?  These are valid questions.

However, there is a need for a few warnings:
·        This passage is speaking of “prophets,” and by extension, teachers.  Jesus is not giving us a license to be “fruit inspectors” of our brothers and sisters in order to grade them or even fail them.
·        Differences in doctrine do not make one a false prophet.  We must remember that a person who disagrees with us is not necessarily disagreeing with God.
·        We are not called on to judge a preacher or teacher’s motives (see 1 Corinthians 4:1-5).  The word fruits applies to what can be seen.  We cannot see what goes on in a person’s mind.