Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Discernment Lesson: Jack Kelley

EPrata photo
It's not easy to determine if someone is a false teacher or is fairly solid but teaching false things temporarily. At what point does one decide not to follow a certain teacher anymore? I've written about this in the past. For each person the tipping point might be different.

One reason people have different tipping points could be because people have certain non-negotiables which are deal-breakers for them. For example, some who have been false converts for many years and were graciously awakened to their lost state have a low tolerance for easy believism. Some who were in a Charismatic church and have been graciously delivered have a low tolerance for healing crusades and charlatans. Others simply recognize they do not yet possess as much discernment as they need in order to continue following a certain teacher, so they go away from him or her to be on the safe side.

Nor should it be easy to cast someone's name into the fire of falsity. Making such a determination requires humility, discernment, patience, and wisdom. Making a hasty judgment would mean we've impugned a brother or sister, and God takes a dim view of that. (Romans 14:19).

However the alternate should also stand. If we should manifest discerning patience in watching a bible teacher or preacher's trajectory, when that tipping point is reached and enough biblical evidence is accumulated, we should not be hesitant to declare for Jesus and point this person out as a destroying enemy. (Romans 16:17).

For me, Rick Warren praying to the false god Isa, promoting corporate growth strategies for church, man-centered theology, consistently failing to give the Gospel to audiences he was invited to speak to, not to mention ecumenism with Islam and Catholicism, is enough for me to say "false."

Beth Moore's bible twisting, her shallow and emotional storytelling narcissistic approach, pop psychology, automatic/occult writing, and puffed up visions showed me that I can say "false" with confidence and biblical integrity.

Billy Graham's lifelong compromises with Catholicism and his universalism make it clear to me that he, sadly, is also false.

And Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Mark Driscoll's many sins against Jesus are the equivalent of training wheels on the discernment bike for baby Christians to spot as false. Or should be.

At some point in time, all of the above began to show their aberrant doctrines. And at some point one discerning person saw them while others less discerning didn't see them yet. Especially when it's early, we should not jump to conclusions, but watch.

Be serious students of the word, as the Bereans were
I'd like to raise a huge red flag regarding Jack Kelley of GraceThruFaith.com. There are enough things taught at his website that cause me to fear for the less discerning. He promotes:

Easy Believism

Gap Theory

Old Earth is OK

And a while back, he heartily refuted anything and everything about Calvinism (AKA Doctrines of Grace). I have not been able to re-discover those essays on the newly designed website in order to link to them.

I caught the opening to a Bible Study recently published on the site recently and I'd like to use it as a discernment lesson. Though Mr Kelley does use the Bible and seems to treat it with proper respect, the above and this below is a flag. Personal revelation is one of my deal-breakers. Let's unpack this opening statement to a recent Bible study and think it through.

Please note the black underline. The title is "Bible" study. Good enough. I like those.

The first sentence declares that the message he is about to teach was given to the author directly by the Lord. Ergo, it was not derived by the "Bible" through study. There's an immediate contradiction and an immediate problem.

This is a red flag. No messages are ever given personally by the Lord. Understanding of His word, His will, His plan for us are given in the Bible. This is the Doctrine of Illumination and it's one of the Spirit's ministries. (Ephesians 1:17-18).

We turn to the red underline. Excited, the half-asleep author hastily scribbled down the thoughts and went back to sleep. I've done this. Every writer of secular material does. However, note the method by which he claimed to have tested whether the Spirit had just knit together an understanding of scripture. It made sense to him, so he decided. Yet Acts 17:11 called the Bereans noble because they tested what they were being taught against scripture (note, being taught in real life, not personally receiving a message while half-asleep).

Let's look at the Acts 17:11 verse closely. We want to be called noble.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

--they received the word with eagerness. Their eagerness bespeaks a diligence. They sought it out. (Strong's on the word eagerness, prothumias, "who is already being willing, i.e. an eager disposition which is pre-inclined, already "ready and willing"). In other words, they were not lying in bed half asleep startled that the Lord personally plopped wisdom and understanding of the verses to their mind.

--they examined the scriptures. What they heard, they tested against what was written. They allowed scripture to be the benchmark of whether it passed the test. They did not say  'Oh! It makes sense to me, it must be true.'

--they did so daily. This bespeaks a constancy in their attempts to both study and grow. It also bespeaks a maturity in that they didn't relax their guard on a favored teacher nor did they relax their diligence on their own selves in the fleshly mind. Pride wants to say "Oh, yah, I've been doing this for years, I can tell when something makes sense", laziness wants to say "Aw, you know it is probably true, no need to test." Yet Humility and Obedience says "I will always use the Bible to test what I hear because the Lord is worth it and the devil is prowling."

After receiving the word, the Bereans checked.

Now sometimes we say things in shorthand. I hear people say "The Lord told me" when I know they actually mean "I've studied this for a week and the Spirit illuminated its eternal wisdom to my mind." 'Lord told me' is shorter. So maybe in this example case that is what happened. However...

In writing though we want to be clear. There is room on a web page for a few more words stating the method by which we arrived at an interpretation. Failing to do so and instead putting out a notion that it was gained half-asleep by revelatory means is misleading and dangerous. At the least, it perpetuates slang we should strive heartily to rid ourselves of. If a person is mature enough in the faith to have derived an interpretation studiously by the Spirit, they are mature enough to say the lesson is founded on normal means of interpretation.

And really, does it inspire confidence in your teacher when he reveals the lesson is founded on scribbled notes gained while half-asleep? Does such a statement do justice to the stricken and risen Lord?

No matter how solid the ensuing Bible study seems to a person, its opening is immediately corrupted by stories of half-asleep revelatory interpretations and testings that make sense apart from having tested against the only standard there is: the Bible. After all, this IS a Bible study. If there is a problem at the outset with the method arrived at or the foundation on which it rests, no matter how good the rest of the lesson seems to be, it's an interpretation standing on sifting sand. And we all know what happens when the tide comes in.


And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be
like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. Mt 7:26. (EPrata photo)

The upshot of this discernment lesson is two fold:

Let's dispense with Christianese shorthand like "The Lord told me". This confuses the less discerning into thinking that unique interpretations delivered by revelatory means are standard, when they aren't.

Let's watch the language and methods of the teachers under whom we choose to sit, in real life or online. What they say is often a first indicator of a growing problem. There are buzz words satan likes to use and be alert for those.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:19)

Evil thoughts here is the Greek word dialogismos, and it means
"reasoning that is self-based and therefore confused – especially as it contributes to reinforcing others in discussion to remain in their initial prejudice".
So watch out for those buzz words and any teaching that includes even a bit of "The Lord gave me a message and I'm going to teach it to you now." Once you attune your mind to be alert for it, you'll be surprised at how dismayingly often you hear it. Instead, stick to the pure word and people who interpret it purely (as possible)

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5)


15 comments :

  1. I generally say "the Lord showed me" which implies a thing that was taught rather than hearing a voice. Yet as I read this, I see how even that could be confusing for a weaker brother or sister in Christ as they could interpret it as I'm claiming special revelation. From now on I will use more than those three words when I share what I've learned as I study God's word!

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    1. Hi Linda,

      Thanks, that's great news! Thank you for taking it to heart.

      The other difficulty with phrasing like that is is puts the onus on God, and sets what the person has learned apart, because it 'came from God' to the special person claiming revelation. If the Lord showed Mr Kelley then how can I discuss with him or anyone else having a different interpretation, or even where to look in the Bible? If it is a message from God is should be believed absolutely, yet the Bible Teacher is not writing inspired scripture...

      I think better is "I learned through my study that..." or "I believe the text is saying..."That way the onus is on us and we don't include God in any kind of violating interpretations, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

      I am going to be vigilant myself over this as well.

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  2. I think we all will be much safer from falling into following false teachers if we quit following people altogether. We are called to follow Christ and as believers we all have the Holy Spirit to guide us. It is also of utmost importance for us to know the Bible well and study it for ourselves and to read what it really says instead of taking at face value some one person's interpretation of it.This personally has helped me to grow really fast spiritually and gave me discernment. I am really blessed to have had a pastor in my early days of my Christian walk who helped me to grow and taught me to follow Christ instead of following him. This is the difference between the godly teachers, pastors, and ministers and the false ones. Godly leaders help you to grow and point to God, not themselves. So, I agree with you, we must be really careful about who we listen to. God bless everyone.

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    1. Hi Edya, I'm glad you had a Godly pastor to help you in your early days. We should all be so blessed.

      God no doubt raised up your pastor into the position he was in, so as to teach and exhort like the bible says teachers do when they've been given the gift.

      However if you are to take your own advice, you would not listen to him because as you say, we should "quit following people altogether." Yet none of us are an island and the Spirit does raise up teachers within congregations and outside of congregations to edify the body. We read books written by people God raised up, listen to lectures and sermons from people God has raised up, and read commentaries he has raised up.

      Being edified by people the Spirit has given the gifts of teaching to is not "following" but learning. We all have the Holy Spirit but we build each other up by what we have learned (1 Thess 5:11, Prov 27:17)

      However I agree that if we should idolize that person without checking what they say against scripture, something I had discussed in the essay you read, then that is indeed following a person and not Christ.

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  3. I, too, previously came across Mr. Kelly's bible study that you refer to. I was initially drawn to your blog because of your cautions and critiques of Beth Moore's "ministry." I read everything you had to say about her and followed all the links to other writings that expressed the same cautions. After reading and listening to John MacArthur , calling out her and other false teachers, I knew you were right in your assessment. So, all that said, it was good training in discernment, because I was immediately alert when I read Mr. Kelly's claims and did not read any further in his posting. I was unaware of the other false beliefs he holds, but thanks to discernment lessons received here I feel equipped to recognize other false teachings from Mr. Kelly's or otherwise.
    Sandy

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  4. Peter is commended by the Lord in Matthew 16

    Verse 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

    16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

    17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

    18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.


    And the same man most likely at the same gathering...

    Verse 21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

    22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

    23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

    24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

    We can learn a lot right here. Just because one get's it right once does not mean he is granted omnipotence.

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  5. Elizabeth have you written to him and asked about these things? I like reading Jack Kelly's studies and Q&A's. I'm very grateful for his insight on many things, especially his studies on Revelation and Daniel. Some things here and there I don't necessarily agree with and I do always consider what the Bible says as the final authority. In my opinion he is far removed from Beth Moore or Joel Osteen. I realize that discernment is critical in these last days to be sure, I just don't think Jack Kelley would lead anyone away from Jesus.

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    1. Jeazette, why do you ask if I wrote to him? He already wrote what he thinks and published it for the world to viww and I am commenting on those public articles. I offered the texts so you can see for yourself. Did you read them?

      You "don't think" he would lead anyone away from Christ ... but he is. This essay contains five proofs he is leading people away from "this same Jesus." It might be unintentional, but then again, teachers are supposed to be mindful of their high calling and scrutiny because of the very reason you state: what they teach may led the sheep away from the Shepherd.

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    2. I respectfully disagree Elizabeth. I have read most everything the man has written. The one thing that I know he does not do is lead away from Jesus. I know he is not false.
      He has said many times that there are some things the Bible does not discuss. Like before the creation of earth, before the creation of angels, before Lucifer decided to rebel, etc. I wonder about these things. I wonder about what God did before time began. I can only speculate. But I still wonder. Even now I wonder what Heaven will be like and I speculate. Even while I do that, I remember what Paul said, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love Him. " I honestly don't think that God has a problem if I or Jack Kelley wonders and speculates on things before creation and things future after the consumation of all things. I can't wait to be fully known even as Jesus is fully known.

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    3. HI Jeazette,

      Thanks your your respectfulness. I appreciate it. I did not say he is false but raised a huge red flag due to some teachings that display troubling thinking and made a warning about them.

      We all speculate on some things that are not in the bible. Where did the dinosaurs go, what was Jesus' early life like, what happened to Mary...but there is a difference in honest wonder, and turning those speculations into man-made theories, like the destructive Gap Theory to use one example from the examples I gave that you won't read. Mr Kelley wonders about the fall of Lucifer, but goes so far as to go against what God said on the matter by promoting the gap theory. First, the days were 24 hours and that is clear. Second, God said His creation was "good" and "very good." Yet in the Gap Theory of Mr Kelley's teaching, there was sin and death and ruin during the creation process during an alleged gap of time that the bible clearly doesn't say is there. He disbelieves the plain teaching of Genesis 21 AND inserts a contradictory theory to explain the something that isn't there but man has now put in.

      This is what leading people away from Jesus looks like. It comes in a pleasant package, but just like satan, says "Hath God said?"

      In addition, the point of this lesson is to warn people who have pride enough to teach from an alleged message they were supposedly given directly from Jesus. This, also, is going against what God hath said, because He said not to add to or take away from the words of this book (Deut and Revelation).

      When a person turns speculations and dreamy messages into a bible study, then there is a problem. The Gap Theory is a "hollow and deceptive philosophy" (Col 2:8) and it's deceiving people with empty words (Eph 5:6).

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    4. If I may, Jeazette and others following this thread: Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached expertly on this exact topic, it applies to the discussion in 100% form. I recommend it for a great exposition of Colossians 2:8-18 and the exact things we're observing in some teachings by Mr Kelley, sadly.

      http://www.mljtrust.org/scripture/colossians/?page=2

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  6. Red flags went up as I read Jack's article that day,been bothered ever since. How do feel about the Berean Call website ? I really enjoy your blog !

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  7. I'm sad to hear this. I will keep an eye out for anything else from Kelley that doesn't ring correctly. What I have read of his has been sound, and I did not encounter any of what you posted above. That said, I've not read a whole lot from his GTF website, only select articles here and there over the years.

    -Carolyn

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  8. I did read it. I have written to him and asked if he would provide me with an explanation/answer to the points you have raised in your article. I love both of you and want this to be resolved. If he has done wrong he should repent.

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  9. PS - I did a little poking with what you posted here, and yes, I see some of the issues you're mentioned. As I said, I'd read some of Kelley's articles before, but had never encountered anything unsound back then. Will keep this on my mind, and exercise due care.

    -Carolyn

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