Correcting Error with Truth

There are several ways in which the church has walked in an out-of-balance position for a long time. 

For the sake of discussion, let’s take a very old position from the dark ages: there once was a day that it was considered doctrine that the only person who could read the Bible or understand the truths it contained was the pastor (called the “priest” in those days). It was one of the things that were addressed in the Reformation. 

It is true enough to acknowledge that some people are more gifted in understanding and teaching doctrinal truth (they’re called “pastors” and “teachers” often enough); it’s just heresy to say that they’re the only ones qualified.

I’m not going to talk this subject; I’m using the subject as an illustration about the process of correcting error.

Think of a pendulum: we’ve been way off-center in some areas, and we’ve been off for a very long time, and it’s time to come back to truth. In our pre-reformation example, there was a truth (that pastors [“priests”] who have studied the Bible for years might understand it better than those reading it for the first time) that was taken to an unhealthy extreme position (that it was actually a sin for a non-priest to read the Bible or teach doctrine).

They were way off-center in their approach to the Word, and that heresy needed to be corrected. That which was in a very improper position must be brought back to its proper position, which is often a position of balance. In this example, the priesthood of all believers must be balanced with the gifting and training of pastors and teachers in the church.

The process of this correction is our topic today. There are at least two means of correcting such an error:

1) We can present the correct truth in the proper balance, and hope that those who are seriously out of balance will recognize the truth and repent (change their mind) to embrace the truth. Or

2) We can present the correct truth in the opposite over-emphasis, contrasting to the previous – and erroneous – over-emphasis. Hopefully, an over-emphasis in one direction (in this example, the priesthood of all believers) will counter-balance the previous over-emphasis (the gifting and training of pastors and teachers in the church).

So the net result of the two options are:

1) If we present the balanced truth, it's heard and received in the context of the error of centuries (“the teacher is gifted to present doctrinal truth more than those not similarly gifted and trained”) and serves only to bump the listener's understanding a tiny bit closer to center: they've had years (or centuries) of error, and ONE statement that's properly balanced won't fix their understanding. Or

2) We over-emphasize the opposite truth (“Every believer must read the Word and learn from God directly”), in hopes that when it's heard in the context of years of error, it will bring people to a balanced perspective after the dust settles. The drawbacks are that:

a) It requires people to think for themselves, which is a sketchy proposition at best, and

b) it relies on teaching one error in order to correct an opposite error.

It seems to me that pastors and teachers will typically only see the first option ("present it in balance"), while prophets and apostles typically tend to see the second option more easily ("emphasize the opposite truth"). 

In reality, I suspect that God is more interested in the truth being presented, rather than the details of how it's presented. He's going to take our words – whatever words we use – and shape them with the Holy Spirit anyway. Ultimately, it is Jesus who has said, “I will build My Church” and it is not primarily my responsibility. Perhaps the greatest error is taking responsibility ourselves – taking it from Him – to build His Church in a way that pleases us.

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