Doctrine matters. Doctrine can cause delight or be very damaging. And sadly, false doctrine is more common than many people realize.
It’s not just me that says deception and damaging doctrine is prevalent though. That’s what Scripture says (see Matt. 24:11, 24; Mk. 13:22; Acts 28:31). False teaching is not a small concern. There is false teaching that is the doctrine of demons (1 Tim. 4:1). Remember, as Ephesians 6:12 says, we are at war not with humans but with unseen spiritual powers. This is serious. Paul says this will happen in “later times.” That’s where we are now. We are in the last days, the days in between the Ascension and the Return of Jesus Christ.
It’s helpful here, however, to consider that not everything we disagree with is the “doctrine of demons.” So, it helpful for us to consider “theological triage.” There are some teachings that are especially connected to the good news of Jesus Christ and there are other things that are further down the list of importance.
There are some things that are absolutes, like the deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and the authority of Scripture. There are, however, things that are less critical when it comes to theological triage. For example, what we believe about the end times is not as critical as what we believe about Jesus and how people are saved.
I say all this about theological triage because we shouldn’t be headhunters. We shouldn’t try to sniff out any teaching we disagree with and say it’s the doctrine of demons. That’s not what Paul meant for Timothy or for us to do.
The type of teaching that we need to be aware of is that which contradicts Scripture. And that type of teaching is all over the place. So, Scripture teaches us that Satan isn’t just a tempter, trying to get people to give into sin. Satan is also the deceiver, “the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). He seduces people into error. Of course, both of those things go together. In the Garden of Eden when Satan tempted Eve, he first caused Eve to question the goodness of God and then Eve saw how good the fruit looked.
False doctrine contradicts what God says and is damaging. Recall the damaging effects of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden…
False doctrine is damaging but we should operate with theological triage. Not everything we disagree with someone else about on doctrine means they believe or are teaching “the doctrine of demons.”
In a future post we’ll consider how to sort out and handle different levels of disagreement over doctrine.