Stray Cats, Wild Animals, and the Gospel

Some years ago, a cat started coming around in the back yard. He had no identification tags but appeared well groomed and domesticated, indicating that someone had him as a pet. I later learned that a neighbor abandoned him when moving. Yet, he seemed rather skittish and kept his distance. I began putting food down for him, and he eventually allowed me to pet him. In time, I took him in the house and began sitting him in my lap and petting him. At times, when he heard an unfamiliar noise, he would freeze up. One time when a friend came over and we were sitting around talking, he suddenly dug his sharp nails in my leg and hop off my lap. I finally caught him and placed him outside. He ran away and never returned.

Sometimes stray cats become involved in the Church. They hang out and get to know people in the congregation. Eventually they begin teaching classes and becoming deacons or elders. Many of these strays appear well read in the Scriptures and know their way around them. They can speak well of basic doctrines and talk of application. Their lives reflect devotion to God and the Scriptures. Sometimes they receive Bible college or seminary degrees and go on to become professors or pastors. Eventually, they introduce questionable teachings in the pulpit, groups, or in their discussions one-on-one. These teachings at first seem simply like a different interpretation or something taken out of context, a familiar approach not unlike what normally occurs in informal group settings.

All too often, many of us desire to apply Scripture to our lives at the expense of overlooking author intent or the context of a given passage. The desire for applying Scripture shows commitment and the yearning to walk with God. This desire reflects zeal for living to please God. Frequently, however, such zeal overlooks the author’s message and context and jumps directly to personal application in topical teaching.

Eventually stray cats look and sound very domesticated. Church members nod in agreement with much of what they share as they serve up the flavor of the week or month that seems tasty to the congregation. However, they mix Scriptural teaching with philosophy or speculation. Little by little, they begin departing from biblical truths until the gospel itself comes into question. They raise questions that titillate innocent ears, appealing to emotion and speculation at the expense of reason and authority of the Scripture. They criticize or marginalize those to hold a different viewpoint and use pejoratives to refer to those who oppose them. I once heard an elder of a church I attended use the word “gracers” toward those who held to the teaching of grace alone for salvation. The unfamiliar eventually becomes standard teaching.

Inclusivism has taken this path. Inclusivism teaches that another message or way exists for those who have not or never will hear the gospel. It proposes that one can come to a saving knowledge of God through other avenues. Within evangelical Christian circles, the knowledge of the light from creation is a major avenue. Inclusivism also encompasses the teaching of pluralism. That is, other religions, spiritism, or cults are prospects for coming to God. Inclusivism marginalizes the gospel and the preeminence of Christ in it.

The Apostles Paul, Peter, and John warned of stray cats who appear domesticated but eventually show themselves as wild animals in disguise. Peter says of them, “But these [false teachers], like natural brute beasts [or stray cats] made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption” (2 Peter 2:12)[1]. John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Paul also warns, “…remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine…” (1 Timothy 1:3) He again wrote to Timothy, “Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

All three apostles referred to the gospel of Christ and its compromise. They warned Christians to accept no other gospel or doctrine than what they preached. Inclusivism and pluralism do not teach that salvation comes through the proclaimed gospel of Jesus Christ. In not holding to the proclamation of the gospel for all, they compromise the message that leads to eternal life with God and rob people of the message that saves them from eternal separation with God. We must be alert to false teachers creeping into our churches and fellowship preaching a different message. The way we do that is to cling to the hope in Christ through faith and to seek the only authority for our faith – Jesus Christ and His word in the Scriptures.

[1] All quotations are from the New King James Version, Holy Bible, New King James Version (NKJV). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition, 2009 Used by permission.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

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