Should Christians dialogue with obvious apostates and heretics?

The Pope meets with charismatic evangelicals June 24, 2014

by Mike Ratliff, originally posted at Possessing the Treasure

8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For, “ The one who desires life, to love and see good days, Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. 11 “ HE must turn away from evil and do good; HE must seek peace and pursue it. 12 “ For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12 NASB)

This era of the Church is one of extreme deception due to compromise with the standards and focus of the world. Separation between the Church and the world is not being kept. Instead, the holy barrier between the two has been breached as false prophets have welcomed in not only the world and its ways into their churches, but have also embraced the mysticism of the Eastern religions. Syncretism is the new byword of the Emergent Village and the New Evangelism. On the other hand, God is good. He keeps His promises. The Lord told Peter that He is the one building His Church and no evil will ever be able to destroy it. (Matthew 16:18) If this is true, and it is because our Lord spoke it, then how do we reconcile the rapid apostasy of so much of the visible Church with what He said? God always keeps a remnant during times of rampant apostasy. These Christians are the small group whom God has reserved who have not bowed the knee to Baal. These are also the ones in whom God is developing Christlikeness and through the fires of persecution by those in the visible Church who have succumbed to the heresies and ungodliness going on in it, He is teaching them how to stand firm and never compromise with evil. In this they learn the difference between debate and dialogue and know that the former actually clarifies the truth and why they hold to it while the latter is only a conversation which has the intent of compromising the truth.

Part of this strong stand against evil by the remnant is to remain humble as Peter stated in the passage I placed at the top of this post. As we minster and walk through each day, we will be tested. We will be put in positions in which our faith will be tested. In this, we are being trained to respond to these things the way Jesus would. He was firm. He never compromised. He was very abrupt and rigid with apostates, but with sinners who came to Him in repentance, He was gentle yet firm. We are to to turn away from evil and do good as we seek peace and pursue it. However, our enemy will make sure that the pressure to compromise will come to bear in our lives. We must be salt and light in this world, but not part of it.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:11-16 NASB)<

11 μακάριοί ἐστε ὅταν ὀνειδίσωσιν ὑμᾶς καὶ διώξωσιν καὶ εἴπωσιν πᾶν πονηρὸν καθʼ ὑμῶν [ψευδόμενοι] ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ. 12 χαίρετε καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὅτι ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολὺς ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς· οὕτως γὰρ ἐδίωξαν τοὺς προφήτας τοὺς πρὸ ὑμῶν. 13 Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων. 14 Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου. οὐ δύναται πόλις κρυβῆναι ἐπάνω ὄρους κειμένη· 15 οὐδὲ καίουσιν λύχνον καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, καὶ λάμπει πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ. 16 οὕτως λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα καὶ δοξάσωσιν τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. (Matthew 5:11-16 NA28)

To be salt of the earth is to be that irritant that enters a wound and causes that burning sensation that no one likes. We are to walk in holiness and separation from the world never compromising. Because of this the world will lash out at Christians who walk through their lives this way. Notice that to be salt of the earth does not mean losing those qualities that bring that irritating burning to the spiritual wounds of the lost. In fact, when Christians compromise with the world they lose their saltiness and become worthless in the Kingdom. We are also to be light (φῶς) of the world (κόσμου). The word φῶς is the root of our English word “phosphorus” for instance. It is referring to a light that is not kindled by men nor can it be put out by men, such as moonlight or sunlight. The quality of being the light of the world is to be understood as reflecting the light of God’s truth into the darkness and deception and apostasy that is running rampant in the world and the compromised Church. These who reflect Christ’s light into this present darkness walk before all, doing good works of faith giving all the glory to God. These good works are good in God’s eyes. They are works of obedience within the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The word for world, κόσμου, refers in this context to the morality structure within the world system. It is the fallen world in rebellion against God.

The Christian is to be in the world walking through it as salt and light in complete obedience and surrender to the Lordship of Christ (Matthew 16:24-26). They are also to be well equipped soldiers in Christ’s army. This means that they must know the truth and how to debate those who hate God’s truth. These debates must never be allowed to devolve into dialogue though. This is when the Christian is willing to allow apostates and heretics to say things unchallenged that are nothing but the product of the doctrines of demons. No, we must not even be involved in these things. Instead, we tell the truth. We stand firm and when people refuse to listen, we end it. When we are told we are closed minded and intolerant because of this, we must not allow this to weaken our resolve to be obedient in our firm stance. Brian McLaren has stated that the Christians who refuse to dialogue with other religions and those with other “opinions” actually make up only a small percentage of the Church. That is sad and probably true. However, what we must never forget is that we are not to return evil with evil. When we are accused and reviled because of our uncompromising stance, we are instructed by our Lord to rejoice (χαιρετε) and be glad (αγαλλιασθε). To χαιρετε is to be full of cheer while to be αγαλλιασθε is to jump for joy to be exceedingly glad and full of rejoicing. I personally find this difficult. As long as we are too self-focused and have our eyes on the effect of our ministries on ourselves we will have a problem obeying our Lord this way. However, when our focus is correctly on God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness then we will view the temporal and its tests and trials with same joy our Lord had in the midst of His debates with the Sadducees and Pharisees.

Should we dialogue with apostates and those seeking to destroy our faith? No, we can debate them, being salt and light, but never dialogue with them for all this does is introduce doubt and weaken our resolve to stand firm. In these dialogues we can often end up with some great bitterness and a reluctance to reenter the battle. However, when we debate correctly, we can stand in our assigned place on the battle line, bearing our godly armor and ready to give as good as we take from the foes of God’s truth. We must resolve to remain separate from the world and its ways.

Cities well fortified have broad walls, and so had Jerusalem in her glory. The New Jerusalem must, in like manner, be surrounded and preserved by a broad wall of nonconformity to the world, and separation from its customs and spirit. The tendency of these days break down the holy barrier, and make the distinction between the church and the world merely nominal. Professors are no longer strict and Puritanical, questionable literature is read on all hands, frivolous pastimes are currently indulged, and a general laxity threatens to deprive the Lord’s peculiar people of those sacred singularities which separate them from sinners. It will be an ill day for the church and the world when the proposed amalgamation shall be complete, and the sons of God and the daughters of men shall be as one: then shall another deluge of wrath be ushered in. Beloved reader, be it your aim in heart, in word, in dress, in action to maintain the broad wall, remembering that the friendship of this world is enmity against God.

The broad wall afforded a pleasant place of resort for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, from which they could command prospects of the surrounding country. This reminds us of the Lord’s exceeding broad commandments, in which we walk at liberty in communion with Jesus, overlooking the scenes of earth, and looking out towards the glories of heaven. Separated from the world, and denying ourselves all ungodliness and fleshly lusts, we are nevertheless not in prison, nor restricted within narrow bounds; nay, we walk at liberty, because we keep His precepts. Come, reader, this evening walk with God in His statutes. As friend met friend upon the city wall, so meet thou thy God in the way of holy prayer and meditation. The bulwarks of salvation thou hast a right to traverse, for thou art a freeman of the royal burgh, a citizen of the metropolis of the universe.- C.H. Spurgeon from Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening – emphasis mine.

My brethren, the health of the Church looks to our eyes as bordering on death, however, let us never forget that God is Sovereign and totally in control of all things. Our Lord is still building His Church and we make a huge mistake to think of this in simplistic terms such as in numbers. Nay! Our Lord is still building His Church, but this building is one of greater depth and centered on a very firm foundation. The dead religiosity of the majority of the visible Church is not “The Church!” No, the real Church is still with us and those of us in it must continue to be salt and light in the world as we take up our crosses and follow our Lord each and every day.

Soli Deo Gloria!