Review of Robert Waters' Article on "False Teachers"
by Tim Haile
This is actually a review of a review, for in the article that I am reviewing, Robert Waters was reviewing James P. Needham's article entitled "False Teachers or Teaching Falsely?" This article was published in the March, 2000 issue of the Gospel Anchor. Robert's response can also be found in the March, 2000 issue of the Anchor under the title "False Teachers or Teaching Falsely? A Review."
As you can see, the Gospel Anchor does not have a "closed door policy." Truth has nothing to fear from open and honest investigation. Truth shines even more brightly when it is contrasted with error. Let the reader understand the significance of this last statement - this contrast must be made! Those associated with the Gospel Anchor will not allow material that we consider to be false, to go unanswered. When brother Waters asked if we would allow his response I told him yes, but that I reserved the right to answer him. He agreed.
Waters' Evasion - The "Traditional Position" Charge
I read Robert's article twice, hoping to find some scriptural response to Needham's arguments. I found none. What I did find were many references to the "traditional position" on divorce and remarriage. Those who are familiar with Robert Waters' writings know that this is his favorite tactic. Rather than addressing and answering his opponent's passages and arguments, Robert creates a smoke screen by charging his opponents with taking the "traditional position." Robert appears to believe that by describing his opponent's position "traditional," he has successfully answered that position. Actually, Robert's tactic is a red herring. He resorts to this characterization in an attempt to draw readers away from the central issue. This is exactly what he did in his response to James Needham. Robert needs to accomplish far more that this. He needs to find Bible authority supporting the notion that the word "false" always describes one's motives or character, and never just describes one's words or deeds. In this task Robert waters has failed miserably.
Before I leave the subject of "traditional positions" too far behind, I must make an observation. The apostle Paul said, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" (2 Thess. 2:15). According to this passage, there is a "traditional" position that is pleasing to God. He wants people to hold this kind of traditional position. The traditional position of this verse is the right position. It is the biblical position, and because of this, it is the only position on that particular subject that God approves!
Jesus allowed the right of divorce and remarriage only for the reason of fornication (sexual immorality). He said an innocent party might divorce his unfaithful mate, while reserving the right to remarry. Jesus also said the divorced fornicator might not remarry (Matthew 19:9; 5:32). Robert rejects this understanding of these passages labeling such a view as the "traditional position" on divorce and remarriage. Interestingly enough, by using the biblical definition of "tradition" set forth in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Robert is right. This is the "traditional" position. It is the traditional position because it is the scriptural position.
"What If He Is Right?"
Robert Waters writes like a vacillating sectarian who denies our ability to understand the Bible. He said,
Waters told Needham that he had no business labeling Hailey as a "false teacher" or "heretic" because James "could be the one who is wrong." This is standard grace-unity rhetoric. The charge is made that we can never label anyone else as being wrong, since we ourselves may also be wrong. Given the volume of material Robert has written in an effort to bolster his own positions and refute others, I am somewhat shocked by his present approach. Robert's argument disqualifies him from telling anyone that they are wrong. His criticisms of Needham are as elastic and as baseless as his concept of the truth. If Needham cannot say Hailey is wrong, then Waters cannot say Needham is wrong!
Robert has no principle upon which to base his attack. If he claims the Bible to be his guide, then he has blasphemed God's Holy word by representing it as such a pliable and tractable document. The Bible represents itself as being infallible, all sufficient, and "forever settled in heaven" (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3; Ps. 119:89; 1 Pet. 1:24-25). These fixed truths are perceptible to the minds of honest men and women (Eph. 3:3-4; 5:17; Rev. 1:3; Matt. 13:23; 15:10; 24:15). When accepted and assimilated by such people, Bible truth is just as certain and just as inflexible as it is in the pages of the Bible.
Robert's "if he's right, if I'm right, if they're right" mentality completely ignores simple Bible statements. Robert may just as well ask, "But, what if Cain were right?" or "What if Judas were right?" Or better yet, "What if the devil was right!" One thing is certain; Robert Waters isn't right.
Here a Heretic, There a Heretic, Everywhere a Heretic. . .
Robert Waters said,
That's strange! I have read this passage many times and I have never seen the geographical limitations that Waters envisions. I have never considered the notion that one is only a heretic to one particular group, at one particular place, and at one particular time. Since Paul was not with Titus, at Crete, was it wrong for Paul to use the term "heretic" to describe a "heretic?" Since Peter was not with the ones to whom he wrote in 2 Peter 2:1, was it wrong for him to use the expression "false teacher" to describe "false teachers?" Robert must believe Paul sinned when he identified, by name, Hymenaeus, Philetus, Demas and Alexander (2 Tim. 2:17-18; 4:10, 14). After all, Paul was giving instructions to Timothy as to how he should deal with these men and Paul was not with Timothy (2 Tim. 4:13).
Who Causes Division? Those Who Espouse Error or Those Who Expose It?
Waters makes the classical unity in diversity argument. The argument says one is not wrong for espousing error, he is wrong for exposing it. This view is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches. The Bible tells us to "reject" those who teach their opinions, rather than the truth (Tit. 3:10-11). The Bible tells us to "charge some that they teach not other doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:3). The Bible tells us to "stop the mouths" of those who "teach things that they should not" (Tit. 1:10-11). How do we do this? The Bible tells us to "mark and avoid" such men because their "good words and fair speeches" will "deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:17-18). We must "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph. 5:11), and indeed, the prince of darkness is the author of all false doctrine (1 Tim. 4:1). The Bible tells us not to receive, encourage, or assist anyone who brings a doctrine that is different from the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn. 9-11).
Those who teach soul-damning error must be withstood regardless of the consequences. When Robert Waters criticizes the practice of opposing errorists, he is critical of a divine requirement. God said to warn and instruct the opinion teacher. If he repents, he is to be accepted. If he refuses the instruction, then he is to be "rejected" (Tit. 3:10-11), and this includes Waters. If division comes as a result of Christians standing for the truth and opposing every false way, then division must come. The truth divides only because some reject it (Matt. 10:34-37). Proponents of the truth are not to be blamed for division. This blame lies squarely upon the shoulders of those who refuse to speak and live according to a "thus saith the Lord" (1 Pet. 4:11; Phil. 1:27; 2:16).
Earnest contenders of the faith are not responsible for division, and they do not deserve the criticisms that men like Robert Waters heap upon them. Division is the result of error being believed, taught and practiced. Those who refuse to speak according to God's law "have no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). Division is neither caused nor promoted by those who speak "by the authority of Christ" and "as the oracles of God" (1 Cor. 1:10; Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 4:11). For example, in his article and in other forums, Robert Waters has promoted his own heresy that the Bible allows remarriage for absolutely any cause. Jesus said the only cause was fornication. Robert has rejected the dozens of attempts that have been made to change his mind therefore he is a heretic (Tit. 3:10-11). By refusing to sow the good seed of the kingdom, the pure gospel (Lk. 8:11; Matt. 13:24), and by sowing the seed of human opinion, Robert Waters is a "sower of discord among brethren" (Prov. 6:19). Robert's opinions are responsible for division.
The same is true of Homer Hailey. He says alien sinners are not answerable to the law of Christ. The Bible says they are (Jn. 12:48; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:9-11). As far as his effect on others is concerned, his attitude is irrelevant and his motives are immaterial. These matter to God, but are often imperceptible to men and we are not the judges of such. Because of this fact, Paul rejoiced when the truth was taught, even when it was taught by men of corrupt intentions (Phil. 1:18). My spiritual security is unaffected by another person's intentions, but my faith may be "overthrown" by another person's false words (2 Tim. 2:18). Men are not "carried away" by bad intentions. They are carried away by "varied and strange doctrines" (Heb. 13:9; Eph. 4:14). In the final analysis, and in view of the avenue through which God has enabled humans to be affected by one another, what matters is not the perverse things one may think (1 Cor. 2:11), but the perverse things one may speak (Acts 20:30).
From the title of his article, I assumed that Robert Waters would shed some before unseen light on the question of the application of the expression "false teacher." His article shed no light on that subject, but was merely an opportunity for him to teach his heretical views on divorce and remarriage. Let the reader be warned. Robert Waters teaches soul-damning error on the subject of divorce and remarriage. He is guilty of the very sin that he criticized Needham for charging Homer Hailey with. Waters is a heretic. Until he repents of his error, he should be marked, rejected, and avoided (Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:10-11).
Tim Haile, Email
False Teachers or Teaching Falsely by James P. Needham
False Teachers or Teaching Falsely: A Review by Robert Waters
My Reply To Brother Waters' Review by James P. Needham
False Teachers: Impure Motives or Impure Doctrines? by Tim Haile
Back to the Top | Back Home