There is bad doctrine and sound doctrine. It is our responsibility to test the spirits to know what we are hearing. How do you know you are being taught bad doctrine?
There are many warning signs, stuff you hear that should make red lights flash in your brain and siren bells ring in your spiritual ears. Perhaps just one of these is not that big of a deal, there may be a time and place for one of these at a time, maybe, perhaps, but if you see multiple appearances of these things, watch out! You’re being fed deception!
1) The doctrine taught messes with the person of Christ. This is, in the end, the clincher. If you hear that Christ was not human, or that He was not divine, or that He is not God, or that He is just a myth, or that He is not in heaven now, or that He did not rise from the dead, or that He played football with your dead son in heaven, just leave. Leave immediately. And don’t ever come back.
2) The doctrine taught celebrates the messenger not Christ. Humans love the spotlight. Pride is our biggest downfall. If what you are taught elevates the teacher to ridiculous heights, you’re in trouble.
3) The doctrine taught claims to be new, never before seen! Anytime a speaker or author claims that he got this from his own personal Bible study and no one else has ever seen this, crank up them sirens.
4) The doctrine taught claims that it is THE KEY to figuring everything out. This typically fits in with “no one has ever seen this like I have” explanations. “Once you understand this, life is a breeze” has been the introductory sentence to many a heresy.
5) The doctrine taught is based on a secret code or the redefining of words. Only the initiated truly get it. Only those who know the “true meanings” of words and the “secret codes buried for centuries” can know it. You need a special dictionary or decoder ring to follow along. Run.
6) The doctrine taught has to be understood first before you can deliver the Gospel. If the Gospel is secondary to a special reading of the Bible, extra-biblical “revelation,” a theological system must be believed first, or any other qualifier that must be met first before explaining the Gospel, you’re about to enter a cult.
7) The doctrine taught has to do with giving the speaker your money. The Bible is consistent on this point: the best sign of a false teacher is that they want your money. Their god is their belly and we are to flee from them.
8) The doctrine taught is named after a person. Sorry Calvinists and Arminians, be careful out there when following what the guy said is more important than what the God said. And don’t give me this, “But my guy is just saying what God is saying.” Fine, I’ll just go with God then.
9) The doctrine taught is nowhere explained in a large context of Scripture. If what you are being taught is referenced by one verse from one book, then another verse from another book, and another verse from another book ad infinitum, you are hearing a proof texter, not someone who is concerned with what the Bible says.
10) The doctrine taught has to ignore significant portions of Scripture. This fits in well with #9, but is slightly different. Not only is the doctrine based on proof texts, it has to teach why you don’t have to listen to certain parts of God’s revealed Word, which is all given by inspiration and is all profitable for doctrine.
11) The doctrine taught was “revealed” to someone. Anytime someone tells you that God “revealed this truth to me,” check what they mean by that. If they mean that they believe they are inspired, run for the hills. And never drink any Kool-Aid they may offer you.
12) The doctrine taught eliminates or minimizes human responsibility. Humans don’t like to do anything, therefore, a human-devised doctrine will give props to doing nothing–just say this prayer and you’re done. Just have one of our guys dunk you in water. Just do this thing with the beads and all the rest is done for forever! In contrast, the Bible can’t stop talking about continuing, keeping, zeal, running, fighting, work, labor, strive, etc. Every judgment in the Bible is based on works. Be not deceived.
13) The doctrine taught minimizes sin. If Paul says adulterers, fornicators and covetous people won’t be in heaven (and he does), flee from the one who tells you they can be. Be not deceived. If it sounds too good to be true and is not consistent with very clear Bible passages (there is much of the Bible that is “too good to be true” that actually is true), it’s probably some sinner’s inner desire to be in heaven who does not want to repent and be saved.
14) The doctrine taught contains no teaching. If it’s all music, lights, jokes, skits and frivolity, you aren’t hearing sound doctrine. You are getting your ears tickled.
15) The doctrine taught comes out of Joel Osteen’s mouth. Enough said.