June 2018

Feature image Exposing selves

Exposing ourselves in public

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When we expose someone in public then we often end up exposing ourselves in public.

A big-name pastor says something that smacks of heresy and dozens of church teachers rush to denounce him as a false prophet. A local church preacher says something that offends someone’s entrenched doctrine and he might well receive an email reprimand. Quite often, the way in which the ‘exposure’ is phrased, or the reprimand delivered, says a lot about the heart and doctrine of the self-appointed defender of the Faith. If the exposé is public then the self-exposure is equally public.

Andy Stanley of North Point mega church in the USA is once again in the spotlight for making the unfortunate claim that Christians need to ‘unhitch’ themselves from the Old Testament. What he is teaching around this theme appears highly questionable, but this article is not an exposé of this… and I will tell you why it is not. It’s because I need to check five essential boxes before even thinking of rushing to print.

This article is therefore about five preliminary questions we need to answer before offering censure and I believe that it will be helpful to all Christians and not just church leaders.

  1. Just how important is the perceived problem?
  2. What is my circle of influence?
  3. Do I really understand what the person is actually saying?
  4. Can I reasonably discern his heart attitude and motivation?
  5. What is my heart condition like in this matter?

Just how important is the perceived problem?

The entire Bible is inspired but not all parts are of equal importance. The Gospel of John trumps the Song of Solomon and John 3:16 is far weightier than Joshua 3:16.

Jesus said, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). Yet, when a teacher of the Law asked Him what commandment was the most important He did not hesitate to declare that love for God and others outranked all other commandments (Mark 12:28-31).

All sound Christian doctrine is important, but some teachings are more important than others. So, before calling someone out or presuming to rebuke them we need to be sure that the perceived problem is important enough to justify our actions.

All too often, the most vociferous denouncements concern relatively peripheral doctrines. Too often, such remonstrations expose the objector’s narrow grasp of the full biblical revelation – the exposer is exposed.

What is my circle of influence?

We all have a circle of people who give credence to what we say, and we often have a circle of folk whom we are obligated to warn and correct. Local church Elders have a biblical responsibility to protect their people. Paul had this to say to the Ephesian Elders when he addressed them for the last time:

“For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.  Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:27-30)

However, local church Elders, unless specifically directed by the Holy Spirit, do not have a mandate to take on perceived aberrant teachings in the wider church. Our circle of influence is also our circle of responsibility. A father’s circle consists of his close family; a local church leader’s circle is the committed membership of that church, and so on.

Unless I am in a direct accountability relationship with an internationally known teacher, then I do not believe that I have the mandate to rebuke or correct him. However, if his teaching is confusing the people within my circle of responsibility then I do have an obligation to them to help them recognise the error.

When we step outside of our circle of influence, we expose ourselves.

Do I really understand what the person is actually saying?

It always surprises and distresses me when people base their criticisms on second-hand information or out of context selections from someone’s work. If it is sufficiently important to expose the error of something said or written, then it is important enough to research what is said. Is the person actually teaching what at first he appears to be teaching? What does the fuller context of his sermon, book, or whatever, reveal concerning his specific observations? If I want to expose what Andy Stanley says about unhitching from the Old Testament then I need to understand his line of thought in the sermon or article itself and I need to have a fair idea of his general position.

When we base our exposés on second hand or uninformed opinion then we expose ourselves.

Can I reasonably discern his heart attitude and motivation?

Jesus ‘knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man’ (John 2:24-25). We, on the other hand, rarely know what motivates a person or what his heart attitude is unless we interact directly with him or her. If I criticise a particular teaching, then I might not need to interact directly with those who promote it, but if I criticise the teacher himself then I do need to interact with him. I don’t know what Andy Stanley’s motivation is in teaching what he does and I certainly cannot make judgements concerning his heart attitude. If I feel the need to cast aspersions on the man himself, then I need first to make a sincere attempt to communicate with him. I do not have the right to evaluate his intentions or motives unless I am confident that I am reading him correctly.

When we expose someone to our judgement, we expose ourselves.

What is my heart condition like in this matter?

‘Speaking the truth in love‘ (Ephesians 4:15) means speaking the truth motivated by love and doing it in a loving manner. Before exposing a false teacher or his teaching, I need to check my own heart and motivation. Am I motivated by a real love for both the object of my exposé and the people to whom I am exposing him? If my motivation is to show my own imagined theological brilliance or to promote my own sectarian bias then I had best say nothing at all. If I am secretly thrilled to be able to sock-it-to-him then I had best put a sock in it.

When we expose something or someone, then why and how we do this exposes ourselves.

So, please don’t ask me for an opinion on what Andy Stanley said because I have not yet answered the five questions I list in this article.
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TruthTalks: The Bible under Attack, Again.

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Unfortunately, it’s not only atheists, secular agnostics and so on who denigrate the Bible, it’s also several well-meaning ‘Christians’.
Listen to Dr Christopher Peppler explore this topic in the latest TruthTalks summary and question and answer session.

If you would like to read the original article, click HERE, or if you would like to subscribe to this podcast through iTunes or any other podcatcher then please click HERE (or search for TruthTalks in your iTunes app.) Otherwise, hit the play button below and listen to this TruthTalk now.




Bible being scrutinised

The Bible under Attack, Again.

Bible under attack

After church on Sunday, someone asked me what I thought of the “Bible Secrets Revealed” series currently airing on the History Channel.

I hadn’t seen the production, so later that day I watched episode one – sickening! I don’t object to an honest enquiry into the difficulties some people have with the content and composition of the scriptures, but I have little tolerance for biased and selective propaganda, and that is what this is, blatant anti-evangelical propaganda. If you are interested in a review of this series, you will find it HERE

There is nothing new about this sort of attack on the veracity of the scriptures. The Bible is the sacred text of Christianity and so for hundreds of years detractors and adversaries have been trying to discredit its trustworthiness.

Unfortunately, it’s not only atheists, secular agnostics and so on who denigrate the Bible, it’s also several well-meaning ‘Christians’.

Years ago, Bishop Spong attempted to strip the miraculous and mysterious from the scriptures because, he said, he wanted to protect the Bible from scientific scorn. More recently, Brian McLaren tried his best to present the Bible as a sort of cultural library more than a repository of truth or divine revelation. Just this month Andy Stanley stated that it was time for Christians to unhitch themselves from the Old Testament. They aren’t the first and they won’t be the last.

However, there is a much more subtle threat that presents as an attempt to guard the integrity of the Bible. Two words flag this friendly-fire – ‘literal’ and ‘inerrant’. Before any conservative evangelical reader suffers an apoplectic fit, let me explain what I mean.


Most Bible-honouring Christians, myself included, believe that the Bible should be understood literally. By this, I mean that we should understand any biblical text within its biblical, literary, historical, and cultural context. To understand something literally, in this sense, includes the possibility of figurative language, parable, type, and allegory. A useful starting question is, ‘what did the original readers understand by this?’

However, many dispensationalists and others contend that we are to understand every text only in its plain superficial sense (their understanding of literal interpretation). For instance, Revelation 20:1-6 describes some form of Millennium, and so according to literalistic interpreters, there must be a coming 1,000-year physical reign of Christ on earth because that is the ‘plain’ meaning of the text. But, the book of Revelation is written in an apocalyptic style and structure intended to present truths through powerful symbols and word-pictures. To understand it ‘literally’ does not mean ‘ignore its literary context’! Later in this article, I will get to why I see this interpretation issue as a threat to the integrity of the Bible.


This is another word that means different things to different folk. I do not believe that the Bible is free of elements that are inconsistent, historically ambiguous, or scientifically untenable, but this does not mean that I hold parts of the Bible to be uninspired or untrustworthy.

The Holy Spirit supervised the writing, editing, collating, and preservation of the scriptures. The Bible is a God-ordained and God-ordered divine-human collaboration and it is fully trustworthy.
It is, in this sense, inerrant.  By this, I mean that God did not make a mistake by involving humans, inconsistent though they might at times be, in the process of producing scripture.

However, many reformed and fundamentalist scholars conflate their understanding of inerrancy with their idea of ‘literal interpretation’ and by so doing strip it of its human influence and reduce biblical inspiration to a form of divine dictation.

Now let me state why I believe the literalist-inerrancy approach to the Bible, as I have described it, is a threat to its acceptance as the inspired and trustworthy written Word of God.

Firstly, it puts bible-believers on the defensive in having to attempt to explain away the obvious anomalies within the Bible. Secondly, it is like a Sword of Damocles in that failure to explain away any and every problem in the sacred text leads inevitably to a rejection of the inspired nature of the Bible. Thirdly, and more subtly, it detracts from the intended purpose of the Bible.

This last point needs explanation: The Bible is not a theological dictionary, nor is it an exhaustive description of reality in its totality. It is neither a magic sourcebook nor a coded prediction of the future. It is, rather, the inspired record of God’s dealing with humanity and a reliable and sometimes painfully honest record of the human response. Most of all, it is the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the background to His life on earth, and the record of His works and words. We encounter Jesus in and through the Bible, through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. We find there the way of relating to Him and the path of life as His disciples.  However,

Jesus and not the Bible is the source of truth.

When we view the Bible as anything less than what it is intended to be then we set it up for attack and dismantling rather than acceptance and embrace. And I use the words ‘less than’ intentionally because I contend that attempts to defend literalistic inerrancy reduce the veracity of the Bible and that although of noble intent they constitute a subtle attack on what they profess to defend.

So, fellow believer, accept the Bible for what it is, a fully trustworthy document indispensable to faith and life, and let its detractors flounder in their own misconceptions and misguided arguments. Focus on Jesus, the author and subject of the inspired scriptures and continue to find direction, comfort and meaning in the pages of sacred scripture. And let ‘Bible Secrets Revealed’ be revealed for what it is… unreliable, untrustworthy, and essentially untrue.

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.