The apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy urges his “son in the faith” to ensure that no one teaches false doctrine in the churches under Timothy’s care.
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Tim. 1:3-7).
Just as there were teachers of false doctrine in Paul’s day, so too in ours. In fact, the history of the church is plagued with those who have sought to subvert the Christian faith in one way or another. Yet God, in His mercy, saw fit to raise up men and women to defend the faith, just as Paul commends Timothy to do. It is therefore incumbent upon Christians to take up this same charge, to “guard the deposit entrusted” to us (1 Tim. 6:20).
Of the many stripes of false teachers today, surely the most dangerous are those who try to make themselves appear as though they are followers of Christ. It is one thing for a lay-person to reject a false teacher such as Sun Myung Moon, the differences between his teaching and Christ’s is so vast that many in the church have no problem ignoring those like him. It is very different when having to answer the challenges from those inside the institutional church. Men such John Shelby Spong appear much more subversive and prove harder for the average church goer to reject. One such person who has emerged within the Canadian church scene, and is just as much a false teacher as Spong or Moon, is author and columnist Tom Harpur. It is the intent of this series to interact, in one degree or another, with Tom Harpur’s recent book The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light.
My hope is to provide a critique of this poorly written and poorly researched book for the purpose of edifying Christians. The writings of Tom Harpur have proven devestating for many and have been a significant source of chagrin for many a pastor who have to deal with the loss of faith of those in their congregations. May God help me in this response!