How to Use Discernment in an Age of Illiteracy

How to Use Discernment in an Age of Illiteracy

Dear Christian,

False teachers are everywhere. Everyone thinks that they’re the next John Piper, prepared to give controversial opinions with little care given to the legitimacy of their claims.

In an age of false news and quick, unresearched opinions, it can become almost impossible to properly research current events. Every smalltime blogger, podcaster, youtuber, and writer thinks that their take on current events is the most factual, needed piece of content on the web, and they’re usually wrong.

This extends beyond the news and into the Christian world. Thousands of “Christian bloggers” surround themselves with a small audience, then begin peddling false gospels and heresies, all while convinced of their own necessity and puffed up by their knowledge.

Some unintentionally mislead their readers. Others do so willingly, perfectly content to preach their own gospel instead of the one given to us by Jesus Christ, the son of God.

The Bible warns us about people like this. 1 John 4:1 is perhaps the most relevant verse to this age, saying:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

1 John 4:1

Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. You see, this verse applies to every single source you read, including this post. Test everything you read by holding it up to the light of the Gospel.

“Test everything you read by holding it up to the light of the Gospel.”

I have found myself deeply grieved by the Biblical illiteracy shown by fully-grown adults. Grace abounds to the younger Christians, myself included, who are still in the first decade of their walk. Yet for an adult Christian who has had decades to learn and understand the principles of the Bible, there is little grace to be found.

Within the past year alone, I have confronted three bloggers (all of which I had followed beforehand) on Biblical heresy. This happened for the first time in January of this year. The blogger in question had published a series of posts declaring that “wives, submit to your husbands” actually meant that a wife had to sate her husbands sexual appetite at any time he asked. In other words, the wife exists to appease her husbands sexual addictions and becomes his sex slave. I confronted the man, was engaged in a four-day debate that garnered me ninety clicks onto my site but ended with him blocking me.

The second time was far more humorous than the first. The blogger in question, a woman I had followed for a few weeks, posted an article condemning Kanye West as being “demonically possessed” because of “the hand motions he used while speaking”, as confirmed “by visions she had received from the Lord.” When I spoke against her statement of visions from God, ironically giving her the same verse I have cited above, she condemned me as a heretic and blocked me from her website.

The final time happened yesterday. A blogger I had followed for three months released a post that was, outside of two lines, quite good. I actually agreed with what he said…until he stated that, because man is created in the image of God, man is God. This new-age belief is quite common amongst the prosperity gospel circles, and I had dealt with it before. I confronted what he said, asking him to show me a single verse in the bible that equates humanity with god-status, and he responded with a message similar to that given by the blogger in the previous paragraph: “This has been revealed to me by God, and you are wrong, so bug off, child.”

It’s quite interesting how quickly these people point to my age (seventeen, hardly a child) as the fault behind my confrontations, rather than dissecting and disproving what I actually said. As a close friend of mine once said, “Some people would rather keep their blinders on rather than acknowledging that they are wrong” (Dugan, Titus).

Yet aside from the responses of these individuals, something else remains uncannily consistent- I agreed with every single one of these posts…until I took a second look.

You see, this is where 1 John 4:1 comes into play. Instead of reading the surface-level information presented by the bloggers and writers that we admire, we are Biblically called to use discernment while absorbing information and teaching.

This extends as far as possible. Discernment is to be used when absorbing anything, whether this may be an article by John Piper or a post by Elisha McFarland (yes, even me). When reading, watching, or listening to something, hold up what is taught to the light of the Gospel. Ask, “is this contrary to clear, concise Scripture?”

Keep in mind, however, that discernment is to be used within the context of clear scripture. This does not mean that my Presbyterian friends should be condemning John Piper as a heretic because he does not believe in infant baptism. An argument that contradicts your personal theology may not contradict scripture itself. Examples of “interpretive theology” include the creation, baptism, and end-times debates.

Challenge what you read and hear. Don’t be afraid to call someone out if their teaching clearly contradicts Scripture. If they persist in their foolishness, leave them; only God can help them.

Finally, ensure that your beliefs align as closely to Scripture as possible. Constantly challenge what you think and believe, and never believe yourself to be above reproach or correction. Everyone makes mistakes, and we can all fall down the trap of mistaken belief.

May the grace of God be upon you,


All scriptural quotations taken from the English Standard Version.

Image credit to InTrust.

This post was originally published by me on Publishing Peace.

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20 thoughts on “How to Use Discernment in an Age of Illiteracy

  1. Amen, Amen and AMEN again!!! Bravo to you Elisha, for standing up for the truth and confronting those who have been mislead. You are quite an inspiration. Please keep up the good work and know that I shall be keeping you in my prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

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