What is the Cut-Off Point on False Teaching?

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What’s the cut-off point on false teaching?

Here’s what I mean: the Bible is clearly against false teachers. We’re supposed to warn then not have anything to do with them (see 2 Timothy 2, 2 Peter 2). We certainly shouldn’t let false teachers teach in our churches/assemblies/whatever (see esp. 2 John).

But where’s the cut-off on that?

Let’s say we have a man or woman over here who are clearly teaching several unbiblical things. Whether it’s universalism or legalism or that Jesus wasn’t really God (or wasn’t really man) and all their theology flows out from there, it’s fairly easy to look at this person and the fact that the body of their work runs directly counter to Scripture and say, “That guy’s a false teacher.” Even if he finds an acorn every now and then, it doesn’t make up for the sheer volume of bilge they espouse.

What if, though, it’s something that’s just misguided (even if they’re preaching their error) on one point? See, it seems like an easy question of what to do thanks to what Paul told Timothy: build up the people with the truth and warn the person speaking the falsehood. The hope, as I read it (combined with what James says in his chapter 5) is that this person will realize the error of their preaching, repent, and be saved.

What if they don’t? What if they preach sound doctrine on everything else but are recalcitrant in this one area? Is that person still a false teacher and someone to be shunned?

I know a guy who would say, yes. Unfortunately, he has become (in his own mind) such an expert barometer of what is true and what is false that he has rejected every church in Wichita Falls on the basis of false teachings and just sits at home on Sundays, studying the Bible with his wife. It’s only a matter of time before he stops worshiping with her, I’m sure.

The reality of the paragraph-before-last is that such a case is extremely rare and maybe non-existent. Like potato chips, we rarely stop at just one false teaching. The word and works of God are intertwined and, when we pull one thread loose, the whole fabric will eventually unravel. At the risk of overusing the metaphor, though, I don’t throw away a sweater because it has one tiny snag.

Neither am I saying I know of any perfect churches/assemblies/whatevers that teach perfect doctrine perfectly. But the ones that are worth anything do have a system in place to address snags as they come up (and they will [and they will come up again]).

Still, is there a cut-off point? A point beyond which we say, “This has moved from an error to an apostasy”? Will this point change, based on the situation, or is it a fixed point?

Just something I’m wondering about.