8 Guidelines for Christians on Knowing Who to Believe, and my Review of Love Again, Live Again by Joan Hunter
Have you ever found yourself listening to a speaker or reading a book or even hearing a song and thought “well THAT’s not right!”? I have. I remember a few years ago, a song came out that kept playing on Christian radio, and it went something like “God won’t give you more than you can take…” It got to the point where I would change the station when the song came on. Why? It’s bad theology. God absolutely will give you more than you can take. It happens all through Scripture. He won’t give you more than he can take, but there is a high likelihood that at some point (or many points!) in your life, God will allow you to go through something that is too much for you. And you’ll learn to lean on Him and not rely on your own strength. Now, I don’t think the writers or singers of that song are evil. I know what they were getting at. But the truth is messier than the point they were trying to make, and it simply didn’t line up with Scripture. God never promised that. So how do you know if you should trust someone’s teaching or even a song?
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Mature Christians Ask Questions. Don’t Just Trust Someone’s Teaching. Even Mine.
You guys, it is SO important to not just receive what is taught without questioning it. It’s part of being grown-up in your faith. Scripture tells us to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21). Some teachers are false teachers on purpose. They are evil at heart. Others, like the writers of the song I referenced above, are just wrong. Their heart is in the right place, but their study might not be.
We can have a lot of grace for people in that second category, and we don’t necessarily need to go calling them out. You might handle that on a case-by-case basis according to the severity of the error. If it’s wrong but not a sin issue, you can probably let it be. If we do correct, we always want to do it in love and use the principles of Matthew 18 to guide that process. But we do need to make sure we – and those we teach, for those of us who are parents or who serve in any ministry capacity – are equipped to know the difference. Here are some guidelines for knowing if you should trust someone’s teaching.
#1 Before You Trust Someone’s Teaching, Test it with Scripture
When you hear a teaching – a sermon, a book, a song, a dinner table discussion – you should ask “how does this line up with Scripture?” Obviously, this will be easier for some things than others. A good spiritual teacher will make this easy for you by both providing Scripture references and showing the connection they have made. Just because they use Bible verses doesn’t mean you should trust someone’s teaching. Go read the verses in context. I heard a pastor recently use a verse from Job about the consequences of sin…but the verse is spoken by one of the friends, the characters in the story that God later says are wrong! I hear this kind of thing all the time. Fortunately, in this instance the principle was correct, but the pastor just chose a bad example of a verse to support it. But in some cases, you can get really bad theology by taking Scripture out of context.
Read it yourself.
Read it in context – the stuff before, the stuff after. Who is talking, who are they speaking to, and why? Do you see the connection made by the author or speaker? If not…ask! Sometimes, they are right, but they’ve done a poor job of showing you how to get there. Other times, they are wrong. Sometimes, they have just picked Bible verses to support what they want to support and didn’t do the research. We call this “proof-texting.” I’m not saying they are evil, but it is irresponsible.
Some things won’t have a direct correlation in Scripture.
I’m not too worried about which color you paint your house, unless you live in a community where paint color has spiritual connotations (That’s a wacky example. I don’t think that community exists. But that distinction does apply in certain communities to other activities that we would deem amoral.) Others will have a correlation, but it might not be obvious or explicitly stated.
Example: some secular books might dip into ideas that are New-Agey or based in other religions. It might not be obvious at first. This is where you need to know God’s Word for yourself, so that you will recognize other influences when they come into the material or the teaching you interact with. I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t trust someone’s teaching if they aren’t a Christian. There are a lot of great books and podcasts out there that you can learn a lot from, and don’t get me started on how our Muslim neighbors can teach us about following Jesus! Here’s what I’m saying: you should trust someone’s teaching only if it is in line with (or doesn’t conflict with) Scripture.
The rest of these won’t be so long. Promise.
#2 Who Gets the Glory?
I come from a charismatic/Pentecostal background, and so I’ve seen a lot of healing and deliverance ministries over the years. They can be great. But sometimes, folks get caught up in the production. Is God getting the glory, or is the person leading the ministry getting the glory? Again, not all of these people are evil-minded. Many of them start with the right focus, and they just get off track. But if I’m focused (even unintentionally) on getting the glory, my teaching and my behavior might adjust for a bigger show or a “better” result, when the truth is actually a lot messier. You shouldn’t trust someone’s teaching if the focus seems to be more on them than God.
#3 Where’s the Fruit?
You can tell a tree, or a teaching, or a book or ministry, by its fruit. I want you looking for fruit in a few different places. Look at the trees already planted. Is this ministry or leader producing fruit that blesses people and is in line with Scripture? And look at the seeds. I’m carrying this analogy too far. Here’s what I mean. If I follow what this teaching says through to conclusion, what will be the result? Will it be people getting to know Jesus, getting encouraged, getting healed, learning to take ownership of their lives, becoming better Jesus followers? Or do you see potential hurt and destruction caused by this person’s teaching?
Ever take a bit of a piece of fruit only to find it wasn’t ripe?
There’s fruit from teaching that is immature, that tries to make the complex too simple. Trite answers at a funeral. Assuming that someone is sick because he or she sinned (which biblically may or may not be true). This is Real World Bible Study at its core: Scripture is complex on some of these things. If we don’t take the full counsel of Scripture, if we try to make the complex too simple, we run the risk of really causing a lot of hurt and we are on shaky grounds theologically. Don’t trust someone’s teaching if the fruit is rotten, or if it isn’t ripe yet.
#4 Is it a sound argument?
Yes, there are things we take on faith. But those should typically be things that are explicit in Scripture. For the rest, as we bring the teaching into conversation with Scripture, we should make sure that the argument makes sense and is well-supported. It shouldn’t be too complex or convoluted. We should be able to follow the argument easily and come to the same conclusion.
But it shouldn’t be too simple either. We should never believe something “just because” unless the Bible teaches it explicitly. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Explicit. (Sorry, kids. It’s Ephesians 6:1). A concept like soul ties? Not explicit. Doesn’t mean they aren’t real, it means we need to follow the argument, study the Word, do your research. If it’s not explicit, don’t trust it…YET. The Apostle Paul made some connections that wouldn’t have been explicit to his audience, but he did so with study, the counsel of the church, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But if the teacher just says that something “is,” without any support, logic, or Scripture, that should be a red flag to say “dig deeper on this one.”
#5 Do a Gut Check
If it feels wrong, it might be. Or that might be the Holy Spirit convicting you :). So if it feels wrong, do a little self-examination. Am I uncomfortable reading or hearing this because there’s something God wants to fix in my life? Is there a sin issue here that I need to address, or an attitude change? Or is the Holy Spirit sending up “danger danger” signals because the teaching is off base?
#6 Seek Counsel
If you’re not sure, seek counsel. Not from Twitter or Facebook. Not on this sort of thing. Seek counsel from multiple people in your life who are mature believers, living lives that bear good fruit, who know God’s Word and aren’t afraid to question things. Proverbs 15:22 says that “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Don’t trust someone’s teaching if your “multitude of counsel” (as another translation says) isn’t on the same page.
#7 Don’t Trust Teachers that Aren’t Okay with Questions
If you ask a teacher questions, look for the biblical foundation of the teaching, and the teacher doesn’t welcome questions, that should be a red flag. A good pastor or teacher wants you to ask questions. I don’t want someone to take my word for it. Question or even challenge in a respectful, building-up-the-community way because that is how we learn. I don’t want anyone I teach to take something as Gospel truth because Pastor Joy said it. Start with what I said, but then go back and know and examine the Scriptures for yourself. It’s part of that not-eating-baby-food-anymore thing. Don’t trust someone’s teaching if they aren’t okay with questions.
#8 Eat the Meat, Spit Out the Bones
My friend Joey (blog here and podcast here) taught me this a long time ago. Sometimes, an author or teacher you respect will have some really great insights, but that doesn’t make him perfect. Just like eating that turkey drumstick or fried chicken, eat the meat and spit out the bones. Two sides to this: make sure you actually spit out the bones! If there’s something not right in that person’s teaching, spit it back out! Nicely, into your napkin, you don’t need to make a show of it.
But the other side of this meat-bones equation is true too.
Am I willing to learn from someone who is not right about everything, but is right about some things? Am I willing to learn from a pastor who preaches from the Message (pet peeve, great tool, but NOT a translation!)? Am I willing to learn things from The Bible for Normal People podcast, even though I’m not always tracking with their theology? What about learning from my Muslim friend? (Ouch. Said it. What now?) You can carry the food analogy one step further…most food needs a little bit of salt. Most teaching shouldn’t just be taken as-is either. When you decide if you should trust someone’s teaching, remember that you’re choosing the teaching, not the teacher, and you can respect the person and some of what they teach without placing your absolute trust in everything they say. Except the Bible. Trust that.
I hope these guidelines will help you as you decide whether you should trust someone’s teaching that you hear in church or read in a book or even hear in a song. It’s these same principles I used to process through Joan Hunter’s new book, Love Again, Live Again. You can read my review below.
My Review of Love Again, Live Again
Joan Hunter leads a deliverance ministry that has gotten some attention over the years. I requested an Advanced Reader Copy of her new book, and I have to admit that this review is hard to write. There is potential for some good points, but see, this book triggers a whole bunch of those “should you trust someone’s teaching?” questions we just went through.
It’s hard to write that because I want to be kind. I’m not making a character judgment here, and I have deep respect for anyone who dedicates their life to ministry. But as a reviewer and a teacher, I am duty-bound to make a quality judgment. And for that reason, I can’t recommend this book. If I hadn’t made a commitment, I wouldn’t be sharing this review.
My first challenge with reading this book was the organization or lack thereof. I honestly had a hard time understanding who the book was for, what it was supposed to be about, and the connections she was making because it just seemed really disjointed and disorganized. (Disclaimer: The review copy I received also contributed to this; it had some major formatting issues that you shouldn’t see in the published version. I did my best to work through and ignore those, but they may have colored my perception.) To be honest, I was really surprised to have this experience with a seasoned author. It was really hard to follow. It’s the kind of thing that works in a conversation that jumps from topic to topic, but not in a book, and I wonder if she does better with speaking than writing. It’s not everyone’s thing.
There were some red flags in terms of the material itself though.
Some true principles were shared, but they weren’t well developed. Complex things were communicated in a way that seemed too simplistic and left a lot of room for misinterpretation. Tough topics like finances, adultery, and generational curses were discussed in ways that don’t look at the full counsel of Scripture. I also felt like the Scriptures referenced in several of the chapters didn’t really support what was being said, and some of the ideas communicated seemed contrary to Scripture based on my own study. Some weak theology and some bad theology. But even if the concepts are biblical, I can’t trust someone’s teaching if the way it is communicated is confusing or not backed by Scripture and sound logic. I’ve heard it said that to be unclear is to be unkind; in this case, to be unclear is potentially to have bad teaching. I can’t trust someone’s teaching if it isn’t clear, if I’m not even 100% sure what they’re saying. I have a note in my Kindle a few times in this book. It says “what does that even mean?”
And yet, I can’t also say that it was a worthless read.
It’s not that everything she says is wrong, it’s how it is communicated. And, okay, some of the things are just wrong. The meat-and-bones thing. But even as I was reading this book and spitting out some bones, I was also challenged to go look up some things and move a few other books on related topics a little higher on my To Be Read list. But this is the problem: true things will get lost in the disorganization, and the unwary reader might not be able to separate the meat from the bones.
If you want to tackle the spiritual warfare questions that this book presents, I would recommend just about anything Charles Kraft has written on the topic. I haven’t read all of what he has written (there’s a lot), but enough that I feel comfortable with this recommendation. Soul ties, deliverance, inner healing…he gets into all these issues from both a solid, well-researched and well-studied theological perspective (he was my seminary professors’ professor so I guess that makes me like his academic grandchild :)) and a very practical hands-on perspective too. Because see, I take my own advice and seek counsel on topics like this too. That doesn’t mean you should trust Kraft’s teaching – or even mine – without examination!
Love Again, Live Again is on Tour with Celebrate Lit
About the Book
Book: Love Again, Live Again
Author: Joan Hunter
Genre: Non-Fiction; Christian Living, relationships
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Everyone gets their feelings hurt in life. As these wounds fester and compound throughout life, they become scars that affect our current relationships. Anyone suffering from a wounded heart feels a sense of separation from people, but the separation it creates from our heavenly Father is far worse for our mind, body and soul. “Broken Heart Syndrome” is a recognized medical condition. Tests show that the pain caused by relational stress or trauma releases stress hormones to circulate through the body. This causes the inner layers of the heart to shred, damaging the cardiac muscle and its capacity to pump blood throughout the body. The chest pain this can cause resembles a serious heart attack. Stents or angioplasty can treat blocked vessels, but modern medicine still has no quick fix for a broken heart.
Joan Hunter reveals how to heal your heart from past hurts. To do this, you must be set free from the trauma of past relationships that prevent you from giving of yourself to those most important to you today. In doing so, you will also restore your most important relationship—the one with your heavenly Father.
Click here to purchase your copy!
About the Author
Joan Hunter is an anointed healing evangelist, a dynamic teacher, and a best-selling author. She is the founder and president of Joan Hunter Ministries, Hearts 4 Him, and 4 Corners Foundation, and she is also the president of Hunter Ministries. Joan’s television appearances have been broadcast around the world on World Harvest Network, Inspiration Network, TBN, NRB Word Networks, Daystar, Faith TV, Cornerstone TV, The Church Channel, Total Christian Television, Christian Television Network, Watchmen Broadcasting, and God TV. Joan has also been the featured guest on many national television and radio shows, including Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural!, It’s a New Day, The Miracle Channel, The Patricia King Show, Today with Marilyn and Sarah, and many others.
Together, Joan and her powerful international healing ministry have conducted miracle services and healing schools throughout numerous countries in a world characterized by brokenness and pain. Her previous books with Whitaker House include Healing the Whole Man Handbook, Healing the Heart, Power to Heal, Supernatural Provision, Freedom Beyond Comprehension, and Miracle Maintenance. Joan lives with her husband, Kelley Murrell, in Magnolia, Texas. Together, they have eight children—four daughters and four sons—and seven grandchildren.
Guest Post from Joan
Everyone has had their feelings hurt by parents, siblings, spouse, children, teachers, friends, or coworkers. Whether you realize it or not, those wounds affect your current relationships. Anyone suffering with a wounded or broken heart feels a sense of separation. Often, you feel that the separation from “man” is the problem. But in reality, separation from your heavenly Father is what causes the worst pain in your mind, body, and soul.
After ministering and teaching about a “Broken Heart Syndrome” for several years, I discovered that there was an official medical diagnosis by that name. Tests have shown that the inner layers of the heart actually shred, which damages the cardiac muscle and its capacity to pump blood throughout the body. Any interruption of the electrical system imbedded in the muscle hinders the heart rhythm and can lead to death or permanent damage. Usually caused by extreme stress or trauma, which precipitates an excess of stress hormones to circulate throughout the body, the resulting chest pain can resemble a serious heart attack.
The Diagnosis of Broken Heart Syndrome
The diagnosis is made by ruling out a heart attack, which is caused by blocked or collapsed cardiac blood vessels. While stents or angioplasty can treat blocked vessels, there is no quick fix for a broken heart. Broken Heart Syndrome does not block blood vessels and it can sometimes heal within a month or so. It can be caused by an extreme stressful/traumatic situation such as the death of a loved one, divorce, severe sudden illness, injury, or extreme shock.
This book reveals how to heal your heart from those hurts. To do this, you must be set free from old relationships that prevent you from giving of yourself to those most important to you today. You will also see how these principles affect your most important relationship—your relationship with your heavenly Father.
Just the Write Escape, November 15
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 16
Mary Hake, November 16
Bibliophile Reviews, November 17
A Baker’s Perspective, November 18
Inklings and notions, November 19
Real World Bible Study, November 20
TennTwo, November 21
Reading is my Super Power, November 21 (Interview)
Robin Is Bookish, November 22
Artistic Nobody, November 22 (Spotlight)
Stephanie’s Life of Perseverance, November 23
margaret kazmierczak, November 23 (Interview)
Texas Book-aholic, November 24
Janices book reviews, November 25
Carpe Diem, November 26
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 27
Bigreadersite, November 28
To celebrate her tour, Joan is giving away a grand prize of a $20 Starbucks gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d5ca/love-again-live-again-celebration-tour-giveaway
I appreciated your honest review. Thanks for taking the time to do this.
Chautona Havig says
I had similar problems. I actually couldn’t finish. My conscience wouldn’t permit it. Excellent post.
I was a day late, partly because I was trying to figure out how to create something of value here. Like a toolbox. There. That has value.