Christian author and apologist Alan Shlemon recently spoke at the reTHINK Apologetics Student Conference at Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen, Texas, addressing how a Christian can determine whether or not a religious teaching was “biblical or bogus.”
He laid out three steps that a Christian can take to guard against false biblical teaching. Let’s take a closer look at the advice Shlemon has to offer.
The first—and most obvious—step is to “seek to study scripture” which involves reading and investigating the Word of God. Shlemon emphasized that when we “come across an idea or some kind of claim, we need to test it against Scripture.”
We can see an example of this in the book of Acts, when the Apostle Paul and Silas visited the Jewish synagogue at Berea after their trip to Thessalonica. The Bereans weren’t going to just take Paul’s word that what he was preaching was the truth. They did a little research of their own.
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Instead of immediately taking Paul at his word or throwing him out of the city for his teachings, they “examined the Scriptures daily.”
Shlemon advises us to “seek wise counsel” among parents, church leaders, pastors and others that are held in high esteem for their biblical knowledge.
“Chances are, you don’t know the Bible entirely, you don’t have perfect theology, you don’t understand the Christian worldview completely, and guess what? That’s OK. I don’t either. Nobody does,” he explained on stage.
“But what that means is you can and should seek wise counsel. People who might be more biblically mature than you or walked with Jesus longer.”
Shlemon referenced his boss, Stand to Reason founder and President Greg Koukl, as his “wise counsel” when he seeks to differentiate between “biblical or bogus” teaching.
The final step Shelmon mentioned during his presentation was to “seek the consensus of historic Christianity.” Look over what the early church fathers and biblical historians from the past 2,000 years have said about certain teachings.
“What has the Church taught for 2,000 years?” asked Shlemon. “If the idea or the claim that I am considering right now is contradicted by 2,000 years of church history, or it is a completely new idea, then it causes me to become suspicious.”
Sifting any unrecognizable or new teaching through these three steps can help formulate a judgment on whether an idea is true or false. And of course, always seek the Lord through prayer before, during, and after you study the Scriptures.