Lately I’ve been dismayed to hear the scripture quote “by their deeds you shall know them” tossed around as if it were proof positive that everything ever taught by Doug Phillips or Bill Gothard must be wrong. (Or at least the parts that the speaker doesn’t agree with.) This admonition, while useful as a guide to evaluating the spiritual condition of one individual, tells us nothing about what Christian doctrine ought to be. That’s what we have the rest of the Bible for. We should make use of it.
Both men’s teachings have come under fire and while I certainly don’t agree with everything they taught, I find it ironic that if they had been following their own teachings in their personal lives they would have been okay. Gothard’s proximity, touching, and talking rules for guys and gals, and Phillip’s teaching about unmarried daughters staying at home, if followed, would have made it impossible for either of them to do what they did. I guess it wasn’t really the teachings that were the problem – it was getting the idea that those rules didn’t apply to them.
So what are we supposed to do about teachings that we hear from deeply flawed people? Here’s what Jesus said:
“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.” Matthew 23:1-3 (emphasis my own)
Sound familiar? Some things don’t change. But I want you to notice something: Jesus didn’t say to not do the things that the scribes and Pharisees taught. Why? Because they were in the seat of Moses. That is to say, they were teaching from the law of Moses. The truth they taught didn’t come from them. It wasn’t their doctrine. It didn’t come from them.
Is everything that these two men ever taught scriptural? I know of things that I believe are definitely not. Besides, it is unlikely that one man would get every single thing right. But that should be our guide. We should evaluate teachings based on what the Bible says and not based on who taught them.
I’ll conclude with my favorite line from an old black and white Marten Luther film that we have:
“It doesn’t matter who said it. It is still the truth!”