Opinion – Diamonds in the rough: Christians can gain wisdom even when faced with controversial teaching
Editor’s Note: This piece reflects the writer’s personal opinions and experiences.
As I walked out of Convocation, Wednesday, Feb. 13, I felt encouraged and excited to speak with some of my hallmates on the sermon delivered by Pastor Jentezen Franklin. Instead, as the day progressed, I found myself increasingly blindsided as the campus around me focused on Franklin’s preaching that displayed his beliefs in the “prosperity gospel” and contemplated whether he was teaching that to us.
This all culminated at Campus Community, Liberty’s weekly worship service and Bible study, when Franklin spoke again, and those around me based their discussions entirely around whether Franklin’s teachings dipped into heretical territory.
While I appreciate the community around me being willing to call out questionable teaching, I am also conflicted as it seems nobody stopped to consider the solid things Franklin shared. As Christians who will experience bad teaching many times throughout our lives, we must be able to discern good knowledge that applies to our walks with Christ even when it is surrounded by shaky theology.
On Wednesday night at Campus Community, Franklin spoke a message that contained out-of-context verses and apparent misinterpretations of Scripture that many focused on, but in all of that, they missed some good teaching I found applicable in my own life. Franklin explained that good things are achieved all the time with the strength of man, but nothing eternally good is ever done separately from God – wisdom that I needed to hear.
There is almost always something positive to draw from lessons using God’s word if we are willing to look for it. When we ignore any positive aspects and solely criticize a sermon, we are ignoring practical biblical wisdom.
“The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly,” the book of Proverbs says (Proverbs 15:14 NIV).
When Jesus attended the Festival of Tabernacles (in John 7), onlookers questioned him, as they were unsure how he seemed to know so much despite lacking education. Jesus simply retorts that his teaching comes directly from God and that God will help listeners to determine whether his statements are true:
“Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own,” (John 7:17 NIV).
If we are following God as instructed, we should look to achieve this level of discernment with everything we hear. With Franklin, it seems as though many Liberty students’ discernment began and ended at pointing out everything that he did wrong.
My purpose here is not to defend Franklin’s theology or argue against the problems people had with his sermons. Instead, I warn against tuning out messages that you disagree with and especially against speaking on the character of Franklin. It is not for us to speak on the intent behind a teacher’s message.
The only people who possess the ability to discern Franklin’s intention are God and Franklin himself, so we should focus on other aspects of his time with us instead of conjecture.
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV)
Craft is the assistant news editor. Follow him on Twitter.