Does the Bible really teach that judging others is smart and vital? Indeed, it does. Here’s my case.
One of the most common objections I get to my critique of Jason Westerfield is this: Do not judge.
The preferred text to back up their objection is Luke 6:37:
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.
True, this text forbids hypocrisy and a condemning spirit rising from self-righteousness…
And I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of self-righteousness. Wicked self-absorption. Fierce condemnation.
But not so in this case.
Condemning Someone Is Different from Judging
In my critique of Jason Westerfield [or any book or doctrine or ministry for that matter] I’m not condemning him…
I’m simply evaluating his book and ministry the same way I’d evaluate any book or ministry: how it measures up to the Bible.
There’s nothing bizarre or unbiblical about that. It’s plain, garden-variety discernment. This is how John MacArthur puts it:
There is a righteous kind of judgment we are supposed to exercise with careful discernment [John 7:24]. Censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous or other kinds of unfair judgements are forbidden.
MacArthur goes on to explain “in order to fulfill the commandments that follow it is necessary to discern dogs and swine [Matthew 7:6] from one’s own brethren.”
In other words, how are we supposed to tell the true believers from the false if we don’t discern and evaluate their deeds and doctrine?
The deal is, we can’t.
And if we can’t we are in opposition to God and his church because the Bible makes it abundantly clear that mature Christians must discern truth from error…
Even if that puts the unity of the church at risk. Which brings me to my next point.
The Mis-Guided Emphasis on Unity over Purity
Another accusation that usually gets thrown out their [and relevant to our discussion] is this:
Unity needs to happen in the body.
The implication is that I’m causing dissension when I critique Jason’s book.
Funny thing is, isn’t it just as reasonable to suggest that Jason is actually the one who’s causing dissension? Couldn’t his doctrine be cause of confusion and contention in the church?
But using the unity card concerns me for another reason. It suggests people are willing to look over sin for the sake of church unity.
Yes, having a unified church is important. But I don’t get that impression from reading my Bible that we strive for unity at the expense of purity.
Judging Others in the Old Testament
In fact, span the nearly 2,000 pages of Holy Scripture and it’s clear that God places a high-premium on purity–and it’s when purity is protected that unity prevails.
Let’s look at some examples. First in the Old Testament.
1. The Holiness Code found in Leviticus 17-26 levels devastating sentences [capital punishment by stoning] on those who strayed from doctrinal purity.
2. God disintegrated priests who put unholy fire on the altar.
3. He executed a man for the hubris of believing that his hand was more clean than dirt.
4. He destroyed an entire generation of Israelites for their repeated disobedience–banning them from entering the promised land.
5. God finally drove the Israelite’s into exile and slavery for their chronic unfaithfulness, which usually took the form of wholesale worship of idols and pagan ideas.
And that’s just the Old Testament. In the New, we see the same intense concern for purity.
Judging Others in the New Testament
Paul scolded the Corinthians for harboring a sexual misfit in their church. He ramrodded the Galatians for deserting the gospel for a “different gospel, which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
Peter even condemned a husband and wife for lying about their assets–and ordained their deaths by the hand of God.
And Jude changed the direction of his little letter from one of exhortation to one of correction:
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God int licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
In every single one of these cases someone could argue “Did Uzziah have to die for his hubris? Nadab and Abihu for their deviation from God’s sacrifice prescription? Annias and Sappharia for tucking away a little cash for a rainy day? Do we have to chastise a few brothers because they snuck in a little gospel corruption?”
Obviously God answers “Yes, it’s absolutely necessary” because the purity of the church is important. In fact, when we get the purity down, unity naturally emerges.
Mature Christians Can Judge–and Handle Judgment
In John’s first letter he writes, “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
In other words, a mature Christian with a mature mind established by the word of God can spot spiritual truth and error.
So a call for “more unity and less purity” is actually an unbiblical suggestion that spiritual error is not important.
That should concern us.
We want brothers and sisters in Christ to discern truth and error–using the Bible as template. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
But what does being judgmental look like? Here’s First John again: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
That is a clear example of being hypocritical. And exactly the sense that Jesus was talking about in Luke 6:41 when he said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
And this reproof would apply to me if I ducked away at night to indulge in the rituals of New Mystics like Jason.
But I’m not.
In the end, we all need to be acutely aware of the state of our spiritual condition–especially me.
And that I’ve got a disposition to hypocrisy and self-righteousness…trust me when I say that working out my salvation is an activity loaded with fear and trembling.
The same feeling extends to brothers and sisters in Christ.
Yes, I have deep concerns that Jason is being led away by his stomach–and in the long run is leading others away. Thus this is not a witch hunt. Rather it’s one Christian brother telling another to be careful–you could be out of line.
I know I was glad when someone pointed out error in my life. When someone corrected me. Rebuked me. It’s healthy. Smart for proper Christian growth. And vital for the church.
John goes on to say, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This is true for every single one of us. Not just for Jason. Or his fans. Or me. But for you. All of us. The church body proper.
So if I got this judging thing all wrong, let me know. Evaluate. Criticize. Reprove me. It’s biblical. And healthy.