The Five Tests of False Doctrine

The test: Does this doctrine originate with God or has it been fabricated by someone or something else?

This leaves us with an obvious question: How can we know the origin of a doctrine? Sometimes its origin is obvious, but more often it is not. When we are uncertain, we can turn to our second test.

The test: Does this doctrine appeal to the Bible for its authority? Or does it appeal to another scripture or another mind?

But a concern remains, because two teachers may both claim the authority of the Bible while teaching very different things. How can we know whose interpretation is correct? This is where we turn to the third test.

The test: Is this doctrine established or refuted by the entirety of Scripture?

The fourth test is the test of spiritual growth. Sound doctrine is beneficial for spiritual health; false doctrine leads to spiritual weakness …Sound doctrine makes spiritually healthy, mature, knowledgeable Christians. False doctrine makes spiritually unhealthy, immature, ignorant Christians who may be no Christians at all.

The fifth test is the test of godly living. Sound doctrine has value for godly living, false doctrine leads to ungodly living


In summary, true doctrine (content) originates with God (origin), is grounded in the Bible (authority), and agrees with the whole of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is sound (quality), it is healthy (benefit), and profitable (value) for us, and we are responsible for holding it (responsibility).

False doctrine (content) originates with man (origin), is not grounded in the Bible (authority), and contradicts portions of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is unsound (quality), it is unhealthy (benefit) and unprofitable (value) for us, and we are responsible for rejecting it (responsibility).

Where is sound doctrine to be found?

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Not here:

My salvation does not depend upon my understanding of the age of the earth and the cosmos.

YECism also belittles the import of Psalm 8:4, not only because of the vastness of the size of the universe, but also because of the vastness of its antiquity:

What is man, that you are mindful of him?[!]"

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Some good stuff here, but I am not as thrilled about this list as the false teacher article. The main problem is the first statement.

My understanding of doctrine is that it always originates with people, as it is their interpretation of God’s revelation. And being man-made is by definition flawed and inadequate. Some doctrines are more flawed than others, which may be closer to truth, but if someone declares their doctrine to be absolute truth, I think you can go back to the list of characteristics of a false teacher and give it some consideration.


I have a good rule of thumb. When it looks perfectly designed to serve a particular purpose then that is the most likely origin. So when a doctrine serves the purpose of turning Christianity into a tool of power and manipulation of people, then it you can be sure it came from people seeking to turn Christianity into a tool of power and manipulation of people.

Those who insist the Bible is only the truth when properly interpreted as they do are rewriting the text to their interpretation.

Indeed. There is no substitute for reading the whole Bible for yourself. If you simply follow along with what someone tells you it says you are putting yourself on their leash. Too often they string a bunch a passages taken out of context to make it sound like the Bible says something contrary to what it actually teaches.

Too often this effectively means testing whether doctrine supports their organization and makes you follow their leadership. But like Jesus said…

Matthew 23:8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

I know too many organizations which equate “godly living” with doing what you are told including lying for Jesus. But what is godly living, really?

Isaiah 1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Matthew 25:44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’

So no… Godly living is NOT doing what some church tells you is the command of God. Godly living is doing what God wants and God tells us what He wants in the scriptures above.

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Maybe the same place I left my TV remote? :wink:

Not to be a wet blanket, but doesn’t EVERY doctrine originate from Man? Man reads, Man writes, Man speaks, Man listens. Man passes doctrine on to others who reinterpret the meaning, over and over again. Hello history!

I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. It good to dust off the old assumption, give them a good shaking, and see if they still fit.


Superficially, sure, but I will certainly not disallow inspiration. In your absence, I’ve posted this several times, but I don’t think you’ve seen it – I refer to it as ‘Bonhoeffer’s hermeneutic’:


Sure - I mean I’m not knocking it - but we still see disagreements about doctrine, and it can be very subjective. There are more objective criteria that can be helpful:

  1. Respect for persons. Does a doctrine recognize personal autonomy, and does it protect those who may lack autonomy?
  2. Beneficence. Is the doctrine “good” for the majority, and if there is any “bad” then does the good outweigh the bad?
  3. Justice. Is the doctrine fair? Are the “costs” of the doctrine shared equally, or do some pay a greater cost than others?

The above should be interpreted with empathy and compassion, and hopefully everyone can agree what those imply. And if any of this seems familiar, then you have probably read The Belmont Report. :slight_smile:

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Not all tribes can, from the Sawi and the Waodani to the tribes in the politics of the U.S., including ‘Christian nationalism’… which is idolatrous and not Christian.

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There is a certain assumption that all parties to the discussion have previously agreed not to eat each other. :grin:

Well if politics is on the table, then pass the ketchup and hold still! :laughing:
Christian Nationalism would be an interesting discussion, but might be far from the original topic, so I won’t pursue it here. (New thread?)


Too political for here, I’m pretty sure, although we talk about antivaxxers, and there is certainly some correlation!

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Which book is inspired? The Book of Mormon? The Quran?The Torah? The Torah and the Prophets?

Which Christian Bible is the right one? Marcion’s? The modern Protestant canon? The modern Catholic canon? Or the many other canons in the early church with their slight differences?

Accommodation or concordism? Verbal plenary inspiration? Intuition? Or several other types outlined by modern theologians? Even if all parties grant inspiration, we still have differences in how the Bible was inspired, it’s exact extent and nature.

How many Christian denominations are there today and competing beliefs on hundreds if not thousands of issues? False teachers today are swindlers, people serving themselves and not doing good works like helping their neighbors and feeding the hungry.

The problem of @Shannon here is ignorance of the sleight of hand involved when ones personal interpretation and understanding of Scripture is equated with exactly what God says and everyone else’s represent false teaching. Shannon is equating whatever her conservative Church and circle of Christians believe, i.e., how they understand and interpret the Bible, with exactly what God believes and thinks. As wonderful as the Bible is, I believe our veneration should avoid idolatry/bibliolatry. The Bible doesn’t have the answer to all life’s questions. It has the answer to salvation. It’s not the ink or the cellulose in the pages of the Bible, or the words or the letters that have any value. I mean, for me, without the Holy Spirit the Bible is just another book. It’s the Holy Spirit that is important.

All parties can certainly agree the Bible contains divine revelation or is a witness to it! But that is still a man-made belief at the exclusion of dozens of other claims and the Bible has every appearance of being written by men and representing the thinking of men (accommodation!). From within the context of this accepted belief we can certainly come up with a method of sifting sound and unsound doctrine. But that is not easy at all. And proof-text hunting scripture which lines up with what we already believe certainly isn’t a good methodology

Dale B. Martin "Thus, like every other proposition or confession, theological or otherwise, the claim that “scripture is infallible” is both true and false. It is false if taken to mean that the Bible, read just like an instruction manual, a history book, a biology textbook, or even a book of dogma and doctrine, will provide straightforward answers in propositions that correspond to reality. It is false if it is taken to mean that the narratives of Genesis provide a correct “history” of the beginnings of the universe and human beings. It is false if it is taken to mean that the accounts of Jesus’s words and actions can be accepted as “what really happened” according to modern historiographical methods. It is false if it is taken to mean that Paul’s statements about behavior should be followed by modern Christians the way we would follow Robert’s Rules of Order or some “owner’s manual” for our bodies and lives. In other words, the statement “scripture is infallible” is false if it is taken the way it has been by the great majority of modern Christians in the past two hundred years.

But like almost all the theological propositions or confessions addressed in this book, it is true if it is interpreted correctly. It is true if it means that Christians may justly trust that scripture, as long as it is read in faith by the leading of the holy spirit, will not lead us to fatal error. We may trust scripture to provide what we need for our salvation. We may trust that we can read scripture in prayerful hope that God will speak to us through our reading that text. But ultimately this belief—or, perhaps better put, this stance, attitude, or habitus—is actually an expression of our faith not in a text but in God and the holy spirit. We “leave it up to the holy spirit” to protect us from damnable error in our readings of scripture. We depend on God to keep us with God in our readings of scripture. Properly understood, the doctrine of the infallibility of scripture is a statement less about a text and more about God."


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Thanks Shannon for sharing
All these discussions get one in the Word even more.
Where does one get correct doctrine?
John 7:14

Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.

John 7:15

And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?

John 7:16

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

John 7:17

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

John 7:18

He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

Bible Knowledge Commentary


The first three days passed without anyone seeing Jesus . The crowds wondered if He would come and perhaps claim to be the Messiah. Then halfway through the Feast He began teaching in in the temple courts. As the official religious leaders listened to Him along with the crowds they were amazed. (cf. Mark 1:22). His teaching was learned and spiritually penetrating. Yet He had never been a disciple in any Rabbinic school. They wondered how this could be possible.


The religious authorities figured that either a person studied in a traditional school or else he was self -taught. But Jesus’ reply pointed to a third alternative. His teaching was from God, who had commissioned Him (cf 12:49-50, 14:11, 24). Jesus was God-taught, and to know Jesus properly one must be God-taught (6:45). In order to evaluate Jesus’ claim, one must desire to do God’s will. Since Jesus is God’s will for man, people must believe in Him (6:29). Faith is the prerequisite for understanding. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6)

2 Timothy 3:16

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

2 Timothy 3:17

That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Pastor Bill Klein:

Verses 16-17 Concerning Confidence

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, the term ‘inspiration of God’ is one Greek word that means God-breathed. All scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for these four things:

for doctrine, that is the system of the Christian faith and doctrine

for reproof, this is a legal term that means to present proof to the court to bring about conviction, so it means conviction. Present evidence to bring about conviction.

for correction, it means to bring people and make them line up with the things of God. Correction. Get people back on the right path.

for instruction in righteousness: the word instruction it doesn’t come from anything that about teaching. In fact it comes from discipline. It means to discipline children. So the word of God, the Scriptures is profitable for disciplining people in righteousness.

That is why Timothy can have confidence. Continue in the Scriptures that you already have been raised on and in your ministry. Continue this confidence by using it for doctrine, for conviction, for correction, and for discipline. We don’t see it used very much in these areas because we do not to offend anyone. But out of love, God wants us corrected if we are going the wrong way. God through His word will bring conviction and He will teach us the doctrine, especially of Paul and of Christ.

The purpose verse 17 That the man of God may be perfect, that means complete, mature, throughly furnished which means totally trained unto all good works. Again the word is agathos. So the Scripture for doctrine, conviction, correction, and discipline is righteousness is for maturity and train those to be ready for every good work. Peter says in 2 Peter 3:18 says “ Let us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” To grow, become mature, to be throughly furnished to be involved in the work of God especially in an against the great apostasy in these last days.

Matthew 16:18

Jesus says in Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church”

The word “church” is singular meaning one. “My”

is possessive, meaning it belongs to the Lord. The Lord only built His one church.

The Lord did not establish denominations, but man did.

Denominations give their allegiance to the authority of men over that of Christ.

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The article makes some important points, but it also makes a serious omission that I see left out of articles such as these time and time again.

Test 6. The Test of Honesty and Factual Accuracy.

Basically: does it get its facts straight?

The Bible was not written to be read in a vacuum. Right throughout its pages, it talks about real events involving real people in real places doing real things. The principles that it sets forth and the standards of behaviour that it expects of us concern real actions with real consequences. That is why every modern Bible translation has maps telling where places such as Bethel and Dan and Gilgal and Bokim were, and footnotes telling us what a bath and a hin and an ephah and a cubit were in modern measurements.

It also contains real, practical, repeatable instructions about how we approach the physical world. For example, we are told that our approach to measurement must be accurate and honest (Deuteronomy 25:13-16). We are told that if a prophecy fails to come to pass, it was a false prophecy. (Deuteronomy 18:22).

Yes, the Bible also tells us that there is a spiritual dimension that we cannot see or measure (Hebrews 11:1). But it also tells us that our account of the physical dimension that we can see and measure must be accurate and honest. This means that any teaching that relies on claims about reality that are demonstrably, observably and measurably untrue, or that teaches that these things do not matter, is a false doctrine, for the simple reason that teaching such things is lying. Besides the fact that it dishonours God with its dishonesty, it undermines the credibility of everything else that you have to say.


How would Bonhoeffer reply to you, I wonder. I do not think you saw me claiming infallibility anywhere, and I can tentatively agree with your bolded text, but I think something is missing.

Just to point out that only the KJV and a few others translate that as doctrine in those verses. Most modern translations use “teaching” in those places. And, we are talking about Jesus, also, so not sure how we transfer that to denominational teachings or doctrines in a meaningful way.
In my own Southern Baptist tradition, while it is denied that it is a creedal document, the “Baptist Faith and Message” has been a subject of controversy. Some churches, like mine, subscribe to the 1963 version while other the 2000 version which was written during the conservative or fundamentist resurgence. It is a difficult topic.

Not only that, but if a teacher spread false prophesy he was to be dragged out of town and put to death! Historically, that hasn’t stopped people from setting a date for the Second Coming.

Hi Phil
Just looking at verses with teach or teaching. Of course this is only a few posted.

Matthew 15:9

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Matthew 28:19

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

John 14:26

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

These verses also show the importance of the subject of doctrine:

Matthew 7:28

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine:

Matthew 15:8

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

Matthew 15:9

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Matthew 16:12

Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

Mark 1:22

And they were astonished at His doctrine : for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

Acts 13:12

Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

Romans 16:17

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

1 Timothy 4:1

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

That’s an interesting selection of passages, Shannon. I note that many of those (I didn’t look them all up) … but the several I did in NRSV translation, they used the word “teaching(s)” in all cases (that I looked up) where you are seeing “doctrine”. If I’m not mistaken the NRSV is probably the more accurate translation now - for what difference that makes.

And I don’t think it makes much difference in reality - but may still be worth bringing up because for people (like you and so many here?) who wish to maintain a hyperfocus on the letter, “doctrine” has much stronger connotations than “teaching”. Some would say that if it’s Christ talking, then what’s the difference? But even Christ has a way of bringing some things into the foreground of importance and letting other things recede to more of a ‘background’ status. And … since it is Christ speaking after all, it behooves us to take an interest in his priorities.

Thanks Shannon either the word “teachings/doctrine” is used.

Brings up apostasy:

Apostasy is moving away from a fixed position

2 Thessalonians 2:3

Except a falling away come

first from correct doctrine

Does not say the church will fall away from the faith

True repentance is by faith of the Lord

These are not believers

Must be divisions in the church, heresies in the church

They left for false teachings

1 John 2:19

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Order in which false teaching comes wandering

away from the truth. Seducing spirits taught by demons. They go by experiences first.

Teacher is one who distributes information of the Word.

Many chase emotional experiences

John 10:4

4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

John 10:5

5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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