I really have been disconnected from the discernment blogosphere in the past couple weeks, because I didn’t know anything about this until yesterday. “This” being the concern over John MacArthur favorably quoting Dallas Willard many years ago. The first I heard of it was Christine Pack’s post yesterday at Sola Sisters in which she rightly called for everyone to take a deep breath before rushing to judgement.
She supplies the entire quote in her post and points out it was mentioned in a sermon in 1989 and that since that time MacArthur has condemned the contemplative spirituality/spiritual formation/spiritual disciplines movement Willard was a part of. (Read her entire post please!)
But what I most appreciated was the rules Pack uses to critically analyze a person’s statements. She writes:” my rule of thumb when I hear something that flags me as concerning is to take a pastor’s teaching on the whole, and not isolate out certain bits and pieces. And here are some of the things I look for:
■ Is there a general move by the pastor in a more ecumenical direction? Or rather, does the pastor openly state the unbiblical nature of ecumenicalism?
■ Are there repeated quotes from questionable sources?
■ Is there an ongoing pattern by the pastor of attending big mega-conferences with false teachers?”
I think those are some wise guidelines.
However, this incident does bring up a personal pet peeve of mine. I personally wish that (at least when preaching), pastors would stick to quoting Scripture and avoid quoting people. Why? Because quoting someone is a bit like an endorsement, and even if that single quote is really insightful and useful — the person may have faulty theology in another area that could prove harmful. I realize that’s a pretty extreme position to take, but it is definitely my preference.
I think sometimes good pastors quote individuals with poor theology unintentionally because they simply went looking for a quote to make their point, rather than looking at the overall body of work/beliefs of that individual. I don’t think they always mean to point people toward poor teaching, but it can be the result if they’re not more careful. This is why I would just rather hear the them preach from the Bible.
There are also times you can tell a pastor is heading down the wrong track because he’s obviously quoting from books he’s reading and if those books are full of error and he seems oblivious to it, watch out.