Re: The Genesis Factor

Brian D Harper (
Sat, 15 May 1999 21:57:22 -0700

At 10:17 PM 5/13/99 +0100, Vernon wrote:
>Hi Brian,
>Before replying to David's post of 10 May, it is appropriate that I
>immediately challenge your understanding of Mt.7:20. Writing to John,
>you said: "... before we get too caught up in testing the fruits of
>doctrines or philosophies it may be a good idea to read Matthew 7:15-20.
>Here we find that the Lord is not actually telling us to test the fruits
>of doctrines but to test the fruits of 'false prophets'...there is, I
>believe, an enormous difference between looking at the fruit of some
>abstract idea and looking at the fruit of a person's life..."
>But don't abstract ideas originate in the human mind? and are they not
>propagated by teaching? To understand what is meant by a 'false prophet'
>it is first necessary to understand the term 'prophet'. Chambers
>dictionary states that a prophet is 'someone who speaks on behalf of a
>deity; someone who proclaims a divine message; an inspired teacher; a
>foreteller; etc. Thus, he is someone with a mission; someone who has a
>message to convey to his fellows.
>In the context of the verses in question Matthew Henry therefore
>rightly concludes that a 'false prophet' is a 'false teacher' who
>preaches 'false doctrine in those things that are essential to religion;
>who teaches that which is contrary to the truth as it is in Jesus'.
>Brian, I don't think we are at liberty to interpret the Lord's warning
>as simply relating to the personal conduct of an individual. It is
>rather whether his or her teaching inspires in others what MH refers to
>as 'serious piety, humility, charity, holiness and love' - or their
>opposites. It is these, surely, that are the 'fruits', of the doctrine
>proclaimed, and they enable us to form a view of that doctrine!

Thanks for your reply Vernon. I think your defense of your position
is a reasonable one.

Nevertheless, I maintain my original claim. In the verse cited,
the Lord did not warn us to test the fruits of doctrines as you
originally claimed. Instead he told us that we will know false
prophets (I agree, teachers also) by their fruits. Your position
can only be maintained as an interpretation of what Jesus said.

I personally believe that the best commentary on the Bible is
the Bible itself. When fruit is mentioned my first thought goes
always to Galatians 5:22-23.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (RSV)

Some other examples are Romans 7:4-5, John 15:1-16. In none
of these cases does fruit refer to fruit of a doctrine or
of a teaching.

Is it possible that we might err by judging the fruit of a
doctrine? A good example might be Paul's doctrine of salvation
by grace through faith:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is
not your own doing, it is the gift of God-- not because of works,
lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8,9 (RSV)

As a matter of fact, Paul's opponents did judge this doctrine
by its fruits which they claimed were a license to sin. That
this doctrine has in fact been used by some as a license to
sin is, I believe, beyond doubt.

What I'm trying to get at here is that a teaching may have
fruit not intended by the teacher. To judge the teacher by
this fruit is thus unfair. There are other, better ways to
judge doctrines.

Now, can we say that a teachers teachings are the fruit of
a teacher? Yes, of course. These teachings should be judged,
but not necessarily by their fruit. To insist that this is
what Jesus meant would be to say that we should judge false
teachers by the fruit of their fruit, when Jesus said we
shall know them by their fruit.

How is this distinction significant in the present discussion?
It tells us that we first need to identify who the candidate
false teacher is. The candidate false teacher is a theistic
evolutionist. If they are indeed false teachers then we
should know them by their fruit. In most cases, most of the
fruit of any particular theistic evolutionist on this list
is not known. About the only thing we could look at, given
that we all don't really know one another, would be the
written teachings of TE's. But herein lies the problem with
your argument. As far as I know, none of the things that you
listed are actually taught by any TE that I know. Therefore,
they are irrelevant with respect to the Lord's command which
you cited.

Another problem here is that we are warned in many cases about
judging. We should not be anxious about passing judgement, nor
should we be judging in every case. The above would not apply
at all, for example, to a TE who is not a teacher. Actually,
I accept the judgement myself, since I am a teacher. But, I
have never taught anything in the Church having anything remotely
to do with TE. TE is a belief that I have, it is not however a
doctrine that I teach. Therefore, I do not see how the Lord's
command applies at all to TE, at least in my case.

Brian Harper
Associate Professor
Applied Mechanics
The Ohio State University

"All kinds of private metaphysics and theology have
grown like weeds in the garden of thermodynamics"
-- E. H. Hiebert