By J. C. Ryle
Eight symptoms of false teaching was written by J. C. Ryle over one-hundred years ago, and is more than relevant for the church today.
1. There is an undeniable zeal in some teachers of error – their earnestness makes many people think they must be right.
2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge – many think that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe to listen to.
3. There is a general tendency to completely free and independent thinking today – many like to prove their independence of judgment by believing the newest ideas, which are nothing but novelties.
4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear kind, loving, and open-minded – many seem half-ashamed to say that anybody can be wrong or is a false teacher.
5. There is always a portion of half-truth taught by modern false teachers – they are always using scriptural words and phrases, but with unscriptural meaning.
6. There is a public craving for a more sensational and entertaining worship – people are impatient with the more inward and invisible work of God within the hearts of men.
7. There is a superficial readiness all around to believe anyone who talks cleverly, lovingly and earnestly, forgetting that Satan often masquerades himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
8. There is a wide-spread ignorance among professing Christians – every heretic who speaks well is surely believed, and anyone who doubts him is called narrow-minded and unloving.
All these are especially symptoms of our times. I challenge any honest and observant person to deny them. These tend to make the assaults of false doctrine today especially dangerous and make it even more important to say loudly, “Do not be carried away with strange doctrine!”
Does any one ask me, What is the best safeguard against false doctrine? – I answer in one word, ‘The Bible: the Bible regularly read, regularly prayed over, regularly studied.’ We must go back to the old prescription of our Master: ‘Search the Scriptures.’ (John 5:39) If we want a weapon to wield against the devices of Satan, there is nothing like ‘the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.’ But to wield it successfully, we must read it habitually, diligently, intelligently, and prayerfully.
This is a point on which, I fear, many fail. In an age of hurry and bustle, few read their Bibles as much as they should. More books perhaps are read than ever, but less of the one Book which makes man wise unto salvation.