“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
The use of camouflage in the military is a fascinating study. But long before armies, navies and air forces began to camouflage their men and equipment to hide them from the enemy, animals and insects had been designed and created by God with colors and shapes that made them impossible or difficult to spot. Hunters have learned from the military and nature and now also use the same techniques to be less visible to their prey.
During World War II, huge parts of Burbank, CA, including the massive Lockheed factories that produced planes for the war, as well as the runways of what is now Burbank Airport, were covered with painted nets that made the factories and the airport look like suburbia from the air. There are some very interesting pictures of this on the Internet.
Camouflage is not only used by the armies of this world but also by the armies of Satan to hide its agents in plain sight. Here in Hollywood (un)reality and movie stars, gangsters and politicians hide behind big shiny crosses around their necks. One of the best ways to detect the deception is the size of the cross – the bigger the cross, the bigger the deceiver. In addition to symbols that used to belong to Christians, they also use language to hide their true nature. Sayings like “god bless” and “we are praying for you” are all part of a clever ruse to lull the non-suspecting into believing the individual can be trusted.
The agents of Rome have long used their cassocks, sandals and crosses to hide their abusive and deceptive nature. The back-to-front clerical collar (aka dog collar) has in America become standard camouflage for all sorts of frauds, New Agers and other evil workers. This is so bad that I have come to believe that anyone wearing a clerical/dog collar is indeed one of the dogs that Paul warns about: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” (Philippians 3:2). Yet millions are fooled by these imposters because of the camouflage they wear.
This kind of deception is also not new: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”(2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
But recently, as a result of a book I have been reading and various preachers I have been listening to, I have become aware of another (also not new) form of spiritual camouflage, and that is the use of the term “Sola Scriptura”. Just as the big cross and the clerical collar immediately flashes a red flag that something is wrong with the picture, the profuse use of the words “Sola Scriptura” has, for me, become a warning sign that the speaker or author is trying to hide something.
Sola Scriptura is one of the terms that came out of the Reformation and is Latin for “only Scripture”. By using the term, we mean that our faith and doctrine is based on Scripture alone and not on the traditions of men, extra-biblical documents, “revelation”, human philosophies or anything else outside of the 66 books of the Bible.
But writers and speakers are increasingly using the term to camouflage the extra-Biblical sources of their ideas. One writer uses terms like “we base our doctrine only on the Scriptures” dozens of times throughout his book. All the while he blatantly builds his ideas on everything but the Bible. In fact, sometimes he would sandwich his extra-biblical teaching between two such statements! It is so bad that while reading the book I came to discover that those words were actually a siren to draw attention to those parts of the book where he most grievously departed from Scripture and where one had to be especially careful.
The sad thing is that pastors and mature believers whom I would normally regard as very discerning, and who have also read the book, see no problem with it. So the technique clearly works so well that even the most observant and experienced are fooled by it.
At a recent conference I attended, the speakers, one after the other, bandied the term “Sola Scriptura” about. Not only did they like to use the term but they seemed sincerely convinced that what they were propounding was based only on Scripture and they openly claimed that everyone else was adding to Scripture. Yet they did not have a single Scripture for the central idea they were propagating at the conference. Instead they relied on experience, statistics, the Church Fathers, and the Reformers as a base for their doctrine. Once again it seemed that almost all of the 5,000 attendees were thoroughly convinced that the speakers were speaking truth.
Does that mean that anyone who uses the term (or similar terms) is fake? No, not necessarily. But if someone makes a point of flashing a big shiny cross around, beware; and so too be very careful of those who like to assure everyone of their orthodoxy. If an author or preacher is preaching the truth from God’s Word, it should be pretty obvious and there should be no need to protest too much.
One of the many problems with identifying anyone using sources outside of the Bible is that it is impossible to be a Berean – in the sense that there is nothing in the Scripture to compare the new idea to because it finds its source outside of Scripture. But that should actually be the very basis for rejecting the new idea. If it is not found in the Bible, no matter how the author justifies the use thereof, then it should be rejected out of hand.
And don’t be intimidated by the preacher’s doctorate, credentials and background, elite “spirituality,” and least of all by his confident pronouncements, predictions and prophecies, bombastic pontifications, or affected meekness. The questions are simple: “Is it in the Bible and is this what the Bible plainly teaches?” If the speaker claims that you will not see what he sees because you do not have the special training, experience and background that he has, reject him. He is adding his “special insight” to the Scriptures. (This is a form of Gnosticism.)
Sola Scriptura also means that the Scriptures stand on their own. Yes, you need the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth (John 16:13), but that’s it. No more. Anything else is a deception – no matter how red the speaker gets in the face when he insists he is teaching orthodoxy and Sola Scriptura.
The answer to all the bluff and bluster is easy and simple: “Show me where it is written.”
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon