Friday, April 29, 2016


This post appeared on this blog a few years back but is in need of being revisited as things are far worse today than even back when it first appeared.

It seems to me there is a present day proliferation of people who are creating dissension in the Body of Christ in the name of doctrinal purity and creating what they call an "identity." I believe that may be causing something more akin to the sin of gendering strife [dissension] than anything else. I also think it may eventually need to be addressed and confronted in a clear, loving, and biblical fashion. 

However, I do want to make two clarifying points before I continue to say what I believe needs to be said about it all.

The first thing is...the scriptures do make it clear that the difference between truth and error does matter. John MacArthur says, and I agree with him, that real DISCERNMENT is "The ability a Christian has to tell the difference between truth and error and right and wrong." He goes on to say that discernment as he's using it is synonymous with the simple ability to think correctly biblically. I agree again. That's a good ability to have. 

So to be discerning about what is true and what is false according to one's belief system is very important in the Christian life and I would not desire to take away from that fact at all. I think it is safe to say that the effort to maintain a spirit of unity in the Body should never be at the expense of truth OR purity in the Church. [A Corinthian problem in the NT if you remember.]

That said, it is also true that discernment in our lives is a grace and is the work of the Holy Spirit Who has been sent to "Teach us all things concerning Christ" and He will always demonstrate His character of Grace through our lives no matter the confrontation necessary about things right or wrong theologically. [Or any other issue.] Much of what passes for guarding the truth, as defined by a strife-genderer, which they always say they're doing by the way, is nothing more, in my estimation, than bad character dressed in a second rate personality trying to get their own way and is a biblical no-no. 

The second thing is...REAL unity in the Body is not something we are to try and create by using a system of doctrines [Theology] that people agree to accept as a group anyway. Getting our identity or unity from a system of theology, whether Calvinism or Baptist beliefs or any other theological system, is not a concept that can be found in the bible. In fact, the creation of unity among Christians is NOT our responsibility AT ALL

We are to endeavor to KEEP the bond of unity that ALREADY exists among believers because of the Holy Spirit's work in us as Kingdom people according to the Apostle Paul as he wrote in Ephesians. That unity is not around certain doctrines but the Person of Christ and the work of His cross as explained in that same epistle. The people who create dissension wind up making it impossible to KEEP unity and it is the actions and attitudes of those people I wish to speak about in this post.

Kenneth Haugk has written a book entitled "Antagonists in the Church" and it is well worth the read. He is a Pastor, counselor and author who has been through the fire and has come out with the savor of the Spirit about him. In that book he describes the person who causes dissension or is divisive. His thought is there are some people who, he says, are "genuinely bent on a kind of behavior that is destructive to the Body" And.. he has given them a name. They are "Antagonists." He believes there is a need for them to be identified and confronted in love for the purpose of maintaining the "Unity of the Spirit." In his book you will find a wealth of information as well as a personality profile and manuel for dealing with such people.

I'm going to use major portions of his book to complete this post because what he says in that book is just too good to miss. He vividly describes the people he has researched and personally experienced in ministry who were bent on gendering strife and causing dissension, called Antagonists, and uses four descriptive terms with an explanation of each. Those terms are...[All emphasis mine.] 

A... Narcissism: “Narcissism is a personality pattern in which a person displays an excessive sense of self-importance and a preoccupation with eliciting the admiration and attention of others ... a narcissistic individual greedily fishes for and hungrily devours the praise and attention of others ... Narcissistic individuals who are antagonists are extremely reluctant to admit wrongdoings. They cannot conceive of being in error, because ‘right’ is what meets their needs, and ‘wrong’ is what obstructs the meeting of those needs." 

B... Aggression: “Antagonists also display patterns of aggressive behavior that permeate their entire personalities. Angry at the world, and any convenient situation or person, antagonists seem to wander through life seeking, inviting, and collecting injustices against themselves. Every perceived or actual wrong they experience is stored in their memories and periodically replayed to supply fuel for their anger. Antagonists initiate trouble; they do not wait for trouble to come to them. This often goes hand-in-hand with hypersensitivity on their part. They often take every word and action as a personal attack and respond aggressively. Something as seemingly minor as failing to say good morning to them can cause their antagonism to flare up. Their response to such an omission would most likely be to wonder what you had against them."

"Antagonists try to build themselves up by tearing others down. They express their inner struggles with a negative self-concept by attacking people, enjoying the failures and misfortunes of others while they project their own sense of worthlessness onto them." 

"The attacks of antagonists are self-serving. Often they will seize on a slogan or pick some side of a valid issue and pretend that is what they are fighting for. It rarely is. An antagonist will quickly drop a particular slogan or issue once it no longer serves his or her ambitions."

C... Rigidity: “Rigidity is characterized by inflexibility of thought, usually coupled with excessive concern for precise and accurate procedure (as defined by the rigid individual). Someone with a rigid personality sees the world as totally static; his or her explanation of events is, by definition, the unquestionably correct interpretation. Rigid individuals ridicule or ignore differing opinions and skillfully overlook contrary evidence ... Antagonists with rigid personality structures are especially jealous of leaders, because people in authority have the power to inject disturbing input. Therefore, rigid antagonists frequently employ their simplistic rules and regulations as weapons against leaders.”

D... Paranoid personality syndrome:“Marks of a paranoid personality include persistent, unwarranted guardedness and mistrust of others; delusions of grandeur; lack of genuine emotions, and hypersensitivity. Because they distrust others, paranoid persons try to find hidden meanings in words and actions, continually looking for ulterior motives behind what others say ... they commonly experience difficulty in relating to others; disagreements and arguments are commonplace. Paranoid individuals find coworkers and authority figures most difficult to get along with.

“A paranoid person often projects his or her own feelings onto others. If in a social gathering a leader accidentally forgets to shake a paranoid antagonist’s hand, the paranoid might blow the incident all out of proportion in his or her own mind. The wrath carried inside the antagonist will be attributed by mental sleight of hand to the leader, as if the leader were angry with the antagonist."

My assessment of all this? 

I would say he has nailed the actions and attitudes of people who gender strife and cause dissension as clearly as it can be done. It would also be wise for us all to evaluate our own actions and attitudes in light of this blistering description. To be part of the problem instead of the solution is not what I desire for my own life and I'm sure you would agree.

That said, I have to admit that it would take a measure of the work of the Spirit for us to be willing to address the kind of problem people he's describing in ANY fellowship. I'm going to have to reflect on what measures I would even suggest to do so at the present time. My measures in the past did not demonstrate genuine love I'm afraid. I spoke the truth as I saw it to such people but it was often driven by much more than Kingdom concern on my part I'm convinced. [Like self-protection perhaps!!]

I would finally say...I HAVE pastored these people and have even met some on the Internet. I think that families may also suffer this kind of Uncle or Aunt around sometimes and it doesn't make for good family reunions generally speaking. But the family of God CAN be a unit that graciously celebrates the differences [Even theologically] that are present because we are at different places personally in our individual Kingdom journey. With respect, patience, and a measure of love that is spread abroad by the Spirit we can maintain a unity of the spirit while working through our beliefs to truth as much as is possible this side of glory. No one of us will have it all and no one of us needs to be rejected just because we don't have it all. Kingdom living can be different. May God make it so by His Grace.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


One of the things that I've discovered from my years of ministry is that much dissent is caused by the individuals weakness revealed in the "need to be right".

A large part of that discovery was the fact of my own "need to be right". A real problem for those who wear titles designating them as "leaders", and engendered by traditional institutionalism. One of my early lecturers told us, "Never let your authority as pastor be questioned"!

Like many, to my own chagrin, I had to learn the hard way, that pastors are often amiss!

As you said,"...the family of God CAN be a unit that graciously celebrates the differences [Even theologically] that are present because we are at different places personally in our individual Kingdom journey".

That doesn't mean we have to stick our head in the sand over falsehood, or the like, but it does mean respecting the thinking of others,and asking them to explain their position, and showing genuine interest as they do ( no head shaking, frowning, making faces, etc).

Interestingly, they are usually then open to hear your explanation. Note: I said "usually", not always :)

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

This is one of those comments that may exceed the value of the post. Well said my friend.

Rex Ray said...

Aussie John,

I believe you hit the nail on the head: “…much dissent is caused by the individual’s weakness revealed in the need to be right.”

You related that some pastors have this problem. I think Paul’s post also applies to the difference between a leader and a boss.

One tool design boss would tell how he wanted the design done. He would never approve a good idea to change unless there was something wrong with the new idea that he could correct. I learned real fast to have a small mistake.

My young friend spent a week with a person, and I asked what he thought of him: “Most critical man I’ve ever met.”

I think “critical” summarizes in general the post.

One time a man was teaching some kids how to cut sheetrock in half. He marked both ends, clamped a straightedge and drew a pencil line. Then he slowly used a knife to cut the pencil line.

I came by and said, “You can cut that fast as you can walk if you use the straightedge to guide the knife.”

In a rage, he grabbed my jacket and shoved me ten feet while yelling, “You’re always telling people what to do!”

Rex Ray said...


I won’t be hurt at all if you delete this comment about “Mr.A”, but I believe at one time he was an example of your post. A few years ago I confronted him. With tears in his eyes, he asked for my forgiveness and now we enjoy each other’s company.

Things done for Mr.A” had to be perfect. We were eating at his house and he asked me to raise the window. Without getting out of my chair, I reached behind me and raised it about half way. He got up, walked around the table, lowered it two inches, and said, “You raised it too much.”

As owner of a large company that he developed, he has learned to hire others to deal with employees.
I heard that one lady said, “I can’t stand your uncle.”
My daughter has worked for him 20 plus years. She told him the first year, while crying her eyes out, “If I can’t tell you I’ve made a mistake without getting stomped into the ground, then I’ll start lying to you like everyone else!”

Many years ago, my family took a school bus that was donated to my father who was pastor of a church in Alaska. We had a boat on top to go fishing. My oldest son was 15 and loved to fish. “Mr.A” flew up and joined us the first day of fishing. Since the boat would hold only four, my 15 year old volunteered to fish from the bank and let “Mr.A”, his son, me, and his brother go up river. After an hour, we came back and my oldest said, “I’d like to fish from the boat.”
“Mr.A” said, “No, there’s no room for you!”

My son had helped test the motor and boat, tied it on the bus, etc and to be told there was no room for him made me think somebody ought to ‘walk the plank’. I said, “You can take my place.” They fished for a week and never once did “Mr.A” ask if I’d like to fish.

A group was gathered outside preparing to go on a mission trip. “Mr.A” stated the time to meet. I said I didn’t hear the time. He came over and grabbed my ears while saying, “I have a sore throat, and you are causing it to hurt because of your poor hearing!”

My ears hurt so bad I jerked away as hard as I could, but he had a death grip. Beside the one time I hit my ten year old twin to make him stop bothering me, I’ve never hit anyone but for an instant his stomach was inviting. I thought what kind of an example would that be in front of kids.

Well Paul, I feel better.