Quotes on Public vs. Private Correction of Error

"Some think that if one Christian differs with the writings or public statements of another [professing] Christian on a point of doctrine, without rancor or any problem between them as persons, he is wrong for stating the differences publicly before going privately to the 'brother' with whom he disagrees. That is a misconception. First of all, there is no unreconciled condition between them; they simply differ. Secondly, therefore, there is no matter of church discipline involved. Thirdly, even if this were a matter of discipline, the first party wrote or spoke publicly -- he put it before the church or the world; he did not speak privately. For that reason it is as appropriate for the second to write or speak as publicly as the first did in refuting what he thinks is a wrong interpretation of the Scriptures and which, therefore, he believes may hurt the church if he doesn't (Handbook of Church Discipline, pp. 34-35).

"... many church leaders, though well intentioned, are feeding ... deadly poison to the Body of Christ. ... [Religious] leaders should be held accountable for what they say in books, magazines and pulpit, or on radio or television. Certainly no one can object if what he has stated publicly is quoted or questioned publicly. If any church leader is granted immunity from challenge or correction, then [the spirit of] the Reformation was in vain and we are back under the unscriptural authorization of a Protestant popery. If [their] teachings are valid and Biblical, then [they] have nothing to fear from a factual and Scriptural analysis ... and if [their] precepts are in fact false and dangerous, then lovers of God and truth will be grateful when error is exposed" (Comments from the Foreword to PsychoHeresy).

"False doctrine is not the subject of Matthew 18, but something else entirely and, therefore, does not come under the instructions Christ gives in that passage. False doctrine is never a private matter and is always to be dealt with publicly. In fact, much of the New Testament was written to publicly correct false teaching ... Paul withstood Peter to his face publicly for his false interpretation of the law that caused him not to associate with Gentile believers (Gal. 2:11-14). In a day of mass media, particularly when denied access to so-called 'Christian' television and radio, the only method of public correction of false teaching is to write books and to speak publicly, in order to call the attention of the Body to errors that affect the whole Body.

"Furthermore, what teachers say in books and on television, etc. is part of a public domain, subject to review, analysis, and critique of any kind. Anyone who makes public declarations intended to influence large audiences through books, radio, television, etc. ought to know that he is responsible for what he says, and will be held accountable. No one need ask anyone for permission to critique anything that has been espoused in a public forum. It is not necessary to first talk with a writer or speaker in order to be accurate and fair in critiquing him ... If members of the Body have erred, then if we love them, we will correct them" (February 1986, CIB Bulletin).

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