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  • Daniel Mayfield

Two Kinds of Criticism


There are two very different kinds of criticism, one of which is helpful and the other which is impotent.


The helpful kind of criticism exposes error *in order to* purify the conscience of the faithful. It speaks in order to rescue those who’ve been captivated by the cunning ideals of man. It speaks so as to preserve the integrity of the gospel for another generation. Like Paul instructed Timothy to do, it guards the good deposit. A large part of guarding it is to expose the doctrines of demons which often appear reasonable and are apparently plausible (see 1 Timothy 4:1-6; Colossians 2:4-8). A major part of faithfulness and Christian integrity is the active work of destroying arguments, bringing down strongholds, and laying low every lofty opinion raised above Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). It is impossible to be faithful without this kind of criticism.


But the other kind of criticism is unhelpful and, in fact, harmful. It’s purpose isn’t preservative or spiritually instructive. It isn’t borne out of a sincere compassion on lost souls. It comes from a rather critical spirit. It spews from seething tongues. It may be attacking the right philosophical enemy, but it does so for the wrong reasons. It merely complains. It speaks from a place of hatred. It always complains but offers no solutions. It is solely destructive of false ideas but lacks the instructive force of the gospel of peace. Often, it looks back on “how things used to be,” and it lives in a reminiscence of those days, spiteful of the current ones, ignorant of how we get here, quick to cast blame. Ultimately, it is an error in the opposite direction.


Now, here’s what I want for you to consider. On first glance, these two kinds of criticism may appear to be one in the same. So while we develop an appropriate distaste for the latter kind of criticism, we learn to view all such criticism in the same vein. We are then disposed to turning our heads and scoffing at anyone who offers a critical view of the current narrative.


But it’s important that we understand this distinction. There are souls who are right now being caught up in polished kinds of rhetoric which are damning to their core. Martin Luther once said that the doctrines of demons do not come along announcing themselves as evil, of the devil. On the contrary they present themselves as gospel, which is precisely why Paul warned the Galatians against any “other gospel.”


The enemy is loud and has center stage. Pretending that we can simply cry, “peace! Peace!” is a foolish endeavor. Closing your eyes and plugging your ears and shouting, “LALALALALALA!” isn’t helping your neighbor, and it isn’t protecting your children. It is doing no good. It is *foolish*. We must not be quieted because of some persons who are aimlessly shouting. There is a war for man’s eternal soul. The Lord needs good warriors. It is not a battle against flesh and blood—but it is a battle that exists in the realm of ideas. If we refuse to speak to the Truth, we are culpable in man’s moral decline. Let us not be quiet, but let us speak the truth—all of it—in love, while offering mankind the solution, which is the gospel of peace.

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