You Cannot Play a Whack-a-Mole With Heresy
Did you ever play the arcade game called Whac-A-Mole? If not, let me describe it for you. You stand over a game top that is about waist high, holding a soft rubber mallet in your hand. This is used “to hit robotic toy moles that pop up randomly in holes laid out across the surface of the machine.” As the mole pops up, you have to whack it before it disappears. The moment you miss a mole, the game is over.
The challenge is that as the game goes on, more and more moles pop up all over the game top until, in the end, there are simply too many moles to whack. The moles win and you lose.
I vividly remember being in Penn Station in New York City decades ago, stopping to watch an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who was playing the game. He was wearing his Hasidic garb — so, the long black coat and the black hat — with his side curls swinging and his right arm flailing as he made a valiant effort to triumph over the moles. As I recall, he was also holding some packages under his left arm, adding to the spectacle.
But alas, despite his increasingly frenzied efforts, the moles won. Again.
Sometimes, dealing with heresy and false teaching in the Body, it can feel the same way.
The Battle Seems Like a Failing One Sometimes
No sooner do you whack the latest error than another error pops up. And another. And more. The quicker you whack them, the more quickly they appear.
You post your video refuting the latest false teaching only to realize that the video you’re refuting has already gone viral, spawning a series of additional false teachings in its wake. The cycle never ends.
Recently, after I refuted the latest, viral false teaching about the end-times (namely, that Jesus was coming to rapture His Church by the end of this year), I was sent another link declaring that the date was 2030, not 2023. But of course!
What about all the failed predictions of the past? Are we not to learn from them?
The answer came back swiftly, “Things are different now! That’s why we have all these predictions. This time, we’re really close to the end.”
How did I miss that? Things are certainly different now — just like they were different when the last predictions were made, and the predictions before those.
Whack, whack, whack … but there are just too many moles.
One day we’re responding to the blatant antisemitism of Black supremacist, radical Hebrew Israelites (in the name of God, of course). The next day we’re responding to the blatant antisemitism of White supremacist, radical Christian nationalists (in the name of Christ, of course).
Whack, whack, whack — but more moles keep popping up.
Don’t Get Worn Out
As a charismatic, on a regular basis, I’m being informed about the latest, absolutely bizarre, embarrassingly false teaching or spiritual fad.
As an evangelical, I’m constantly hearing about the newest “progressive” shift to the left at the expense of the plain teaching of Scripture.
As a Jewish believer in Yeshua, I’m endlessly encountering the latest manifestation of “Hebrew roots” heresies, all of it laying claim to the “true” and “original” meaning of Scripture.
My Catholic colleagues are confronting a rapidly growing stream of ethical and theological compromises from the Pope to the local parish.
And on and on it goes.
Whack, whack, whack, but the moles just keep popping up at an ever-increasing pace. What are we to do?
Defining the term “whack-a-mole,” the Free Dictionary website explained that, “By extension,” this speaks of “a situation in which problems continue to arise faster than one is able to solve or cope with them, resulting in piecemeal, incomplete, or temporary results” — and, I would add, resulting in certain defeat. You simply cannot defeat all the moles.
That means that, if we deal with heresies and false teachings the way we deal with these arcade moles, we will quickly wear ourselves out, not to mention become increasingly frustrated in the process. We also run the risk of getting so focused on the moles that we take our eyes off Jesus. That is a high price to pay for a mole.
Until Jesus Comes Back, This Problem Will Exist
The fact is that, in this world, as long as there is truth there will be error, and as long as there is orthodoxy there will be heterodoxy.
That’s why Peter wrote 2,000 years ago, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them —bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1)
Be assured that the false teachers will not go away — that is, not until Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom here on earth.
But that leads us back to my earlier question: What, then, are we to do? Do we simply ignore the moles because there are too many of them? Absolutely not.
Echoing the words of Deuteronomy 15:11, Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you” (John 12:8). But He certainly did not mean that we should not care for the poor. To the contrary, care for the poor and needy is an important expression of our faith and a tangible demonstration of the love of God (see Matthew 25:31-46).
At the same time, we recognize that we will never eradicate poverty — again, not until Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom.
Do the Work That Will Never End in This Age, and be at Peace
It’s the same thing with heresy and false teaching. We will never eradicate it from this world until the Lord returns, but as He leads and directs, and as it directly intersects with our own lives and ministries and congregations, we address it.
In that same spirit I have written books like Hyper-Grace or Playing with Holy Fire, both of them confronting serious errors or dangerous practices within the Body. I wrote these because I felt burdened by the Lord to do so and because, with increasing frequency, I ran into these errors and abuses wherever I turned.
But I fully recognize that I am not the “Corrector in Chief” (nor, as someone once said of me, “the gatekeeper to the charismatic movement”), that none of us have it all, and that we will never be able to whack all the moles.
That’s also why our main emphasis must be on preaching and teaching the truth and lifting up the Son of God for the world to see, in our words and in our actions.
As we do this, confronting error as the Lord leads and directs, many will be helped and others will be made more accountable. Some of the “moles” may even come around too if our “whack” hits them at the right time and in the right way.
But the moles will always be here, so don’t wear yourself out. One day, they will be gone — forever. Until then, engage as directed, but be at peace.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Why So Many Christians Have Left the Faith. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.