Discerning Truth from Error in Our Culture

Nollie Malabuyo, April 20, 2021

The unbelieving world does not know and does not believe in the truths of Scriptures. Instead, they believe in the lies of Satan who delights whenever a soul is sent to hell because of his lies. Because of their wickedness, “they suppress the truth… exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:18, 25). And what are these lies and errors that our culture gladly receives as truth?

In a 2015 survey, Barna Research asked Americans if they agree or disagree with these six statements: (1) “The best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself.” (2) “People should not criticize someone else’s life choices.” (3) “To be fulfilled in life, you should pursue the things you desire most.” (4) “The highest goal of life is to enjoy it as much as possible.” “People can believe whatever they want, as long as those beliefs don’t affect society.” (6) “Any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is acceptable.”[1]

With our anti-Christian, secular culture, no one should be surprised that 69-91 percent of all American adults agree with these six statements. What’s shocking—or maybe this is not shocking at all because this is what has been going on in the last 50-60 years—is that 61-76 percent of Americans who call themselves Christians agree with the first five statements. The only statement that a minority of Christians disagreed with is the last one, “Any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is acceptable,” getting only 40 percent agreement. Still, this is a big number for people who say they are Christians.

The same survey revealed a few other insights about America’s secular culture. On the statement, “whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know”— whatever is one’s own personal experience—57 percent of all Americans agree, together with 41 percent of all Christians. On the statement, “the Bible provides us with absolute moral truths which are the same for all people in all situations, without exception,” a 59 percent majority of all Americans together with an overwhelming 83 percent of Christians, agree.

This is bizarre. If a great majority of people who call themselves Christians agree that the Bible reveals to us absolute moral truths, then why do a great majority of them say there are no absolute moral truths? There is a strange disconnect here between what people say they believe and how they behave: “I believe this, but I don’t practice this.” The conclusion of the president of Barna Research is this: “many Christians are using the way of Jesus to pursue the way of self… While we wring our hands about secularism spreading through the culture, a majority of churchgoing Christians have embraced corrupt, me-centered theology.”

In his first letter, the Apostle John also says the same thing. Those who claim to be Christians but do not behave according to God’s word and Jesus’ commandments, are not true Christians. They might be going to church, but they are pretenders. They might even be leaders and teachers and pastors, but they teach false teachings about our Lord Jesus Christ. So in our text, John warns us, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” If this is true, we must test and know and discern truth from error. So this is what we will study today in 1 John Chapter 4:1-6.

John goes on to say in verse 4 that because believers are from God, we have overcome false teachers and their false teachings. God is greater than the devil, so he and all his people overcome the devil. Obviously, Satan is no match against God, for God is all-powerful. This is a great comfort to us, especially in our troubles, sufferings and sorrows when God seems to be far, forgetful and sleeping. Our assurance is in the words of Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). So do not fear the devil, because he and his evil angels fear our Lord and obey his commands (Mark 5:7). Satan and all his forces are a defeated army Col 2:15).

The devil’s forces are not only his evil angels, but all the unbelievers in this world, those whom John calls “antichrists.” They are those who believe, teach and practice Satan’s lies. John says of them in verse 5, “They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.” John repeats what he says in his Gospel, “the world did not know him,” that is, the unbelieving world (John 1:10; 17:25). Jesus warned his disciples that they will be rejected, thrown out of synagogues, and even be killed, “because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:3).

And this warning is for all Christians in all times and places. The unbelieving world does not know and does not believe in the truths of Scriptures. Instead, they believe in the lies of Satan who delights whenever a soul is sent to hell because of his lies. Because of their wickedness, “they suppress the truth… exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:18, 25). And what are these lies and errors that our culture gladly receives as truth? I will briefly discuss a few that are prevalent in our day, most of which I have already discussed before.

The first error is the denial of absolute truth that I discussed at the beginning. The spirit of error says that truth is dependent on how we feel, what we experience, or what the present culture says. Therefore, truth is ever changing and ever evolving. On the hand, the spirit of truth teaches that the word of God is absolute truth. It is eternal and never changing, because God is eternal and unchanging. Jesus declared to his disciples, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt 24:35) and prayed to his Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). This is why Augustine stated, “All truth is God’s truth.” Even 2+2=4, an absolute truth until the present generation arrived, is God’s truth.

The second spirit of error is what is called hedonism, where the highest goal of life is the pursuit of pleasures and desires. The desire of the hedonist is maximum pleasure and minimum pain. In addition to pleasure, ASAP is also common among hedonists: “I want everything ASAP! Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Paul condemns them as “lovers of money… lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:4). In contrast, the spirit of truth says that all pleasures that we seek and enjoy must come from God’s good and righteous hand. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes says that eating, drinking, possessions, and finding enjoyment in our toil under the sun are “from the hand of God” (2:24-25; 3:13; 5:19). Even work is God’s good gift to man (Ecc 2:24), so we are to give thanks to God for work and all other pleasures we enjoy (1 Tim 4:4-5).

The third spirit of error is related to hedonism. It is called narcissism or being infatuated and obsessed with oneself. This is extreme self-centeredness. Among the present generation, fitness centers are a must. While working out, they look at their form and their beauty, like the mythological Narcissus who spent his whole life infatuating with his own reflection in a pool of water. Not only do they obsess with their own beauty; they also want the adulation of others who see them. Again, Paul condemns hedonists as “lovers of self… proud, arrogant… swollen with conceit” (2 Tim 3:2, 4).

In contrast, the spirit of truth commands us not to fix our eyes at ourselves, but “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2). On the cross, “he had no form… or beauty… despised and rejected… a man of sorrows” (Isa 53:2-3). And rather than seeking our own interest and good, Paul exhorts us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). Jesus had no ambition and no interest except the salvation of his own people through the cruel cross (Phil 2:5-8).

The fourth spirit of error in our culture is related to hedonism. It is called socialism or communism. Like hedonism, the socialist’s goal is maximum pleasure coupled with minimum pain. The most money and possessions with the least work or even no work, so I can have the maximum time of pleasure with money that is not mine. “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine.” It calls for the distribution of wealth and property to those who had not worked for it even for one minute through welfare, grants and stimulus payments even to those who do not want to work.

But the spirit of truth says to socialists and communists that in the beginning, God created work for Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15). Paul even says that those who are not willing to work do not deserve to eat (2 Thess 3:10). And the Scriptures assume that possessing private property is lawful. The Eighth Commandment prohibits stealing, while the Tenth Commandment prohibits even coveting anything that belongs to our neighbor (Exo 20:15, 17).

The fifth spirit of error is related to narcissism. It is called racism, also known as Critical Race Theory or CRT, which is being obsessed and infatuated with one’s race. CRT has made inroads into many churches, even some churches in one of our sister denominations. What is this CRT? Todd Pruitt, a pastor of a conservative Presbyterian denomination, defines CRT using examples:

[CRT] has all the marks of a religious system. Indeed, it depends upon certain categories which are unmistakably Christian. There is original sin (whiteness). There are sinners (white heterosexual males). There are saints (everyone who claims oppression from white heterosexual males). There are heretics (those who deny or question CRT). There is penance (admitting guilt, offering reparations, virtue signaling, etc). Curiously absent are any true senses of atonement or redemption. Therefore, the sinner is left in a perpetual state of penance before the saint. This is not only not an application of the Gospel; it is the undoing of the gospel.[2]

Another author writes an actual summary:

“[CRT] views race and racism… as a political construction that was invented by white people to give themselves power while excluding all other races from it, and racism is the ordinary state of affairs in society, present in all interactions, institutions, and phenomena, and effectively permanent in society… That is, Critical Race Theory assumes that racism is present in everything under a doctrine known as ‘systemic racism.’”[3]

CRT activists group people into two: racist and anti-racist. However, these two categories are fiction: if you are not with them, then you are a racist. Here, they are rejecting both equality and liberalism upon which our free society is founded (liberalism in the sense of free exercise of individual freedoms and free exchange of ideas). So we have First Amendment rights. CRT, therefore, believes that both the abolitionist and the civil rights movements are incomplete. This is why CRT destroys monuments of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.

But what is the spirit of truth regarding racism? It says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In other words, all believers are equal as co-heirs of heavenly blessings. Paul also says that Jews were formerly God’s only holy nation, but now, believers from all nations are “no longer strangers and aliens, but are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). So in heaven, we will worship and rejoice with Christians “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). CRT and racism have no place in the church.

The sixth spirit of error is related to CRT. It is called cancel culture. Peter Jones, another Presbyterian pastor and one of my seminary professors, also defines cancel culture by examples:

American institutions and corporations now engage in censorship that was previously unimaginable, piling on critiques of a person, business, movement, or idea. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other Big Tech giants conduct coordinated censorship efforts, silencing important voices and shutting down civic dialogue.[4]

Cancel culture, therefore, rejects freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, grievance, exchange of ideas, and academic freedom. If you believe in these freedoms, you are canceled. If you are white, you have “white privilege” ingrained in your system. If you are not “woke” or “progressive”—which means radical—then you are canceled.

But the spirit of truth in the Scriptures tell us that God invites his people, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isa 1:18). Even the ancient Roman empire, an oppressive government, had a free exchange of ideas in their Senate. This is why Paul and the other apostles were free to travel and preach the gospel all over the empire, although at great risk to their lives due to Jewish oppoistion. In Athens, the Greek philosophers asked him to explain his “new teaching” and “strange things” to them so they can freely discuss them (Acts 17:19–20). God is concerned with justice and fairness and does not “cancel” anyone who humbly comes to him in repentance and faith.

The seventh and last spirit of error is related to “cancel culture.” I will lump them into one spirit of error. It is called sexual immorality, and it has two wicked results: abortion and LGBTQ. I have discussed these extensively before, so this will be brief. Many Christians disregard this spirit of error in their politics for their convenience, finances, approbation by the unbelieving world, and to avoid being “canceled” and persecuted by the liberal culture.

It does not matter to 61 percent of Americans that 63 million unborn Americans have been deprived of life since 1973. According to these supporters, the unborn in the mother’s womb is merely a living organism, not a human being. But the spirit of truth says that abortion is murder of unborn and newborn infants, not merely “living organisms.” As soon as conception, a human being is created by God. Psalm 139:13-16 praises God that he formed our “inward parts” and knitted us together in our mothers’ womb. And all the minute details of our lives were known to God before we were conceived.

Cancel culture’s spirit of error may do all kinds of interpretive gymnastics to twist the Scriptures, but the spirit of truth declares that homosexuality is a heinous sin. In fact, Paul singles out homosexuals as people whom God has “given over” (hardened) to their “unnatural” and “dishonorable” lusts (Rom 1:26-27). God burned Sodom and Gomorrah because of this sexual sin (Gen 19:5; Jude 7). Homosexuals are an abomination before God (Lev 18:22; 20:13), disbarred from the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9). Why iss God so wrathful against them? Because they violate his two major creation ordinances. God created human beings male and female (Gen 1:27), and marriage is to be between a man and a woman (Gen 2:24-25). Therefore, the prevalent LGBTQ culture rebels against God by canceling biological realities and truths of sexuality, marriage, sports and pronouns.

Many people, believers and unbelievers alike, only whisper these things in private for fear of being accused as bigots, intolerant, and racists. But we have to know and discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error. These things have to be proclaimed out in the open, because if we as Christians do not, then, the time will come—and it is already upon us—when even the proclamation of the gospel will be canceled. Even now, churches and Christians are being singled out for persecution and “cancellation.”

God’s Word encourages us to speak the truth; but speak the truth in love and humility to our unbelieving family and friends and neighbors. We must not “cancel” anyone from the preaching of the gospel of Christ, his sacrificial death for our sins, and salvation from their bondage to the spirit of error. For, as long as they have breath, who knows if some of them might be those whom God has chosen to free from the devil’s spirit of error? They might have the spirit of error now, but God might give them the spirit of truth and thereafter, receive them into his family. For John says, “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

[1] Barna Resesarch, “The End of Absolutes: America’s New Moral Code,” May 25, 2016,

[2] Todd Pruitt, Reformation21, “A Plea to the PCA,” February 5, 2021,

[3] James Lindsay, New Discourses, “What is Critical Race Theory?”, January 10, 2021,

[4] Peter Jones, The Aquila Report, “Cancel Cancel Culture,” April 15, 2021,

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