One of the kinds of board games I like to play are social deduction games. The basic thrust of this genre of games is that all the players have to work together to win, but some of them may be working against the group. Those who work against the group are smaller in number but will try to blend in and mislead the other players so that the game is lost. If that happens those traitors will win instead.
There are many games of this type and these games are also a perfect way to illustrate the danger of false teachers and why apologetics and polemics are important to the life of a church.
This genera of games include but are not limited to:
The group activity of Ultimate Werewolf (a version of Mafia),
The smaller but no less accusatory The Resistance and The Resistance: Avalon,
The medieval game of trust and card-play Shadows over Camelot,
The team based Bang: The Dice game! (based off of the card game Bang!),
and the deduction based mystery solving Deception: Murder in Hong Kong among many others.
In these games there are specific strategies and tactics to find out who working against the group, and those approaches also work in the real world. In these games, the traitors will:
- Want the game to be lost so they will distract and sabotage others from winning.
- Try to persuade others to make bad decisions to facilitate failure or in order to accuse them as scapegoats later on.
- Attempt to control the group out of a desire for power rather than leadership to ensure their victory.
- Confuse the group if the truth is coming out and to discourage those who are trying to win.
- If not leading, accuse good leaders of being traitors so they can take command.
- Possibly encourage other tests of loyalty that divide and promote them over the other players.
These match what Paul writes about in Galatians chapter 5 where he gives us six identifying marks that can guide us to discern the presence of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in our midst today.
1. False teachers distract Christians from obeying the truth of the gospel (verse 7).
2. False teachers replace the call of God with their own deceptive persuasiveness (verse 8).
3. False teachers gain control over the whole church (verse 9).
4. False teachers cause confusion and discouragement (verse 10).
5. False teachers spread false reports about spiritual leaders. We may infer that verse 11 is Paul’s response to a false report that had been given about him.
6. False teachers emphasize sensational rituals. (verse 12).
Taken, modified, and edited from: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Gal/Exposing-False-Teachers
This was not an issue that only the apostle Paul wrote about. In additional to what Paul wrote about Peter also gives us some things to watch for in 2 Peter, and John gives warnings in 1st John as well as 2nd John and Jude. There are many other passages that deal with false teachers in the New Testament besides these but it shows how important that is.
Here are three additional big-picture tests that we can use today in both the “for fun” games and in real life where there is eternal importance in these matters:
1. Does their teaching match up with reality?
In those social deduction games, the winning conditions for the two sides are opposing. Usually they are the keeping in the game of the people who are good or, for the other side, eliminating them from the game. Players use logic and reason to figure out who is who – they call out bluffs, question bad moves, and suspect anything that does not fit in the way things ought to happen.
This test is also demonstrated in many Christian novels (or at least the better ones), for example:
- C.S. Lewis uses the professor in ‘The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe’ to show how logic is used to test Lucy’s otherworldly claims against Edmund’s accusatory claims.
- This was the irony that Lucian Gregory discovered in G.K Chesterton’s novel ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’. Gregory’s talks about his period his period masquerading as a minister: “When on my first appearing in episcopal gaiters in a drawing-room I cried out in a voice of thunder, ‘Down! Down! presumptuous human reason!’ They found out in some way that I was not a bishop at all. I was nabbed at once”
- In G.K. Chesterton’s other series Father Brown, the short story ‘The Blue Cross’ has a criminal mastermind named Flambeau, who has been masquerading as a priest, asking how the Father knew he was not really a priest. To which the reply was “You attacked reason. It’s bad theology.”
In order to be aware of false teachers, we need to have a wise understanding of how the world works; this may include knowledge of philosophy, science, theology, apologetics and other rational skills. If something does not match reality we then need to ‘take the roof off’ to expose it.
2. Does their teaching match up with the Bible?
Even if a prophet’s prediction comes true, Deuteronomy 13:1-5 states that it still needs to match up with the Truth. If the false teacher states something that is contrary with what God has said in the Bible, then it and they are false.
In the social deduction games, the players are sometimes given information that they know has to be true. This information can be public or private depending on the game. However when this information that is known to be true faces a claim that is contradictory, the claim must be false.
In order to be aware of false teachers we need to know and understand what the Bible teaches. Follow the example of those in Berea in Acts 17:11
3. Do their actions match their words?
In the social deduction games, those on the good side want to win the game and solve the puzzle while those who are on the bad side want the game to be lost and to keep things muddy, fingers pointed, and accusations flying. If someone takes a position of leadership in those games and are working against the group, they can be exposed by how they act and lead.
In Matthew 7: 15-20, Jesus tells us that people’s fruit will let us know if they follow the truth or not. One cannot hide behind words if how they act is contradictory. Now, we are all sinners and because of that we all have tendencies to be hypocrites, but Christian leaders are held to a high standard.
In order to be aware of false teachers, we need to carefully examine how they act, teach, and live before we follow them. We know false teachers by how they act as well as how they are responsible for those under them.