Chew the Meat; Spit Out the Bones

We were astonished when we first heard this statement. In all of our 50-plus years we had never encountered this phrase before. It immediately conjured up graphic images of sharp teeth roughly biting off and devouring a tough piece of meat, and rudely spewing out pieces of bone. Surely there were better table manners than this!

We first heard this retort when we had expressed a concern about a curriculum. Ostensibly this curriculum was a book that would embody the teachings of our local church, and it was written by a man highly esteemed and respected – a man who held many positions of leadership in parachurch groups. Yet embedded throughout his curriculum were heresies. We worried that teaching these heresies could adversely affect families in our church.

Like most material in the evangelical world today, this particular curriculum didn’t teach flagrant and obvious heresies. Rather, it subtly introduced new terms, new understandings, and new ways of thinking about traditional biblical concepts. When we read the curriculum we immediately recognized that it had integrated the teachings of an evangelical leader who is noted for his controversial teachings and cult-like practices. When we looked in the bibliography, sure enough, we found references to this leader – and worse! The writer was clearly influenced by these outside teachings and importing them into our group.

But “chew the meat, spit out the bones”? We were being told that this is the method by which the church members should read this man’s book. Where did this phrase originate and how did it become a catchphrase that so easily dismisses concerns about biblical error? A quick Internet search does not reveal the origination of this expression. But it always seems to be used in the context of justifying the inclusion of error in otherwise biblical-sounding teachings.

Is chewing meat and spitting out the bones a sensible plan for eating meat in everyday life? Is it a biblical concept? We’ll get to the answers later…. First, let us look at how truth gets mixed with error.

The Off-Center Bullseye

One analogy that helps to visualize the trouble with slightly off-base teachings is the shooting of an arrow at a target. A bullseye is in the center of a target. It seems like some leaders purposefully aim their arrows just a little bit off to the side of the bullseye. What they are teaching isn’t quite biblical truth. It contains just a tiny glimmer of untruth, a somewhat off-kilter idea, or a novel interpretation of Scripture that runs a little askew of traditional doctrine. Most of these little “off” statements go unchallenged, as we would like to give the writer or speaker the benefit of the doubt. It could be that we just misunderstood.

But if the slightly off-target statement is repeated, included throughout, or a foundational error, it becomes a matter of doctrinal concern. Below we explain why it is so subtle and hard to identify at first:

TRUTH (THESIS) . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . ANTITHESIS



Here is what happens: The opposite of Truth (Thesis) is Anti-Truth (Antithesis). A small-appearing lie forms in opposition to the Truth of God’s Word (1 Tim. 6:20). To create a Synthesis, this initial lie must be accepted instead of rejected. To justify the error, man will attempt to merge it into biblical Truth. It usually feels like just a tiny compromise, no big deal. What results, however, is a new “truth” – a synthesized “truth” in which a bit of error has been mixed in. This process is called dialectics; it has been around ever since Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s temptation in the Garden of Eden.

Once a Synthesis is established, more syntheses can come about by adding in a New Antithesis to the Synthesis. This creates a New Synthesis, which is even further from the original Truth. It works like this:

NEW TRUTH (SYNTHESIS). . . . . . . . . . . . . . ANTITHESIS



The sequential process of adding Antithesis to truth, and creating new Syntheses can go on and on to create progressive “new revelation.” After a while, the original Truth becomes lost. In fact, we sometimes get letters at Discernment Ministries from people who believe we are seriously deluded because we hold to the old biblical Truth. They have only been taught the New Truth (Synthesis) to the point where it is a total Antithesis to the Gospel of Salvation. They believe their false gospel is the true Gospel and that we are the ones who are deceived.

Chewing Meat With the Bones Still In It

How does this Synthesis process happen to the local church today? Very cleverly, deceptively and subtly. New doctrines, practices, and concepts are “sold” to the church as a promising new way to build the kingdom of God, reach the lost, attain personal satisfaction in your Christian life, reach a higher level of spirituality, engage in a deeper walk, acquire psychological health, and even grow in prosperity!

The “sales” routine appeals to the five senses. Here is how it goes: You will “feel” better if you adopt this new theology. It will “meet your needs.” There is an easier way, a bypass that will save you that uncomfortable conviction of heart and dying to self. In fact, the old Truth is dead tradition. It is hindering you; it stifles your self-expression. It is too rigid and restrictive. You don’t need a bunch of dry, dead formulas for dos and don’ts. You can select which theologies meet your needs and discard the ones that seem too legalistic. This teaches you to mix and match doctrines. You can create your own Synthesis to establish your own comfort zone in the faith.

Churches and mission groups are susceptible to this Synthesis process, too. New programs and plans promise more effectiveness through networking, partnering, coalitions, ecumenical councils, joint efforts, etc. Your group must set aside a few of its principles, convictions or beliefs. The ends will justify the means. The other groups can hold to their own beliefs, you can practice yours – this has the appearance of separation. The two of you might even find common ground through aligning your basic core beliefs. This Synthesis particularly appeals to those who are mission minded. You are promised that fewer people will be in poverty, more people will be aided, and you would heighten your evangelistic impact – if only you would overlook a few minor doctrinal discrepancies in your partner’s theology – Synthesis.

Many evangelical leaders today have actually been trained to publicly present solid statements of faith, but in their writings and teachings you can catch a glimmer of another gospel. This is deceptive, but the evangelical world worships its leaders. Some men are placed on pedestals, exalted to icon status. It is not unlike the fervor over rock & roll stars or Hollywood celebrities. These men are so exalted that people flock after them en masse. Their popularity serves as a measure of protection from scrutiny. Who would dare to criticize this man? If you find fault with their teachings, you quickly learn that you are not popular. We get letters daily at Discernment Ministries from people who have been told – He’s such a wonderful man! If everyone else likes him, why are you finding fault with his teachings? He might be off on a few points, but everything else seems just fine. You are just being too picky. What is the matter with you? Perhaps you are just too “fundamentalist.” You are paying too much attention to doctrine. C’mon go with the flow!

What’s the Matter With A Little Bit of Leaven?

In our modern age of Christian bookstores and media, it is outside leaven that begins to weaken good local churches at the foundation. New “truths” come in like leaven. The whole lump becomes permeated with a perverse teaching. It is very insidious. This is also Synthesis. New doctrines can be so integrated and infused throughout a book, teaching or sermon that it is difficult to separate truth from error. One sentence could contain both truth and error! Just as one cannot take yeast out of a lump of dough, one cannot easily extricate the yeast out of a leaven-saturated teaching. We have often been asked, “What is the matter with a little bit of leaven?” as if it were a harmless little annoyance which could be easily discarded.

Several years ago in the Fall of 2004 Sarah performed a “science” experiment for several Discernment conferences. First she tried it in our warm kitchen at home. She mixed up a small recipe of bread dough but left out the yeast. She picked out a walnut-sized lump of dough and added a tiny bit of yeast to it. She carefully set this little lump off to the side of a big bowl. On the other side of this bowl was the big lump of unleavened dough. Soon that little lump began growing. In only a few minutes it got so big that it touched the side of the big lump. Just a short while later it was pressing in on the other lump, forming it into a crescent shape. Within an hour the two lumps had begun to mingle, and by 1½ hours the two lumps were virtually indistinguishable.

When we tried this experiment at the first conference in Niagara Falls, a chilly air conditioner was blowing from overhead in the room. The yeasty lump just didn’t grow. So we tried it again at the Albany conference a month later. Once again, there was a chilly duct above so we took steps to try to keep the dough more protected. An hour later, although the smaller lump had grown large enough to contact the larger lump, there appeared to be no intermingling of the doughs. We thought our object lesson had failed again. But later that night when we went to dump out the bowl we were shocked to discover that underneath the surface, which had become somewhat encrusted and dry, there was a seething, bubbling mass of leavenous dough. Although it appeared to be “separate” on the top layer, underneath the leaven had thoroughly penetrated the entire lump. The Lord had given us a great object lesson!

Likewise, new “truths” often come into churches under the surface, sometimes hijacking a ride on a good-sounding book, idea or program. Increasingly we are hearing reports from people that even the most conservative groups are bringing in these new teachings. New “truths” have been re-packaged in their own denominational garb, piggy-backing on familiar terminologies that are given new meanings. We have even heard reports that churches that wouldn’t have gone “purpose-driven” with Rick Warren’s programs are receiving training in the exact same concepts. This, too, is intentional, deceptive Synthesis.

“Foreign Body in Throat”

At one can read about the medical procedures that must be followed to extricate a fish or chicken bone from someone’s throat. It is not a pleasant description! The patient must endure a series of painful and intricate examinations that can cause gagging. If the bone is not located and fully extracted, pain, fever, bleeding, and breathing and swallowing difficulties will commence. The esophagus can be punctured, and bones could become embedded in the tonsils, the pharynx, and the tongue. Complicated and invasive surgical procedures are the only way to remove the bone.

Why, then, would anyone suggest that we can “chew the meat, spit out the bones”? Do you eat this way? No one should do this in real life! Especially, no one in their right mind would ever give a child a piece of chicken or fish with small bones in it. How cruel to even think of such a thing! So why would it ever be acceptable to give a young believer in Christ, or a youth, a book that contains heresy? Yet, daily we hear reports from concerned Christian believers that this practice is widespread in the churches.

Hebrews 5:11-14 explains how to eat meat in a biblical fashion. It uses a real life analogy and applies it to spiritual principles:

12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the Word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

A baby will put anything in its mouth, both hurtful and nutritious. Similarly, a spiritual babe is unable to distinguish between sound and unsound doctrine and is more vulnerable to being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine”(Eph. 4:14). Solid biblical instruction is an antidote to this. But, negligence and idleness, or apathy towards the Word of God, especially by those entrusted with teaching “the Word of righteousness,” means that even longtime believers can be immature in understanding the most rudimentary doctrines. A babe in Christ is acknowledged to be “unskillful in the Word of righteousness,” but this should not be the case with “them that are of full age.” So what it the matter here?

Just as adults separate meat from bones before putting meat in their mouths, mature believers should be able to discriminate truth from error and separate themselves away from heretical doctrines. But many who should be mature believers by now have not exercised their spiritual senses “to discern both good and evil.” The word “exercised” is connected with the training of athletes. Christians should be well instructed, practiced, prepared and ready for a defense of the Gospel. They should be able to “rightly divide the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Sadly, in the evangelical world fulfilling your physical senses has supplanted the “exercise” of your spiritual “senses.”

Hebrews 6:1-2 goes on to say that it is important to understand the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. It is these foundational doctrines which are subtly being twisted and synthesized with new “truths.” Daily we hear reports of how churches and families are being corrupted by an influx of new “truths,” eroding the Gospel of Salvation. Unless one has had “their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” they could easily fall prey to “seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1). The “Word of righteoushness” offers daily assistance with the task of exercising your spiritual senses so that you are able to discern error when it comes in. You do not need to be an expert at understanding heresies. If you know the Bible, and study it intimately, you will recognize error.

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