Chookwatcher has based the modus operandi of his sites on a familiar scripture, which he claims for himself as a discernment site verse.

It is from Romans 16:17, and goes like this:

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

Sounds good. Sounds official. In fact, there is a case to be made that it actually applies to chookwatcher far more than those he seeks to defame.

Let’s look at the context of the verse, that is, read and compare commentaries to get the sense of that is being said here, and especially when considered in its setting and its comparison with with the whole epistle.

Unsurprisingly, most theological commentators make the observation that Paul is referring to statements he made earlier in Romans, for instance, in chapter 14, where he makes it clear that those who are mature should not stumble those who are weaker in the faith. I make this point, because we can’t take the verse above out of context with examples already revealed by Paul in his letter to the Romans. He is not being double minded, and will not contradict a previous teaching or thought.

Paul, in chapter 14, uses as examples eating of meats, and what is religiously clean or unclean to illustrate a point and set up a context for things he says later in the epistle, and confirm what he has already said. He is talking about the transition period some people take from cultural dependency on a religious set of values into the liberty that comes with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Old to New

He is discussing the comparison between law and grace, regulations and faith. He is bringing his audience out of the Old Testament into the New Covenant in Christ and teaching us our responsibilities now that we have been saved by grace through faith.

He is acknowledging that everyone is at a different place in their walk with Christ, and at variable levels of maturity. Those who are more mature in Christ and less observant of legal requirements of the Old Testament  have to allow new adherents time to divest themselves of the old man as they put on the new.

Although, when we confess Jesus as Lord, we are saved instantly, washed clean of our sin, and presented with the free gift of eternal life, there is also the sense of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, of continuing in the faith grounded and settled, and of corporately provoking one another to love and good works.

We are justified, and sanctified, but we are also given responsibility for overcoming the temptation to sin and empowered to resist falling back to old ways. For this we should go back to Romans 6 for context, where we are told, ‘you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

Following this admonition, we are encouraged to mutually support and uphold one another, not cause offence or division.

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Who is being divisive, then?

The teaching in Romans is continuous from beginning to end, and, typically of Paul, needs to be exegetically kept strictly in context with the whole. We can’t take a verse out of its setting and preach a message out of context.

Where Paul speaks of those who act ‘contrary to the doctrine which you have learned’, he is most likely, according to theologians, referring to what has gone before in the letter to the Romans, which is a wonderfully presented pastoral and doctrinal message.

The question, then, has to be asked, who is it, in this saga presented by the chookwatchers, that is causing divisions and offences?

Let’s begin with their chief target groups, although they have in recent months diversified to include any and all ministries that do not come under their own strictly Reformed theological stance.

They are mostly aiming their angst at Hillsong and C3 churches based out of Australia. That was always their starting point.

Are either of these churches causing division or offence to the rest of the Body of Christ? Well, clearly, no. They are not stumbling believers, whether weak or strong. They are preaching the Word of God and making disciples as commanded by Christ.

In fact, they have been overwhelmingly successful at making disciples. Crucially, all members of their churches would and do confess Jesus as Lord. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever about this.

Romans 14:16-18 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.

The question is, are Hillsong and C3 members serving Christ? Are they promoting righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit? Yes, they are, by their own confession, and by their clearly presented actions. Therefore, they are acceptable to God and approved by men.

What about chookwatcher?

What,then, are the chookwatchers doing? They are promoting division and causing offence. They seek to divide the Body of Christ, by their own admission, by doing all in their power to draw disciples out of Hillsong and C3. That, they admit, is why they exist. They claim, in fact, that they are compelled to do this.

That they are divisive and offensive towards anyone associated with Hillsong and C3 is glaringly obvious even to the most unaffected observer. The language used in comments sections is that of those who deliberately want to offend anyone that defends Hillsong or C3.

They excuse their propensity to use consistently harsh terms with all dissenting voices by pointing to the strong sayings of Jesus, but miss the more prevalent times when He draws people to the Father. He was actually known as the meekest of men. Chookwatcher portrays Jesus predominantly as an angry judge, not a physician come to save the sinner.

By this, I do not mean the chookwatchers utilise the gospel that offends, as Christ said it would, but, rather, they adopt the language of an opponent of Christians that is offensive.

In fact, many times, the gospel is ignored completely in their articles and posts as they turn to atheists for content and commentary, as well as ungodly, anti-church media outlets, and unsaved journalists’ opinion pieces.

They actually refer far less to the gospel or actual Christian writers than they think, despite their self-image as people who are defenders of the gospel. They cannot make this claim and present the writings of atheists, antichristian media or unsaved journalists. It won’t wash.

It is glaringly obvious that the chookwatchers often turn to the unsaved world for opinion.

Chookwatchers are judgmental of other Christians and seek to place the same legalistic constraints on them that they have adopted for themselves, especially within the Reformed doctrinal set to which they have attached themselves.

They miss the point that they are administering prohibitions that other believers have no issue with because they have identified in a mature way with the true liberty that is in the Word and Spirit. They seek to bind people up with the law they have fashioned out of grace.

Their own doctrinal stance is represented by constraining Reformed theology, which has a growing reputation for producing judgmental discernment sites that oppose any and all theology but their own, which tends towards cessationist theology that denies the present day work of the Holy Spirit.

They are not unlike the Judaisers, about whom Paul warned the Church, who came up with laws and prohibitions that almost drew the Galatians away from the Spirit and faith.

It is likely, then, that the scripture reference in Romans 16:17 applies more aptly to chookwatcher sites as being divisive and offensive, and means they are the ones who need to be marked and avoided, not their quarry.