Accessing Christian resources on the internet-5 simple tests to take heed what you read
Created by Jon Taylor - Monday 30 May 2016
Jon Taylor
Accessing Christian resources on the internet-5 simple tests to take heed what you read
The availability of ‘Christian resources’ on the internet is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand there is a terrific amount of excellent material available that is edifying and brings glory to God and is of practical use and we would be foolish in one sense, not to make use of it. On the other hand, there are sites set up by cults that are all too frequently accessed by well-meaning and sincere believers, plus teaching that is clearly not biblically based but is merely opinion, sometimes heretical. Some web pages contain all of the above.
We are frequently warned to be careful in this respect. On the Mount of Olives and in the context of the end times, Jesus warned “Take heed that no one deceives you (Matt. 24:4)”, and “For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matt. 24:24).”

1. Is it Biblical?
Whenever we read anything about Christianity on the internet or other media, books, journals, magazines etc. we should always consider firstly, is it biblical? It doesn’t matter how captivating or engaging or fascinating the style and means of delivery, we must ensure that what is being said is in accordance with God’s word.
Paul wrote strong words to the Galatians that we would do well to consider soberly if we ever google a subject of our faith without checking who is stating what.

‘But if we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1-8:9).’
The health and wealth preachers will typically distort the gospel; the more ‘successful ones’ often living in excessive luxury themselves preaching another gospel. Instead of materialism, consider the cost of discipleship, Jesus said, “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58).” As for perfect health, Paul, Timothy, Trophimus and Epaphroditus were all faithful men of God and at times all of them got sick at some stage in their valuable respective ministries (Gal. 4:13; 1 Tim. 5:23; 2 Tim. 4:20; Phil. 2:25-27).
Many of the more popular emergent church leaders will write in such an ambivalent manner that there is little clarity in what they are advocating and although they will appeal to apparent biblical motives, their doctrine is frequently closer to Universalism rather than biblical Christianity. Frequently the authority of scripture is undermined, biblical history is treated with suspicion, biblical interpretation is not carried out by proper exegesis but is re-contextualised so that they attempt to make a text state whatever suits their agenda. Biblical texts are frequently skimmed across and rarely studied in serious depth and their books simply pick up passages almost at random with little regard to the context. They delight in asking loaded questions, think this is clever and somehow consider, almost everything to be a ‘mystery’.

2. Is there a Statement of Faith?
Church websites should have a statement of faith. That statement of faith should agree with the Bible. If it doesn’t then the site being accessed isn’t pleasing to God. If the statement of faith is vague, then the content is likely to be vague and probably confuse and confound rather than clarify truth. This is especially important with looking for a church to attend. They may have great programmes and a lot of exciting and innovative things going on, but first and foremost what do they believe? What you believe will profoundly affect what you do. The statement of faith will reveal whether the church or ministry has a high view of God and the Scriptures and that is paramount.
3. Beware of cult websites
It is not uncommon nowadays to look up a subject of a teaching on the internet with honourable motives to find yourself on a Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, or other cult website.  Sometimes they may appear fine and then suddenly you read something which sounds a bit strange and you continue reading and then you realise that another gospel is being presented.
Checking the statement of faith or a brief check of the history will clarify where they are from and what they teach. There are plenty of them around and some of them blend in easily and can be difficult to recognise initially. Of course, the title of the site doesn’t always reveal who they are! Make sure that your children, new Christians, those who aren’t so strong on doctrine are aware of this. In fact I would go further and say that every Christian should be aware of this; not just for themselves but to help others be aware.
4. Is the site reputable and using reliable sources?
Some people like to do their own blogs or web pages and again there are many good ones out there. However it is worth checking the sources quoted to ensure that they are reliable. Are they relying upon citing generic secular sources regarding spiritual matters? Do they constantly quote celebrities, merely politically minded people, or Catholic sources to assess or evaluate spiritual matters? Are they more interested in being politically correct rather than biblically correct? If they make a habit of quoting people like Ghandi and Mother Theresa habitually, be wary!
Do they have a mission statement or statement of faith? Also, who else do they recommend? If they don’t get on with anyone else other than their tiny little group, then there is a problem. Looking at which other ministries they recommend will give you some indication of where they are coming from. Nonetheless you may go on website where they recommend some stuff that is brilliant and other links that are highly questionable. This probably means that they are lacking in discernment and the result will be a mixture of truth and error so be careful about using their material and look for more trustworthy sites. Lastly, are you accessing this site because it advocates what you want to believe rather than what the Bible expressly teaches?

5. Are they endorsed by reliable teachers, leaders or ministries?
The above point isn’t a completely fool-proof test but will certainly go a long way to see who is in agreement with them. When I read a good Christian book it is usually endorsed by other good teachers. Similarly if I review a book that is not so good, it is usually no surprise to see the same given positive appraisals by those whose ministries I would avoid.
If still in doubt, pray that God will give you discernment about what you read or research online. Run something past your Pastor or Elders or someone who knows the scriptures well and is sound doctrinally. Remember God’s word endures and is authoritative and is the test to see whether everything else stands or fails.

‘The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8)
Monday 30 May 2016