Is asking a question the same as “Criticising God’s Anointed”





We have to deal with the inevitable accusation that we have published these articles because we have, what SMC leaders have decided to call a “critical spirit”. We also anticipate - based on others’ past experience - that there will be an attempt to have all the views expressed in these articles dismissed out of hand by claiming that we are “raising our hand against the Lord’s anointed.”


Let us attempt to deal with both of these objections.


Critical spirit


Dr. Dale A. Robbins defines the phrase “a critical spirit” as this:


Someone who shows an obsessive attitude of criticism and fault-finding, which seeks to tear others down.


If that is a good definition of a “critical spirit” we think that resembles something other than the desire to ask leaders questions about the biblical justification for the confusing things they say in sermons. If a leader chooses to regard people who have been confused by their teachings and ask questions, in the same way as they choose to regard those who are determined to tear down their ministries by finding fault - then the leader has an attitude problem and needs to get it sorted out. We quote from the Wikipedia article on the psychology of criticism.


The narcissist is constantly on the lookout for slights. He is hyper-vigilant. He perceives every disagreement as criticism and every critical remark as complete and humiliating rejection: nothing short of a threat.


There are also many examples in the reference reading and links on this web site, from writings about churches which are operating in the overzealous authority of men, where “critical spirit” - a non-biblical, invented phrase - is used to prevent scrutiny of the teachings, conduct and nonsense spoken by controlling leaders.


So to summarise the preceding paragraphs: When there is an accusation from a church leader that someone has a “critical spirit” one of three separate things is happening:


  • The person accused is once again displaying persistent intentional destructive behaviour


  • The leader has psychological difficulty distinguishing between reasonable questions and harsh personal criticism - and always assumes the latter


  • The leader is using this convenient accusation as a conscious manipulative method of avoiding having to be seen struggling to answer valid challenging questions which expose their failures.


The accusation of a “critical spirit” needs to be made much more carefully than it has been. We also think that because of the possibility of this accusation being misused by leaders the only safe approach that can be taken is to never use it as a reason for not answering questions. In the first of the three cases answering truthfully annuls the bad attitude of the asker. In the other two cases it protects the church members from weak and malicious leaders. We believe the only correct approach is for churches to refuse to allow the accusation of a “critical spirit” to be used an as excuse to avoid answering questions.  


Giving church leaders a veto on telling the truth by making it acceptable for them to only answer questions from people they have decided have the “right attitude” is indefensible hyper-controlling nonsense. The leader is then free from all accountability to the Bible, their congregations, and anything but themselves. They are also then no longer servant leaders of the people of God in any biblical sense.


A mature leader who depends on God, rather than their own ego, can deal with difficult questions, and difficult people, without getting defensive and aggressive. They are committed to sharing the truth in a calm, respectful, mature, and helpful way with anyone who asks. They don’t require people to adopt a deferential, submissive attitude before they will agree to deal with them. They don’t need to drag people down to feel superior. They do not point and yell “critical spirit”.


They just answer questions.



Touch not my anointed


Psalm 105.15  "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm."


This oft mis-used verse occurs in a psalm which celebrates, in this verse, God’s protection of the people and leaders of Israel in the time before they came into the land of Canaan. That is not a verse or context on which to build your whole approach to New Testament Leadership. We think that brings a bit more to the text than is there and completely ignores important New Testament teachings setting out the required church structures for leadership accountability.


Titus 1.5-9  The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.


(if there are not elders appointed in every town (generally each town had one church) Paul implies the setting up of biblical church government is as yet “left unfinished”. Teaching and preaching and ruling elders are all part of a mutually accountable eldership team in a local church. One person church leadership has no such biblical basis or any safeguards for the church members that come from a biblical accountability structure. A two person leadership where the second in command is appointed by the whim of an existing leader is no closer to any biblical model)


There has to be in place the God given approach to bring correction to a leader who church members think is in error.


1 Timothy 5:18-20 For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.


(those who falsely teach that any attempt to correct or question a leader signifies defiance to God might be surprised that God Himself here makes provision in His church for just such an event.)


If it is claimed that the verse from Psalm 105 forbids any criticism of “anointed leaders”, we have the contradiction that here is a process for dealing with an accusation made by church members against a leader and yet we are told by some leaders that God has declared no such criticism or accusation can even be uttered.


If you leave the church “unfinished” (Paul’s word) by failing to appoint elders in every town, there is no one to operate this process anyway. Someone who claims the “anointed” cannot be criticised is invalidating both the other verses, and introducing a false teaching that leaders are a semi divine authority over their congregation and cannot be challenged no matter what they do. This is not a biblical position or one that anyone with even a slight knowledge of the history of the Christian church can sanely argue for.


Church leaders make small, careless, thoughtless mistakes all the time. Some have un-addressed personality problems which in turn cause problems for their congregations. They also sometimes make huge serious errors of judgement. If a leader ever claims so much spirituality that they cannot fall into sin or make mistakes then they are guilty of pride and idolatry right there.


Why was Ezekiel not condemned by this verse in Psalm 105 for saying the following against the shepherds (leaders) of Israel:


Ezekiel 34:4  “You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.”


Was this a critical spirit or sinfully speaking against God’s anointed? The Bible makes no such claim. It declares this condemnation of the actions of God appointed leaders was the true and accurate prophetic Word of God.


According to the Bible - sometimes Christian leaders do well - sometimes they do badly. Sometimes they fulfil their calling - sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are acting in a Godly way - sometimes they are acting in the flesh. No one seriously disputes this. Unless they are mad or up to something. If a leader uses woolly and subtle phrases while basically letting it be understood that, because of their special closeness to God, they are always right, then they are setting themselves up as an idol - and idol worship is forbidden. It usurps the place of Christ in the church.


So the New Testament writers, because they lived in the real world and were directed by God, set up safeguards to enable a Christian to always be able to understand and discern whether a leader was being honest and truthful and correctly communicating the will of God.  As the verses above show these safeguards were:


  • plurality of elders sharing authority in each church  and


  • a process for dealing with accusations against leaders


Samuel 24.5 Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe. Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD."


This text has been used by some to try and silence people from speaking up about leaders’ poor conduct or nonsensical teaching. There can be an attempt to present this verse as a reason why once God’s anointing (or a position of leadership) has been given - any questioning of that person automatically becomes criticism of God and is therefore wrong and sinful.


That is not what this passage teaches.


This passage teaches.


  • People who have been given a leadership call and anointing by God - such as Saul had  - can do terrible and awful selfish and sinful things which are wrong before God and for which they will be held accountable.


  • These wrongs damage the leader and all their followers and that damage is the leaders’ responsibility.


  • Those who remain in integrity before God, and don’t flatter the leader and become a party to their sins, are often hated by these failing leaders - as David was by Saul.


  • David was right not to end the failed king’s life when he had the chance. We agree this is correct. We should not physically harm even failed leaders. This verse makes that clear. But to suggest David was not critical of Saul goes against all sense and reason.


David was living in the hills with a band of fellow good men (branded rebels and outlaws by the failed leader). To suggest that in his heart he was not honestly critical of Saul’s conduct and fully aware that the leader had lost his way with God is ludicrous. To have approved Saul’s ongoing conduct - by silence or flattery - would have been to join with the godlessness. Yet those leaders who misuse this passage seek to get us to ignore their mistakes and failings and join in a pretence these failings don’t exist.


To question and flee from such a leader’s conduct is shown in this passage to be the action of a right- thinking, holy and Godly man.




The Biblical position is that Paul teaches this:


Galatians 1.8   But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!


Paul teaches an important lesson here. He was the apostle who meant more to the Galatians than any other, who was their best support and mentor and spiritual father. He did not as a consequence of that demand because he is Paul the leader they recognise his superior character and obey his wisdom, his experience, his authority, and submit to his wise words whatever they were.


None of that.


He says even if he, their most revered leader, strayed and started to preach another gospel they should join in proper condemnation of him. Even he as their most trusted leader had to be evaluated by the Galatians hearing, considering, and rightly judging his teaching to ensure his words were the true gospel. The fact that it was Paul up front was never to be the deciding factor. Never authority based on who the leader is - but always the hearer must retain the right to judge that the true authority behind what is being said is adherence to the Word of God. We are allowed to reject the words of a leader, and are instructed to condemn them, if they cannot prove to us their basis is in God’s Word.


But surely if there is just an element of doubt or confusion about what is being said, you can question the leader and then the leader can fix the doubt by showing from the scriptures the true gospel is being adhered to. All then is well.


If the leader can’t explain their teaching is the true gospel - then you have a problem.


If the leader has decided that you are coming to them with a flawed attitude and therefore they are entitled to refuse to explain the biblical basis for their teaching to you, then you have a much bigger problem.


In either case the correct response is to stick with the truth of the Gospel and God’s Word. The leader must meet you there, and satisfy you that they are utterly submitted to God as revealed in His Word or they cannot be your leader. Submit to their authority without a full and clear biblical basis for that authority and you step out from following God to following man.