Beware of Dogs
His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber, Isaiah 56:10.
One aspect of the Apostle Paul's writings is that he is short on symbolism and long on pointed prose. So when he tells us to beware of dogs, we need to stop and get a grip on what he is saying. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision, Philippians 3:2. There is no doubt that he is speaking of workers within the church.
"Evil workers" is a phrase that speaks for itself. They are those whose work is evil. What then is the concision? Concision is; The action of cutting to pieces or cutting away; mutilation. Here the Oxford English Dictionary gave us the definition of concision as a verb. There can be no doubt that since "concision" is the act of cutting in pieces, the noun rendered from that same word applies to the small part which is left after all others have been cut away. We use a form of the word when we say that something is concise. We are saying that it is cut down to only its necessary size.
This harmonizes perfectly with the Apostle Paul's admonition to the Galatians. They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them, Galatians 4:17. Churches are often plagued with people who measure their sincerity by how many categories of people they exclude. When they are done, they sit with their select little group (the concision) and beam with self pride over their supposed purity. When they see Jesus or one of his laborers eating with the unclean, they doubt that such a worker could be from God.
Keep in mind, a church needs to be holy. It needs to be holy in doctrine, in speech, and in the lives of its people. A church that will not practice discipline will fail by slowly evolving into an unholy religious group practicing their traditions. What Paul is warning us against are those; That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought, Isaiah 29:21. How lightly some would exclude others! Oh, the shame of those who carefully glean through the lives of others that they might find occasion to exclude! These are the concision. Their work is evil.
What then are the dogs? According to Isaiah they are watchmen. They are watchmen that have missed the real problems. Isaiah accuses them of being ignorant. I have known such people and they would vigorously defend themselves from the charge of ignorance. They are usually well learned, but only up to a point. Like an old dog, they don't bark at what should be warned against. As times change and as truth is revealed, they slumber.
There are many attributes to dogs that are truly bad attributes. They are not monogamous, they will sleep with anything. They love disgusting things. We love dogs for their good attributes such as loyalty and affection, but nevertheless, the Apostle Paul has warned us about dogs. In view of Isaiah 56:10, there is one attribute of dogs that makes them poor church watchmen. Old dogs no longer think.
Everything they do, they do by patterns learned at an early age. It is easy to get a puppy to cock its head. It is endearing to see a puppy give that quizzical look that they are wont to give when something new or strange happens. Dog trainers tell us that it is one of the few times when a dog truly thinks. It is taking in new details or knowledge and trying to absorb them into its pattern of behavior. A puppy that has cocked its head over a strange sound, will soon cease from ever cocking its head again over that sound once it has processed it and adapted its responses to that sound.
I have known church members and preachers with that very tendency. They dismiss anything new. They settled their doctrine years ago. They formed their opinions years ago. They will never again cock their heads in wonder. If Doctor Doottledigger didn't teach it to them when they were young, they seem unable to ever truly accept it, but if Doctor Doottledigger had taught them something when they were young, they accepted it blindly.
I had a dog once that became familiar with our back yard and the vehicles which we drove in the first week that we had it. From that point on it hated any new vehicle that came into our yard. Even when I had bought a new truck and I had been driving that truck into the yard for 6 months, that dog barked at it furiously. What truly made the dog dangerous is that if someone were to have driven up in my old vehicle, it would have remained ignorant to the danger, it would have stayed asleep and it would never have barked.
Every form of theology and every theologian has its problems. I have loved reading the Journals of John Wesley. The firmness of his faith, the zeal with which he preached, the opposition which he overcame and the holiness of his life are dear to me. Yet, I can take those same journals and find the seeds of much of what is wrong with the modern Methodist Church. From within John Wesley's Journals I could justify women clergy, new versions of the bible and seeking a second benefit. The old fashioned holiness was destroyed in Methodist churches because the dogs slumbered in ignorance. They let the leaven in John Wesley's theology eventually leaven the entire lump.
Charles Spurgeon accepted the Revised Version of the Bible when it was published. He eagerly accepted it. Despite the volumes of good literature that he left behind, mainstream Christian Education blindly accepted the new versions because their watchmen were dogs. They had formed an opinion of Spurgeon early and never reconsidered that opinion. They ended up straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
I would like to think that my theology is pure. I have those who read behind me and quote me. What would be truly tragic would be a scenario wherein people began to accept or reject forms of doctrine based upon what I thought about those doctrines. I hope that I am remembered by how I taught my students to think, not what I taught them to think.