My commenter Daron Medway has brought up the parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13 and how it relates to the issues concerning The Donatists, GAFCON, and the Todd Bentley critics. I refuse to use the traditional name “the wheat and the tares” for this parable because I have never heard the word “tares” used in any other context. Anyway, my preferred title “wheat and weeds” is not only alliterative but, by a happy chance of the modern English language, illustrates within itself one of the main points of the parable, that “wheat” and “weed” are indistinguishable except at the end, and even then only slightly distinct.
I was a bit reluctant to apply this parable to the situation in question because I am aware of a popular misunderstanding of the parable, going back I think to Augustine, in which the field is not the world, as Jesus clearly states in Matthew 13:38, but the visible church. The parable is not teaching, as Augustine misinterpreted it, that false believers should be allowed to remain alongside true ones in the church. At this point I think I am agreeing with Daron. The point is rather that Christians, the servants in the parable, should not be trying to judge the world around them now, but leaving it to God to sort out the mess at the end of time. This might be a lesson for the US government to stop interfering in other countries’ problems, but it is not one for the GAFCON leaders or the critics of Todd Bentley.
But there is a message for this situation from the parable of the wheat and the weeds. That message is that wheat and weeds, at least some kinds of weeds, look very much the same until wheat sprouts and forms ears (verse 26); it was only then that the servants could distinguish them. That is, the difference between the two could be discerned only when the fruit became visible. This is of course the same teaching as Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Matthew 7:15-18 (TNIV)
No one can tell the difference from the outward appearance, for both sheep and wolves look like sheep. The only way to distinguish between the two groups is to wait for the fruit to appear.
This implies that it is still rather early to make definitive judgments about Todd Bentley. I think there has been good fruit, but there have also been reports of bad fruit. We will have to wait and see.
As for making judgments about errant Anglicans, there has been much more time to assess their fruit. I am not in a position to make personal judgments, but if I can trust what others say there has been plenty of bad fruit produced in certain areas and not much good. So we can be rather sure that there are false prophets around. What to do about them, when they are in positions of authority in the church, is another issue. Does the principle of the parable apply, to leave them be until God sorts things out at the end of time? I’m not sure.