"He is lying, fraudulent, soothing, flattering, treacherous, rhapsodical, trifling, inharmonious, verbose, sordid, and timorous."
This is how a wise old man, a bishop who would be martyred, St. Ignatius, described false teachers in his Epistle to the Ephesians. It was an uncertain time for the early Church, and the Adversary was sending many false teachers abroad to sow error. St. Ignatius wanted Christians to be able to recognize some of the warning signs. (Capital letters are St. Ignatius'; the rest are brief comments by the Bear.)
- LYING -- He substitutes false new teachings for the historical faith. He will not tell the truth even about facts of the world. Some of his biggest lies are lies of omission: failing to tell the truth, or the whole truth. Dogmas are "forgotten" when they become inconvenient.
- FRAUDULENT -- Fraud is deceitfully acting with apparent authority to trick someone, in this case the faithful. Every effort will be made to make the fraud look like the genuine article.
- SOOTHING -- He calms fears by assuring people that nothing has really changed. He speaks in reasonable tones to avoid spooking the sheep.
- FLATTERING -- he appeals to people's desire to be thought well of, or worthy of trust. They have "outgrown" some old teaching. They have "grown up," and are ready to cast off old superstitions and discover the real faith.
- TREACHEROUS -- That means to betray a trust. "You've got to be trusted / by the people that you lie to." Pink Floyd, Animals.
- RHAPSODICAL -- Instead of recognizing sober facts, he numbs the mind with flowery language that paints a lovely picture. He avoids actually saying anything, but instead creates an impression that he has, so he can change or deny the message if necessary. Also, no one can effectively argue against an impression.
- TRIFLING -- He does not treat important subjects with the diligence and depth they require, nor what is holy with respect.
- INHARMONIOUS -- If the Church in Her history is a song, he does not sing in harmony, but introduces false notes. Also, he stirs up division. He employs "the hermeneutic of rupture" and teaches novelties.
- VERBOSE -- Nothing may be straightforward and simple. Documents must be lengthy, ambivalent, and hard to understand. Now he says one thing, here he says the opposite. A tradition is affirmed in one paragraph, then discarded in the next. The shell of truth remains, but drained of all meaning. This allows whatever interpretation suits him at the moment, and also discourages people from even trying to penetrate the dense overgrowth of verbiage.
- SORDID -- His personal behavior or that of those of his party is vile, or his teachings encourage sin.
- TIMOROUS -- He shows a lack of boldness when it counts, and preaches what will draw approval of people, or avoid controversy, rather than the truth.
There have been wolves after the sheep from the beginning. The wolves haven't changed since St. Ignatius' day. Sheep would do well to be able to recognize them.