Discerning Disciples

David Murray is posing a good question over on his blog. I’d encourage you to read it, but not get lost in the names or issue he has with the book or author, and instead think about the heart of the question. I left a comment there, but haven’t stopped thinking about his question and just thought I’d flesh out my comment a bit more here.

His questions had to do with reading/reviewing/recommending a book he liked, by an author who he feels is in serious error in other areas. The questions:

1. Don’t read anything by [this author] on any subject because he’s in such error in a central Christian doctrine.

2. Read the book and learn from it, but don’t tell anyone, share anything from it, or review it favorably.

3. Read, review, and even recommend the book but point out that [this author] is in error on [another subject].

My thoughts:

One of the greatest problems in the Church today is, I believe, a lack of discernment. My generation absorbs and then spews out soundbites. I read so many blogs by my counterparts in which they will quote one line from someone and spend a whole post ranting on the out of context line. I’ve talked before about the importance of context when writing or responding, and maintain context to be my growing concern among my generation.

Because of this, it is not enough have men and women in leadership simply reading, but not helping us parse the material at hand, and especially not modeling what a discerning reader does. A truly discerning person does their absolute best to gain a full picture of the idea, person, or theology at hand.

We need men and women to teach us to parse material and model that for us. My testimony is in part the result of learning to parse information discerningly, to be set before a smorgasbord of theological views and have to wrestle with all of them before I could see the gospel plainly.

The wise man built on the rock, but he didn’t just set his house on a big boulder—it would have been just as shaky as a house built on sand. A wise man digs down deep until he hits rock. A discerning reader does the same.

We don’t want to make little parrots, we want to make disciples who dig down deep. Part of discipleship is discernment.

Read on, I say, and review on. And warn on too.

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5 responses to Discerning Disciples

  1. This is so important, Lore.
    I was raised by a mother who was (and is) tenacious about discernment. She let us read promiscuously (as Karen Swallow Prior would say) and then we would talk about it. These skills have been absolutely invaluable, and I’m constantly trying to keep them sharp.
    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. “One of the greatest problems in the Church today is, I believe, a lack of discernment. My generation absorbs and then spews out soundbites.” YES! This.
    Thank you, Lore, loved this whole post.

  3. If one immerses themselves in Scripture discernment becomes second nature. But that immersion must foster ownership and investment in the truth contained in God’s Word, not just a reading of the Bible to validate theology written by other men.

    In my experience, the Church lacks discernment because critical analysis and thinking leads people to formulating their own ideas and convictions, which is typically not accepted by the “church” institution at large. Rather than encourage these individualistic tendencies and trust the Holy Spirit to guide and instruct in conjunction with holding one another accountable with the Word, the “church” throughout history has been far more comfortable with creating creeds and confessions to force people into a mold of orthodoxy.

    The result? You called it. Parrots.

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