Discernment 101


I talk often about the need for discernment in our reading, but sometimes I think that term may mean one thing to one person and something far different to someone else.

I think most people agree as far as the actual definition. To discern means to perceive or to distinguish between. Of course, discernment implies a standard or some way of making a distinction.

This cover is bluer than that one. Or, That book is full of lies.

In the first, two objects are being compared to each other. In the second, the lies exist in contradiction to an understood standard of Truth.

So what does it mean for a Christian to apply discernment to what he reads?

When I advocate discernment, I have in mind the latter kind. I believe Christians should use the Bible as the gauge by which we measure truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong. A book that twists or deviates from what the Bible lays out before us is in error because the Bible is Truth.

So far, I think most people who have thought about discernment at all would agree, but here’s where I think some of us might part company. If we identify a book as containing that which is not true, what do we do?

I tend to think a lot of people would say, Stay away from that book and any such like it. For some people that may be the right move, but I don’t think that should be the blanket answer. It certainly isn’t what I’m advocating when I say we should read with discernment.

Instead, I think we should read (or watch or listen to) what is in our culture, and then point the finger at that which departs for God’s revealed truth and say, That is not true.

Understand, there are limitations to this use of discernment. Sometimes a determination needs to be made as a matter of self-protection or family-protection. When I was in college, I saw a bunch of raunchy movies that led me to the decision to put some limits on what I viewed. My choice, for me, requiring discernment.

But there are lots of other movies I’ve seen that I would go to see again, but I will cry loud and long to whoever will listen that the work of fiction contains untruth.

As I see it, lies are immediately disarmed once they are identified as lies. Lies can only hurt if they slip by and people believe them. Consequently, to stay away from all fiction or from fiction that is clearly from a secular point of view, means I can’t stand up and say, Do you see the lies here?

If Christians don’t do that, then who will?

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Published in: on July 31, 2009 at 11:15 am  Comments (7)  
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