Reading Discernment 101

In the past I’ve frequently talked 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 sweater is bluer than that one, or, That book is full of lies.

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

So what does this comparing and contrasting mean for a Christian in application to what he reads?

I believe Christians should use the Bible as the gauge by which we measure truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong, real and counterfeit. 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 use the Bible as their standard and who have thought about discernment at all would agree, but there’s a next step and it is here where I think some of us might part company. If we identify a book as containing that which is in error, what do we do?

I tend to think a lot of believers might say, Stay away from that book and any like it. For some people that advice may be right, 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, meant that I stopped going to a certain kind of movie.

But there are lots of other movies I’ve seen that I would see again, even though I will also cry loud and long to whoever will listen that it contains untruth.

As I see it, lies are immediately disarmed once they are identified as lies. Lies can only hurt if they slip by as if they are true and people end up believing 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?

This article originally appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in July, 2009.

Published in: on June 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm  Comments Off on Reading Discernment 101  
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