Believing The First Narrative


red flag warningI think most people are trusting. Maybe too trusting. Chances are, unless we have some prior knowledge that would lead us to doubt or discount what someone says, we are apt to believe the first person who tells us about an event or gives us their opinion.

I saw a TV show the other night. A medical professional saw suspicious signs of abuse on a young patient from a juvenile facility. Red flags went up. She questioned the boy and heard his tale of being mistreated—purposefully denied hydration, disciplined by being burned with cigarettes, and more. She informed the authorities who called in the person in charge.

His story was quite different. This was a troubled teen who was lying, hurting himself. But without further evidence, no action could be taken on either side. Yet, the medical professional continued to believe the patient . . . until physical evidence proved he was in fact lying.

Most people, I think, have some level of trust. Someone comes to the door selling candy for a school fund raiser. Chances are, most of us don’t think this is actually a serial killer or some form of con artist.

Conversely, when the news program we watch regularly reports that there are email scams going around and we shouldn’t send money to people contacting us for financial help, we are most likely going to be suspicious of email asking us for money. On one side are the friendly faces of the news reporters we see day in and day out, and on the other, an anonymous person who says he needs help.

I have no problem deleting those emails. Those are the scams the news warned me against. Probably. I’ll never know for sure. I’ve believed the first narrative I heard and acted accordingly.

Others, however, believed the narrative that someone was in great need of help, and in fact, they would be repaid for their kindness. That was the first narrative they heard. They wanted to help and they wanted to make a little money in the process. So they emptied their bank account, and lost everything.

Another group of people have lost to scam artists that present a more respectable front. Take those who lost so much in the Bernie Madoff investment scandal back in 2008. Or how about the Fanny Mae fiasco: “In December 2011, the SEC brought a civil suit charging three former top executives with securities fraud for misleading investors about the extent of the mortgage giant’s holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans during the financial crisis.” (Forbes)

Understandably, investors believed the people they were hiring to handle their gambl speculatio capital venture. But a set of ciminals took advantage of that trust and bilked the investors of millions.

Believing narratives is critical in other areas, too. Take politics, for instance. In 2010 independently wealthy Meg Whitman ran for the governorship of California. Her campaign looked promising, until the first attack ads accused her of trying to buy the election. In contrast, independently wealthy Donald Trump has proudly exclaimed that he is funding his own campaign without the help of financial backing so that he doesn’t owe anyone any favors.

In one case, the opponents wrote the narrative, and in the other, the candidate got ahead of the issue by telling a different story. In each case, the public seems to have believed the first story released.

This tactic is a favorite of Donald Trump’s. For instance, he said in a televised debate that Jeb Bush was weak, and every time the former Florida governor spoke, Mr. Trump made faces or mocked him or repeated the accusation. He gave no facts, produced no evidence, but the charge was picked up by news analysts and stayed with Mr. Bush for weeks afterward, if not until the end of his campaign.

The fact is, however, that people have agendas. The kid trying to sell candy has an upfront agenda which he announces in his first sentence or two. Other people, however, have layered agendas. The investment scammers, for instance, did want people to give them their money to invest, but they also wanted to cheat those people out of that money. They needed to come across as believable and trustworthy when in fact they were the opposite.

So what?

The Bible has clear counsel for the believer. We are to be on the alert. We have wolves in sheep’s clothing who would fool even the elect if they could. We have an enemy prowling around like a roaring line. We have spiritual forces that come against us, that require spiritual armor. Woven throughout other counsel for handling such conflict is the command to be alert.

This idea, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, means we are to be “quick to notice any unusual and potentially dangerous or difficult circumstances; vigilant.” It also has a second connotation: we are to be “able to think clearly; intellectually active.” Being alert, then, requires critical thinking.

A companion word might be discernment. If we are to be alert we must discern what is a true threat and what is simply true. We are to “keep our thinking caps on,” as one of my old teachers would say. Our job is to pay attention and to evaluate so we can spot error.

In truth, if we are to be alert we must be willing to question those first narratives, even when they come from friendly news anchors we watch day in and day out. We can like them. We can laugh at their jokes and ooohh and aahh at the same baby Panda video that they do. But we still need to be alert when they present a narrative for us to believe.

Often times we hear a narrative from an unofficial source first. A neighbor shot a video and gives it to the news. The snippet played on TV suggests an unprovoked attack by one person. Later when the investigation is complete, however, a different story emerges. But some people refuse to believe the official version of what happened. Why? Because they trusted the first narrative. They believed what their friends the news reporters showed them that first night.

Some of those folks might even become conspiracy theorists, thinking that the second narrative has been invented to cover up the “obvious” facts. No amount of proof can move people who have been convinced by the first narrative.

I think Christians should be alert and therefore should learn to question. Not that we should become skeptics, but we should develop a realistic view of the world. The fact is, those who do not believe in Jesus as God’s Son sent to save sinners, will see the world in a vastly different way than do Christians.

In addition, people running for office want our vote and sometimes our donations. People on TV want us to keep watching their program or their network. They may also want us to see the world as they see it. They may assume we have the same values as they do.

If we realize these things, we can simply agree or disagree. We can turn the channel or read a book. We can smile and say no, my values are different. Or we can say, That makes sense; I’d like to learn more.

What we must avoid is mindlessly repeating as truth what we heard from someone else without any investigation on our part. That’s the opposite of being alert. That’s closer to giving ourselves over to brainwashing.

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Dogma And Snark


Preacher_(3558380993)False teaching has existed for as long as the Christian church has existed. Paul, Jude, and Peter all addressed the topic. In fact, Jesus Himself warned of the same thing: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

Today false teaching seems to be as strong and healthy as ever, but now it comes with two sidekicks: dogma and snark. Dogma is a set of principles laid down by someone claiming authority—such as a false teacher—as if these are undeniably true. Snark, as used in the vernacular, refers to opinions rendered with a bite, often humorous, but at the expense of someone holding a different view.

The astounding thing is that false teaching often comes about as a criticism of dogma. Progressives want to stand against “those dogmatic fundamentalists,” for example. But the result simply is new dogma, repeated over and over, without supportive evidence, as if it is a known truth.

Snark has also become the false teacher’s friend. Make people laugh a little, or more accurately laugh at the person with whom they disagree, and the point, whatever point that may be, has been made.

Discernment, then, has become that much harder. First we have to get past such things as bombast and political correctness and categorical statements (“Fundamentalists are all legalists” or “Porn stars all hate themselves” or “a person who says homosexuality is sin is a homophobe.”)

Second, we have to get past the brash, often condescending tone of so much rhetoric. People’s opinions now come with barbs, and at any time that sharp point might swing about and take aim on you. On the other hand, the attack might be pointed at a person or set of beliefs that you want to see taken down. However, the humor masks the vapid support for that position. At best it serves as a springboard for more mockery.

Dogma and snark are an unhealthy mix, but add them to false teaching and you have a deadly cocktail.

The only sure counter to false teaching, to dogma dressed up as politically correct tolerance, to snarky but baseless opinions is God’s sure word.

This week some comment has arisen because of an article at Pathos—an excerpt from a Frank Schaeffer book—that vilifies the writers of the New Testament on its way to saying that Jesus was not a Bible-believer.

Dogma. Snark. And false teaching.

I fear this may be trending.

But God’s word, no matter what the false teachers like to say, is sure. It will stand firm forever. It is tried and it stands.

Peter has much to say about these matters in both his letters. First, he makes a clear statement about God’s Word (and in 2 Peter he gave Paul’s letters equal status to other Scripture):

for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
THE GRASS WITHERS,
AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”
And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25)

Then at the end of his second letter, he gives an admonition and a prayer.

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

I can’t think of a better response to false teaching, even that married to dogma and snark.

Published in: on July 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm  Comments Off on Dogma And Snark  
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Discernment 101 Revisited


About the time you think it’s safe to return to the water, it isn’t. So, too, with reading and going to movies and watching TV. Well, pretty much everything related to culture. Western society has largely spurned its Christian underpinnings, requiring those of us who still cling to the Solid Rock to think carefully about what our minds dwell on lest we also get washed away at sea.

Mormonism is one example of this need. Are they a cult or are they Christian? Another is the murky theology of those who are “progressives” or who identify as “emergent.”

A year and a half ago we had the over-hyped discourse Love Wins by Rob Bell with its ideas that there is no hell and all will eventually make their way into God’s presence in the after life.

Before that we had Paul Young’s controversial, rambling theological discourse disguised as fiction, The Shack, which, among other things, cast aspersions on the Bible and suggested universalism.

Now we’re at the threshold of another similar “story,” complete with media hype. Mr. Young has just released Cross Roads and has begun a book tour, complete with book signings, an appearance on The Today Show, and an interview with People magazine.

Have I read this book or know its theological content? I don’t.

I’m also not aware that Mr. Young has re-examined or changed any of his erroneous beliefs peppered throughout The Shack. Consequently, when we see a book on the horizon that may contain ideas contrary to Scripture (most books) and yet purports to be Christian, we as Bible believing followers of Jesus Christ need to keep in mind some basic principles of discernment.

  • The Bible is the ultimate authority of what is True. We need to examine the things we read and hear and see to determine if they are so or if they come from someone’s fabrication of God and His way.
  • Because someone is friendly and encouraging or is a good speaker or is entertaining or . . . ad infinitum, does not increase the likelihood that they are telling the truth.
  • That someone claims Christ is no guarantee their story will reflect Christ truthfully.
  • Christians are admonished to test the spirits to see if these things are so.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

  • False teaching abounds which should make Christians more alert, not more reclusive.
  • Legalism is not the same thing as discernment.

What are your thoughts about discernment? What else should be included in a list of basic principles to keep in mind if we are to be discerning about our culture?

You might also want to read the first “Discernment 101” post written three years ago.

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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The Way False Teaching Works


False teaching seems to be on the rise. On one hand Mormons are clamoring to be recognized as Christian, and on the other Christians are darting off in tangents that take them away from The Main Thing, if not directly into Bible-contradicting error. How does this happen?

No false teaching comes waving the flag of the enemy, or we’d all say, Look, another one of Satan’s lies, and run the other way. Instead, false teaching comes dressed in the guise of truth, just as Satan masquerades as an angel of light.

I realized this with new clarity when I wrote “Upside Down Commands.” False teaching most often begins from a position of truth.

This is why Peter, Jude, Paul all talked about false teaching coming from within the ranks of Christians.

2 Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (emphasis here and in the following verses is mine)

1 Tim. 4:1
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons

Gal. 2:4
But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

Jude 1:4
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Whether believers who fall away or insidious rebels who creep in among Christians with the intent to lead some astray, those pandering false teaching will come from within the church. And they will base their false teaching on truth. Notice, for example, how Jude pinpointed a group in his day who turned the grace of God into an excuse to live a self-indulgent lifestyle.

From a point of truth, false teachers next take a leap in logic or speculate based on that truth which leads to a point of error. Often this error becomes the cornerstone of their false teaching.

Those promoting a “health-and-wealth” gospel do this sort of thing. God loves you (true), and wants to bless His children (true). He has promised to answer prayer (true). Therefore, a child of God can hold God to His word and expect Him to provide lavishly, even as He cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.

It is the “therefore” clause that is the insidious viper that works all manner of evil. The blessings God promises might be spiritual instead of physical, and the means by which we obtain them might come through suffering. Further, this “doctrine” was never meant to crowd out other clear teachings, as if all of the Christian faith was about obtaining God’s (physical) blessings.

Here’s another example from Trinitarian Theology, the resurrection of an old heresy (which sounds very much like the position Rob Bell took in Love Wins).

* “Just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam]…[and] all sinned…” (v. 12). [true]
* “How much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ [the second Adam], overflow to the many?” (v. 15). [true]
* And, “just as the result of one trespass [that of the first Adam] was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness [that of Jesus, the second or final Adam] was justification that brings life for all men” (v. 18). [true]

Jesus has not simply done something for us, he has done something with us by including us in his life, death, resurrection and ascension. [the leap: “all men” has no qualification such as Colossians 2:19a “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast and not moved away from the hope of the gospel …” (emphasis mine)]

Therefore, we understand from Scripture that… [doctrine based on the point of error]

* When Jesus died, all humanity died with him. [false — only believers died to sin, guilt, the law. Again see Colossians]
* When Jesus rose, all humanity rose to new life with him. [false — see Colossians 3:1 and the “If” clause]
* When Jesus ascended, all humanity ascended and became seated with him at the Father’s side (Ephesians 2:4-6). [false — unbelievers will face judgment and eternal punishment. Multiple passages verify this]

[excerpt from “The God Revealed in Jesus Christ: A Brief Introduction to Trinitarian Theology”

In short, understanding how false teaching works should make us more aware of the necessity for discernment within the church. We should be thinking about what our pastors are preaching with our Bibles open. We must keep our minds engaged and our hearts in prayer whenever we read Christian literature (including this blog!) False teachers can introduce false ideas through novels, biographies, commentaries, or devotionals. There is no “safe” author or book and we ought not rely on any Christian leader as infallible in his proclamation of truth (the statistics on them are as solid as those on death: one out of one is a sinner).

God gave us a brain, and more importantly He gave us His Word and His Spirit. We are responsible for letting the word of Christ richly dwell within us and to be filled with the Spirit rather than quenching Him. He and the Word of God will lead us into all truth. If we close our Bibles or quench the Spirit, then we’re opening ourselves to all manner of false teaching. And plenty of it abounds these days.

Published in: on November 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm  Comments (3)  
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Discernment Addendum


In his sermon yesterday, my pastor, Dale Burke, pointed out an interesting fact from the scripture passage we were studying, Luke 12:13-34. One disgruntled, and apparently greedy, person demanded that Jesus arbitrate a dispute. As part of Jesus’s answer to the guy, He told a parable in which the central character dialogued with himself.

The man was a rich landowner and experienced a further blessing: his harvest produced a bumper crop. As a result, “he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do …’ ”

Later, he talked to his soul: ” ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come …’ ”

My pastor’s first point was that the rich man was talking to the wrong person about his situation—himself instead of God.

Lo and behold, when I began reading the book of Ecclesiastes this morning, I found the same thing. Chapter two starts out, “I said to myself …”

So how often, I wonder, am I talking to myself instead of talking to God? I think this is especially important in our postmodern culture that advocates “looking within” for the answers to just about everything.

Seems to me, God wants our eyes on Him instead.

The Psalmist asked God to search him and try him and see if there was any wicked way in him. He didn’t say he would examine himself to see if there was any wicked way.

Left to myself, looking within is fraught with deception and wishful thinking.

Why would I want to look within when I can look to God who is omnipotent, all knowing, wise, and good? How silly for me to rely on the fallible, selfish, narrow-minded, incomplete counsel I give myself. 🙄

The key to discernment, then, is to ask God to reveal His perspective rather than trying to ferret out truth from my own partial and imperfect attitudes, beliefs, and ideas.

And of course, God has already revealed His perspective in His Word, so I need to pray for His Spirit to open the eyes of my heart to understand and apply what He has revealed.

With God’s perspective in mind and by asking for His counsel and wisdom, I can approach the task of analyzing what I read and see, trusting that He will supply the discernment I need.

Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm  Comments (3)  
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More on Avatar


After posting yesterday, I did more reading. One writer, Ross Douthat, published a piece in the NY Times op-ed section, “Heaven and Nature,” that raised some rebuttal.

The article I read answering Douthat, “The Meaning of Avatar: Everything is God (A Response to Ross Douthat and other naysayers of ‘pantheism’)” by Jay Michaelson in the Huffington Post spells out the beliefs propagated by Avatar and connects them to ancient religions.

While Michaelson is obviously a proponent of these beliefs, his article removes the gloss from the movie so we can peer beyond the imaginative to the metaphysical.

This is what Christians should be doing!

Instead of thinking and studying to find out what the movie is actually saying, many seem content to watch Solomon build his high places for his foreign wives.

This is not OK! Christians need to recognize error from truth, no matter how much or little artistry clothes it. Christians need to say to their friends and children that the message of Avatar is opposed to the message of the Bible. The two beliefs cannot coexist.

Am I saying Christians should not see the movie? Far from it! We should see it and realize that the religion espoused by the Na’vi is the religion espoused by influential people in our culture, especially in the movie industry.

But here’s what at least one voice in the Christian community is saying:

Douthat goes on to call the film “a long apologia for pantheism” that merely reflects the results found in a recent Pew Forum report — that “many self-professed Christians hold beliefs about the ‘spiritual energy’ of trees and mountains.”

Hmm, interesting observations, and quite possibly on target. But I simply say, relax. Avatar isn’t forcing anything down anyone’s throat, no more than any other movie — and less so than many agenda-driven films made by Christians — with a message. It’s a fantasy film about an alien planet.

Can’t we all just chill out and enjoy the cinematic ride? I haven’t hugged any trees since seeing Avatar — though they sure are beautiful outside my window right now with today’s fresh snowfall — and I can’t wait to see it again.
Avatar and the Gospel According to James,” by Mark Moring, in Christianity Today Movies & TV Blog

This latter view is what I feared. Christians above all others are not to preach—so say Christians as well as others in our society!

If nothing changed in Avatar except that the Na’vi called their god “Jesus,” I believe there would be a controversy swirling around the movie, the likes we haven’t seen since The Sorcerer’s Stone.

Avatar preaches! It preaches a religion, it preaches a political and social ideology, and Moring has the audacity to say it’s OK because it doesn’t force anything down anyone’s throat. Is that because Cameron didn’t ask for decisions at the end?

I’m sorry, but I don’t see how honest critics can know what the movie was about—and Moring apparently hasn’t missed the pointed message because he says he believes Douthat is probably right in his claims—and still think it isn’t poison.

Poison!

From time to time we have poisonous things in our houses, but we also clearly mark them with the symbol for poison. Poison is only dangerous for improper use if it is easily accessible and unmarked. However, if it is served in a beautiful goblet, flooded by a sweet smelling wine, it may not be detected at all. In such an instance poison becomes deadly.

Shouldn’t we who know there’s poison in the glass be shouting at the tops of our lungs?

For more discussion on Avatar and Christianity see “Why Christians Aren’t Up In Arms About Avatar”.

God and Bandwagons


I have a thing against bandwagons—a term we use to denote people leaping into a suddenly faddish cause. Mostly I don’t think people who jump aboard popular crazes are using their heads, or their hearts, or their character. They are simply going with the flow.

Of course I can be wrong about that. I once declared the Beatles were a passing fad. Uh, not really! 😛

But you can see why a non-musician such as I might think so. I mean, there were countless girls at their concerts, screaming and crying, to the point that you had to believe NO ONE was actually listening to the music.

Of course, I didn’t understand about the records and radio or how revolutionary these English chaps were.

The point is, I know from that experience bandwagons may be more than faddish, but my first instinct is to suspect they aren’t.

I’m glad about that too, because I think it protects me from going along just to go along. Not that I haven’t done that on occasion. In college a friend asked me to go to a movie with her. Sure, what are we seeing? Turned out to be the controversial X-rated (since, downgraded to R) Midnight Cowboy.

Going along just to go along can lead to some places I don’t want to be.

But just recently, I discovered that, as logical as that stand is, that and the desire to fight against mindlessness, there’s a greater reason to stand against bandwagon jumping: God is against it.

At least He warns against it. I should have seen this sooner. After all, the New Testament uses the analogy of a narrow road and few who find life, but a broad road with many that leads to destruction.

In the epistles, we’re told not to be conformed to the world—no going with the flow.

In the Old Testament, God clearly told the people of Israel not to be like the nations around them—no being like everyone else.

But most recently, I read with new eyes an admonition in amongst the “sundry laws” given Moses at Mt. Sinai:

You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice (Exodus 23:1,2 – emphasis mine).

Jesus’s crucifixion is the perfect example of the kind of bandwagon jumping God commanded His people to avoid. I didn’t highlight the “doing evil” or “pervert justice” parts in the passage, but here’s the thing. If someone jumps on a bandwagon—goes along just to go along—he rarely is thinking about whether or not the end is evil or if justice will be perverted.

The very me-too-ism involved in getting on board a bandwagon requires a blind eye.

Seems to me we would do well to slow down and think, search the pages of Scripture, pray, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit before we write the next scathing blog post or call the President or governor or Senator or neighbor unkind names for disagreeing with those of us atop the bandwagon.

Stretch that out to writing a vampire novel because vampire novels are selling. Or proclaiming postmodern philosophy because po-mos are the new in. As is anything Zen, or green. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. While I might be wrong about what is or isn’t a fad, I don’t think I’m wrong about our need to turn to God before we take a position … about anything.

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 11:14 am  Comments (4)  
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Discernment – The Realities


Announcements

First, Lyn Perry at ResAliens Blog has started a 2 Questions feature—mini interviews—and I’m his guinea pig. 🙄 Seriously, I feel honored to lead off for Lyn.

Next, have you noticed the new rating option WordPress now includes? You can’t see it yet from the home page (they’re working to change this), but if you click on a particular article title and go to that post, you’ll see the stars (after a moment) at the bottom.

I mention this for two reasons. Some of you may wish to give feedback but simply do not have the time. This system gives you a quick way of registering your opinion.

Secondly, the more feedback I get, the more I know what topics visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction would like to discuss. So please feel free to use the rating system, though I hope you will also continue to give your thought-provoking comments.

Finally, for those of you looking for the July CSFF Top Blogger Award Run-off poll, you’ll find it here.

– – –

So back to the topic of discernment. I want to address some realities, based on my observations … so you may rightly question whether or not they are “realities.” I think they are. 😉

First, discernment requires awareness. Part of the problem is that readers or TV viewers or movie goers or gamers look at entertainment as a time to put aside the serious and just have fun. Escape. Play.

Nothing wrong with a little fun, escape, or play, but there is something very dangerous about letting our spiritual guards down. Think about it for a moment. Any potential temptations for a guy going to the beach these days? Would a wise youth counselor tell the guys in his Bible study to take the day off from fighting lust and just have a fun day at the beach? 😮 Please, tell me No.

But as dangerous as lust is to a hormone-driven teen, so is false teaching to the Christian. More so, because false teaching is really about Mankind and God and eternity and salvation and revelation—stuff that will not pass away.

I’m reminded of Nehemiah and the people rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem who “took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon” (Neh. 4:17b). That’s what you do when you’re alert to a threat.

A second reality is that discernment is work. It requires us to think about what we are seeing and reading and hearing. We need to do some evaluation, and who wants to do that when we are in relax mode?

Now I think about the parable of the five wise and five foolish maidens waiting for the bridegroom to come. The foolish ran out of oil for their lamps. The wise were prepared. Note, neither the wise nor the foolish stayed awake all night. So I’m not saying discernment means we can never relax. But we are prepared, as the five wise were, when the need arises.

Which leads to the final reality for today. Preparation comes by knowing God’s word. Without knowledge of the Truth, we have nothing to compare stories with.

The analogy of law enforcement officers assigned to catch counterfeiters is apropos. These professionals prepare by studying genuine bills to the point that the fake ones will be easily recognized.

So, for us, the real work comes in listening to the preaching of the Word of God, reading it, studying it, meditating upon it, memorizing it … until ideas that clash with it jump out at us, even when we aren’t intentionally trying to make a comparison.

Published in: on August 3, 2009 at 12:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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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?

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