Friday, November 30, 2012

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment- Chapter 8


A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 8: The Dangers of Discernment
- Maybe it is splitting hairs, but I did not like the title of the chapter.  I know he was trying to make it fit with the other chapters, but I do not feel true discernment brings dangers.  Later he said, "We'll look at ten of the potential dangers that seem to afflict those who emphasize discernment."  (Page 143)  I thought this statement was much better than his chapter title.  In the "Key Thought" section, he said, "Discernment is a practice that can lead to many dangers."  (Page 151)  I personally don't feel that discernment leads people into these other things- their sinful nature does.  I know what he is saying, but I think it could have been worded better.

- In his opening illustration about the counterfeit money, he talked about the importance of becoming familiar with the truth.  The more you know about currency, the easier it will be for you to find a fake bill.  In the same way, the more we know truth, the easier it will be for us to discern other areas.  We may not be facing a difficult decision now, but if we are growing in our knowledge of the truth, a decision down the road will be more clear.

- He brought up the fact that error is changing.  It does come in different forms and heresies/false doctrines seems to come and go in cycles, but being anchored in the truth of God's Word will allow us to meet those as they come.

- Again a little thing, but I thought some of his "dangers" were poorly named.  The first one was "Innocent as to What is Evil."  In my opinion, this is what we need to be.  The opposite is the danger.

- I see the "Guilt by Association" and "Honor by Association" as being one.  In both cases, the observer makes a judgment on a person based on another human and not the Word of God.  If I take anything from this book, it will be a reminder to go to God's Word and let it show what is right or wrong. 

- I found it interesting that he mentioned fundamentalism in a negative light in the same breath with liberalism.  I am not going to take the time to delve into this topic- I just wanted to note his perspective.

- He talked about the fundamentalists raising "third-order doctrines" to the level of "first-order doctrines" and wrongly dividing.  While I do agree that there are Biblical doctrines essential to the faith and doctrines about which true believers disagree, I want to point out that the 1st, 2nd, 3rd orders is a man-made system.  We can only take it so far.  Also, I wish he would've given examples of how fundamentalists do what he claims.  I would like to know more of his perspective.

- I don't know if you guys consider yourselves Fundamentalists or not.  However, most people would lump you into that.  My point is not to debate whether we should be or whether others should call us that.  I think negative statements said about "us" should cause us to look at "us" objectively.  We may not agree with his renunciation of fundamentalism, but what has our movement done wrong, what have our leaders done wrong that has led to this perception.  Have we done the right thing in the wrong spirit?  Have we followed man's word and not God's?  I'm not trying to point us to a particular answer- I just believe we should stop and consider . . . even if we disagree.

- He discussed "Witch Hunting" or seeking to just point out the wrong in other.  My simple suggestion: Seek truth.  Blast error when it pops up.

- He mentioned cause discord and destroy unity.  My question: if discord comes because one renounces another believer who is going astray and thereby causing discord, is that wrong?

- I think many preachers in our circles (the ones we put ourselves in and the ones others put us in) are guilty of just lumping people together into the "good" and "bad" categories.  It is easier to do that rather than examining what someone has to say.  Certainly, if I agree with someone 90% of the time and they have a track record of following the Bible, I am not going to be as cautious when I read after them.  On the other hand, if I disagree with someone 50% of the time, I am going to take that into account.  However, my desire is to give each person/book a chance and judge/discern it by itself.  If we only read after people we agree with 100% of the time, our reading stack is going to be about two testaments thin.  I do not advocate just reading everything, but just like with plants, too much seclusion hinders growth.  (I am trying to get through the chapter.  If these comments seem too shaky, I'll be glad to elaborate.)

- "Those who emphasize discernment seem to be particularly prone to the sin of pride."  (Page 149)  I feel that those people are more prone to look down on the lifestyle/convictions of others than they are to simply want recognition for their discernment.  Have you guys seen differently?

- His call to the heart was good.  May we seek discernment 1) to know God's truth for ourselves, 2) to stand up for truth against the onslaught of error, and 3) to serve others by sharing the truth with them.

- I liked the words of John Stott he quoted: "Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth." (Page 151)

I've had my say, what say you?



  1. Here are my comments on Chapter 8:

    I, too, think I have to agree with Jacob about the author's title of this chapter being poorly worded, but I am glad that he went on to clarify that the dangers he saw were in regards to the over-emphasis of discernment to the point of being unbalanced in other areas.

    * "One of the greatest dangers of discernment is that we will become so interested in what is evil and ungodly that we allow ourselves to become immersed in it and inadvertently oppressed by the evil we encounter." I'm not that old, but I know of at least 3 guys that I went to school with who were "on track" to go into the ministry and be used by God until they got out of balance in studying the cults. All 3 of them are out of church today and 2 of them have joined the cults that they were studying to know how to refute. I appreciate the author's continuous reminder to study the truth of the Word of God and use THAT to be able to discern against evil as it comes.

    * I think the author's comments about Guilt by Association as well as Honor by Association can be very clearly exemplified in existence of some of the "camps" that exist today. It seems that many people are willing to make automatic assumptions about your beliefs and character by asking where you went to college. And, while that can say a lot, I wholeheartedly agree with the author's comment that we need to understand the beliefs of a particular INDIVIDUAL and compare those to the Word of God, rather than judging that person in light of where their association stands.

    * In dealing with pride as a potential danger to those who over-emphasize discernment, the author stated, "They can even make discernment into an idol, giving glory to their own discernment rather than to God who is both the source and motive of all true spiritual discernment." What an encouragement this was to remain focused on the Giver of the ability and not just the ability itself.

    * I know it has been stated already, but I really appreciated the quote about truth and love by John Slott. It is a good summation of a balance that I think many Christians struggle to find. May God help us to balance truth and love!

  2. It is Friday and Jacob will probably be posting the next chapter up soon, but I just finished reading chapter 8 tonight. I would echo what Jacob and Thad have already stated.

    I definitely did not agree with the "class system" of doctrines. I have not found this idea in Scripture but only in the pragmatism of man. It seems to me that a good portion of the blast on fundamentalists is not "3rd class doctrine" being put in 1st class, but more of a man's idea or teaching or standard being elevated to doctrine, without being biblically based.

    I really appreciated his pointing out of the balance needed of truth and love. They are like ingredients in a cake. If you have the one ingredient by itself, it just doesn't taste good. But if the ingredients are mixed together, it is very good. I've been on both sides of the teeter-totter. I've been zealous for truth and ended up not going about it the right way, and I've done the opposite.

    In the trek of discernment, I did believe he pointed out some pitfalls that we must beware of along the way.