A Call for a Return to Biblical Discernment
In 1987 Alan Bloom wrote The Closing of the American Mind in response to a trend he observed developing in the intellectual community. "There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of," he writes, "almost every student entering the university believes. . .that truth is relative." The reduction of truth to relativity, moved Bloom to declare that the American mind was "closed."
Though many on today’s Evangelical stage would assert their belief in the absolute nature of truth, in reality we have become practical relativists. We refuse to open the door to the blatant error of the Mormons, yet when the message comes to us on the contemporary Christian platter we find ourselves gladly at the buffet! Thus the "closing" of the evangelical mind, leads ultimately to its "opening." Yet, the Biblical answer to a closed mind is not an open mind, but a discerning one.
The discerning mind takes seriously the Biblical command to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil" (1Thes 5:21-22). This admonition provided the Thessalonians with a "crash course" in discernment. A course in which we should all enroll. The instruction is both direct and comprehensive. The church is to test before it ingests! Over the years, I have found the feeding of my little ones quite facinating. Whatever is moved toward their mouths on a spoon (they can be quite undiscriminating), their mouths simply open! How this mirrors the contemporary church! Ironically, this command from the Apostle Paul is found in a letter written to a congregation in danger of being misled by false instruction regarding the Second Coming. In a day when we take more cues from novels than from Scripture, we seem to have forgotten these words recorded in Holy writ! Understandably, novels do seem to speak to an age where fiction is more easily swallowed and fact leaves a bitter taste. Where are the Bereans with noble minds moving them to test all by the Word?
Notice further, the text indicates that upon examination of the teaching they receive, they discover that all that glitters is not gold! We must be discriminating people, fully aware that false teachers and their teaching are found throughout the body of Christ (See Acts 20:28-32). We must call good, good and evil, evil. Holding to the former, we must do away with the latter.
Finally, they are to "abstain from every form of evil." "Abstain" means to hold something away from oneself. Certainly, we must be known for what we affirm. Yet, we must further be known for what we deny. This is neither easy, nor joyful. Standing opposed to that which is false is a difficult task. Yet the Scripture tells us we are to "turn away from," "be on guard against," and "flee from" all that is erroneous. The language couldn’t be stronger.
Question: What is wrong with the church? Answer: Worldliness. David Wells in No Place for Truth states: "Where (the church) substitutes intuition and feelings for Biblical truth. . .Where its appetite for the Word has been lost in favor of light discourses and entertainment. . .the church is being worldly." The world is pressing upon us from without, and arising from within through our own fleshly yearnings. Failing at discrimination, our churches find themselves running more like secular businesses than spiritual bodies, being led more by marketing strategists than by the master's shepherds, and putting forth a perverted gospel of self-fulfillment over self-denial. Failing to "guard the trust," we find it stolen from before our very eyes.
Examining those who claim to be God’s servants and the meals they serve is a discomforting activity. Yet, regarding the commands to "examine," "hold," and "abstain" we cannot afford to close our eyes, turn a deaf ear, and say nothing like the proverbial Three Blind Mice. This is the divine obligation of all! Publishers, professors, pastors and pew-folk, we will all be called to account. We must "be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (1Cor 16:13). Let us take heed, lest the indictment spoken against undiscerning Israel, our children one day say of us: "An appalling and horrible thing Has happened. . .The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it" (Jer 5:30-31)?