Christian Mind

From the Archives – Can We Be Discerning Without Being Judgmental?

Good judgment is a function of wisdom, and exercising it—in the form of discernment—is a Christian duty. The Psalmist prays for discernment (Psalm 19:12), Proverbs exalts it (Prov. 14:8), and Paul prays that believers will abound in it (Phil. 1:9).

Tim Challies’ definition of discernment is as good as any I’ve seen (I have not yet read the book):

Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.

But sometimes when we think we’re exercising discernment, we’re really just being judgmental. We’ve taken a noble and nurturing love for truth and turned it into something ugly, harmful, and infectious. Those who are most zealous for truth and discernment may well be the quickest to stumble into judgmentalism.

So how do we tell the difference? How do we actively practice discernment (Heb. 5:14) without becoming one of those frowning, finger-pointing, spirit-crushing, accusers of the brethren?

Five Features of Judgmentalism

I believe five distinguishing features of judgmentalism can help us identify and avoid it.

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The Life Well Lived

Some years ago I was invited to deliver the high school graduation homily at my daughter’s graduation. Her classmate, who issued the invitation conversationally, called it a “brief address thingy.”

Since she put it like that, how could I refuse?

I didn’t really need any persuading. Having attended quite a few graduations before that, I’d had occasion to ponder what I’d want to preach at a graduation if I ever got that opportunity.

What I wanted to tell them is that, for a Christian, any kind of graduation is a major step forward in a life well lived—and if we want to understand what that means, there is no better-lived life than Jesus’ life. Philippians 2:5-10 provides a powerful summary.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth (NKJV)

I challenged the graduates that day with three observations about the life well lived. (The students had all studied Greek, so I brought a bit out.)

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Are young earth creationism and dispensationalist eschatology to blame for our conspiracy theory problem?

"Caught between the (semi) proverbial rock of Ham and the hard place of LaHaye, many Christians–especially American fundamentalists and evangelicals–have been progressively conditioned to resort to conspiracy as an explanatory heuristic" - Conciliar Post

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