Clear Thinking

Discernment in 2021: Biblical Principles for Selecting Sources

Read the series.

Where should discerning Christians get their information? Whom should we “trust”?

Arguably, Christians shouldn’t “trust” sources at all, other than the Bible. We should consult sources on different sides of an issue and always engage our critical thinking skills. But there’s a reality we have to grapple with: nobody has enough time to personally research every important topic. Even if we were never lazy, we’d end up with favorite information conduits we draw from on a regular basis.

We had better choose well.

The sources we consult regularly become our leaders and teachers to some degree, and we’ll tend to be like them.

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:39–40)

What we listen to, watch, or read on a regular basis influences our attitudes, assumptions, and biases.

Bad company corrupts good morals. (1 Cor 15:33)

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Discernment in 2021: It's Probably Harder Than You Think

Read Part 1.

It seems to be everywhere these days: Christians expressing uncritical belief in random claims and conspiracy theories they’ve heard on social media, mainstream media, and right wing media. This external evidence tells us discernment is a desperate need in our churches and ministries in these times. The internal evidence of Scripture tells us that discernment is always needed—and always hard to develop.

In the context of future dangers and pressures, Jesus told His disciples they would need to be like snakes and doves at the same time (Matt. 10:16). They would need to be phronismos—prudent, shrewd, savvy. At the same time, they would need to be akeraios—pure, untainted. Here’s what He said (my translation).

Note this—I’m sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves. Be savvy like snakes and pure like doves.

It was a call to discernment. It was also a revelation of some of what we’re up against in our efforts to help others, and ourselves, grow in this area.

Why Discernment Takes Work: 3 Reasons

The reasons discernment isn’t automatic, even for mature Christians, are many. Here, we’ll consider three.

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“Since the question of falsifiability has cross-disciplinary value, it is a question that we should ask not only of our theological opinions, but also our political and medical and economic opinions”

"This brings me to another question of discernment, viz., the question of falsifiability, or, 'What would it take to change my mind?'" - Snoeberger

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Why Christians Must Be to Loyal to Truth, Not Political Party or Brand

My thoughts below predate COVID-19, masks, hydroxychloroquine, or churches defying public health emergency orders. Last fall, different controversies were exposing problems in how believers evaluate conflicting claims and decide what to believe.

But those problems are still with us, and the current raft of controversies is exposing them even more painfully.

Many Christians who claim to revere the Bible lack biblical habits for evaluating truth claims and consequently lack skill in judging the ethics of situations in a biblical way. It seems almost ubiquitous now—the habit of putting the political/culture-war lenses on first, and embracing or rejecting claims based solely on source classification (friend or foe). The result is that ideas are accepted uncritically if they’re perceived to be from “our people” and rejected reflexively if they’re seen as from “the other side.”

What’s missing is weighing ideas and claims on their own merits—on things like evidence and sound reasoning. Increasingly, what’s completely missing is any nonpolitical consideration of what Scripture teaches and what sound application requires of us.

More than ever, believers need to meditate on a genuinely Christian view of truth and on a genuinely Christian approach to evaluating truth claims. At least five principles are are fundamental that effort.

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“We have allowed the secular political discourse to renew our minds so that we can only see liberal versus conservative, control versus freedom.”

"'Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone' (Titus 3:1–2). These marks demonstrate true faith and integrity among Christians." - Wyatt Graham

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“Christian naivety is harming the church’s engagement with today’s culture”

"As I considered the types of pushback I received from some fellow believers ... I started to realize that their comments had little to do with the facts, logic, or manner in which I wrote that particular article. Rather, they were the same kinds of reactions I’ve see to any post I or other Christians write involving a call to better discernment in the church." - Natasha Crain

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