Discernment in 2021: Looking for Wisdom

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As we see in passages such as Hebrews 5:14, biblical discernment involves exercising the skill of seeing the differences between good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, true vs. false, and more important vs. less important.

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (ESV, Heb 5:14)

But growth in discernment requires more than understanding what it is. Christians also need a heart that hungers for discernment and experience taking practical steps to use it in today’s world.

To put it another way, teaching discernment requires plenty of attention to Scripture—which always feeds both intellect and affections in anyone who is spiritually alive—and plenty of attention to application.

My goal in this post is to feed heart and mind through attention to Scripture. In this case, though, application is pretty built-in also, because a huge part of exercising discernment consists of habitually seeking what Scripture calls wisdom.

Habitually Seeking

Is it enough to pray for wisdom and trust God that we’ll have it when we need it? Consider three facts:

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Intellectual Dishonesty and Houseplants

Intellectual dishonesty takes many forms. One of the most common occurs when we look at the collection of arguments someone is making to support a claim, select the weakest among them, ignore the rest, and respond as though the weakest support is the only support.

Often, mockery follows. We heap scorn on the whole claim, emphasizing the absurdity of the one weak supporting idea.

I’m saying “we” here because it’s a common human failing. Some do it because the situation is emotionally charged and they haven’t learned to use analytical distance and other structured thinking skills.

That’s really not an excuse. That kind of interaction isn’t the way any lover of truth should behave. Upholding truth is more important than winning the fight.

An Emotionally Neutral (Hopefully) Example

Imagine someone gives a speech to a national audience promoting houseplants. The main idea of the speech is that every American should buy houseplants immediately. In support of his claim, the speaker uses the following arguments.

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One-Fourth of White Evangelicals Embrace the QAnon Conspiracy Theory: Poll

"The poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, released Monday, found that 23 percent of white evangelicals and 26 percent of Republicans believe three major tenets of the QAnon theory" - C.Headlines

Related: (PRRI) Findings from the 2021 American Values Survey

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Is Facebook Discipling Your Church Members?

"MIT Technology Review recently showed that troll farms had reached over 140 million users on Facebook before the 2020 election. A troll farm is an organized group of users (or even bots) who intentionally craft content to exploit division and sow discord in society." - C.Leaders

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