How can we effectively shut down those who disagree with our viewpoints? According to a New York Times article I read today, we have only to utter the two simple words “I feel.” The writer, Molly Worthen, makes the case that, rather than appealing to what we think or believe in a manner that could encourage an intellectual and objective exchange of ideas, we shield ourselves from exposure to such challenges by taking refuge in the subjectivity of our emotions. To a large extent, I agree with her assessment.
But I would take her theory even further by positing that even using the phrases “I think” and “I believe” demonstrate a subjective mindset, particularly in the realm of debate between professing Christians. Several years ago, John and I engaged in a conversation with an evangelical friend who made a statement (I forget now what it was, and it doesn’t really matter) that contradicted Scripture. John gently showed her what God’s Word said, only to have her answer, “Well, I’m just saying what I believe.” Obviously, her personal beliefs carried more authority in her life than the Bible.
21st Century society in general promotes the attitude that each person has the right (and perhaps even the responsibility) to determine truth for himself. I expect non-Christians to embrace that way of thinking (after all, they reject the Bible). But it troubles me that evangelicals increasingly build their theologies on subjectivity instead of on the Word of God.
Why should they place their opinions, experiences and feelings above the authority of Scripture? Yes, I know…I’ve done it too. I can actually remember telling myself that, when my personal experience conflicted with the Bible, I needed to interpret the Bible through the grid of my experience. Lord have mercy!
God’s Word explicitly says that we mustn’t presume to be wise in and of ourselves.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death. ~~~Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)
My mother always characterized me as being opinionated. And I have always seen myself as being led by my emotions. But what I think and how I feel must be governed by the Word of God. Scripture alone must inform my beliefs. I can’t use what I think, feel or believe as a way to end a discussion, for then I would essentially elevate myself as my ultimate authority.
Neither should you appeal to your opinions, beliefs and (least of all!) your feelings when someone challenges you. You and must reason from a biblical perspective, convinced that the Bible really is the very Word of God and therefore the objective and ultimate way of determining truth. Maybe the rest of the world, because of their spiritual blindness and innate animosity toward the Lord, can hide behind mere subjectivity, but Christians must rest squarely on Scripture!