What I Didn’t Say About Discernment

truth-in-lovePerhaps because I have a severe speech defect, I have a deep aversion to being misunderstood. I’ve been thinking over Friday’s essay, fearful that I might have inadvertently left people with the impression that I oppose discernment blogs and discernment ministry. Maybe I’m being overly cautious here, but I’d like to clarify my essay by affirming that I appreciate discernment ministry as being essential to the Body of Christ.

Friday I wanted to point out that many people who bill themselves as discernment bloggers aren’t really as discerning as they claim to be.They vet pastors and teachers on the basis of secondhand information without also vetting the source of that information. Case in point: using an article by a Charismatic writer who’s desperate to discredit John MacArthur as substantiation that MacArthur has ties to Freemasonry. Really? That’s the only documentation she could find? I’m sorry, but that approach shows a lack of real discernment.

What about my recent article on Joni Eareckson Tada, then? Am I guilty of trying to dig up evidence to brand her as a false teacher? To be honest, I’ve experienced that temptation in researching her. By the grace of God, however, I think I’ve avoided that sin, and I’ve approached my concerns about her with much fear and trembling (as well I should!).

As it stands now, I just have concerns about Joni. Those concerns don’t come from outside sources; they come from reading her writing, listening to her speak (in person as well as YouTube) and noticing various details that cause me some alarm. You’ll kindly observe my reticence to disclose those details. That reticence comes because I frankly don’t know whether I’m discerning actual problems or if I’m nit-picking. Therefore, I won’t write further about Joni until I’m certain that I’m genuinely discerning actual problems.

If I wanted to establish myself as a discernment blogger, I might turn my concerns about Joni into an arsenal of stink bombs to use against her. And surely some of my readers would admire my apparent gift of discernment. Thankfully, others would see that I would be tearing the woman down for the purpose of building my reputation as a woman of discernment.

That, my friends, was my point Friday. True discernment never attacks another person for the purpose of enhancing one’s own credentials. Consider the apostle Paul’s remarks to the Corinthians who thought they were masters of discernment.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. ~~1 Corinthians 8:1-4 (ESV)

When discernment bloggers write for the purpose of displaying their supposed wisdom, they make it painfully evident (to everyone except themselves) that their knowledge has grossly inflated their egos. This self-serving attitude has absolutely no place among God’s people. Rather, whatever discernment God gives us should be used to cultivate personal holiness and to build up other Christians by steering them towards the Lord and His Word.

So in cautioning you against presumptive declarations of having gifts of discernment, I by no means want to imply that Christians shouldn’t cultivate personal discernment. And I fear that some of my readers might have inferred that I no longer endorse calling out false teachers or exposing aberrant practices in evangelical circles.  Please know that I would never make such a commitment.

The Bible clearly teaches Christians to contend for the faith. We just spent a few months studying the epistle Jude wrote, and we learned that all Christians bear a responsibility to practice discernment. The fact that some bloggers misuse the term “discernment” to slander people and/or to promote themselves doesn’t negate the necessity of Biblical discernment.

I pray daily that this blog will, more than anything else, honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. That means that it must never degenerate into a “discernment blog.” But it also means that, when necessary, we must look at teachings that deviate from Scripture. When those occasions arise, may the Holy Spirit enable me to address matters in humility, seeking only to direct women back to Christ.

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