Flashback Friday: Proudly Discerning

Originally published January 5. 2017:

Bible context

Have you ever noticed that women in particular like to claim that they possess the gift of discernment? I can remember, during my years in Charismatic circles, various women pronouncing judgments on “spiritual forces,” usually with a knowing nod and a solemn expression. Typically, they insisted that the Holy Spirit had given them a special revelation.

I envied their evident abilities to peer into the spirit world. My unquestioning respect for them influenced me to blindly accept whatever declarations they made. I remember one “discerning” friend warning me to avoid a neighbor of mine because my neighbor had a “demonic look in her eyes.” Of course, in retrospect I realize that my neighbor wore extremely thick glasses that magnified her eyes and gave them a slightly glazed appearance. But at the time, I submitted to my friend’s “discernment,” trusting that God had given her special insight that I needed to heed.

That wasn’t discernment. That was spiritual pride. In essence, Charismatics who profess to have gifts of discernment generally demonstrate a gnostic attitude.

In the article, What is Christian Gnosticism, GotQuestions.org writes:

Gnostics claim to possess an elevated knowledge, a “higher truth” known only to a certain few. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know.” Gnostics claim to possess a higher knowledge, not from the Bible, but acquired on some mystical higher plane of existence. Gnostics see themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God.

Admittedly, “discernment bloggers” in Reformed circles have struggles with spiritual pride too, often supposing that we understand Scripture more than “average” Christians. In one respect, we may be partially right. Biblical illiteracy among evangelicals has reached epidemic proportions, resulting in decidedly undiscerning behavior and beliefs. But, like our Charismatic counterparts, we fall into the assumption that we have superior knowledge of God’s Word.

Yet Charismatics err because their “discernment” comes as an addition to Scripture, rather than an understanding of Scripture. While those of us in the Reformed camp must have the humility to remember that any discernment we may have is readily available to all believers, Charismatics must repent of regarding discernment as an extrabiblical gift that manifests itself in similar ways to psychic powers.

The Lord most assuredly wants His people to exercise discernment. Hebrews 5:14 equates discernment with Christian maturity. But such maturity comes through knowing God’s Word and handling it properly, not by Christian gnosticism.  All of us hold a responsibility to study God’s Word and apply it humbly, praising Him for giving us all the wisdom we need in its pages.

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