Discernment bloggers have contributed to the end of discernment because they have damaged the reputation of the idea itself. In today’s climate, we almost cannot engage in true discernment without being associated with cynical and pugnacious modes of argument.
And this problem is tragic because discerning truth from fiction, right from wrong, lies at the centre of Christian ethics (Phil 1:10). And biblical discernment means knowing “what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2). Granted, we need to know what falsehood is if we are to discern truth. But our focus zeroes in on what is good.
Yet so much online writing today celebrates so-called discernment bloggers whose purpose seems to be spotting the fault in others. They experience schadenfreude at the fall of others (1 Cor 13:6). And worse, much of this writing appears under the guise of Christianity.
We should define falsehoods, and we should use strong language—of course. I am not here criticizing these things (and I have used strong language in this article!). The difference lies in this: we call a spade a spade and use intense language to protect the flock of God and to repoint people to God. We often must call out evil and evil people to protect other Christians and for the sake of truth. But our main diet of writing and thinking is the good.
Hence, we should reject pursuing a life that seeks to spot the bad in others. We should reject, in most cases, any ministry that primarily focuses on what is bad. The kind of skepticism, cynicism, and pessimism of much “discernment ministry” has no place in biblical Christianity whose mark is: love, joy, and peace. Love believes, endures, and hopes all things (1 Cor 13:7). Cynicism is not a virtue. It vitiates love.
And in any case, the key biblical passages on discernment tell us to focus on discerning what is good (Phil 1:10; Rom 12:2). We do so because God is good. And we must fix our minds to heaven where God lives (Phil 4:8).
When we focus on the bad, we focus away from heaven. And we often become what we devote our attention to. More than this, we tend towards tribalism: there are insiders (us) and outsiders (them). Twisting what is good, we embrace the idea of tribalism under the belief that we are simply calling out the wolves. And while I grant that we must do so when necessary, I equally affirm that Christ broke the wall down between all people at the cross. So it’s not us vs. them. It’s Christ over all and us for them and for their salvation.
We love our enemies as Christ loved and died for his enemies. He’s the judge, not us. Vengeance belongs to him, not us. If we spend our days attacking “them” and not loving him who sits in heaven, we end up mimicking the world’s divisive ways. We forget the uniting miracle of the Gospel and the Spirit (that bond of love).
Tragically, then, some discernment bloggers have found ways to promote cynicism, hate, and false religion through the online medium. Some have denied the Gospel by their works. They’ve put to death discernment—at least in the eyes of many. It has become odious.
The vital and key ministry of discernment has lots its edge through the voluminous and bad discernment blogging world. Now: when we need to call a false teacher a false teacher, the punch has been pulled. Eyes roll. Just another angry discernment blogger, they might think.
What makes this even more painful to observe is strikingly no discernment sites that I have come across ever cite the reality that the vast majority of the teachings that the New Testament calls false has to do with a lack of love, with our actions, because Christianity is a Way of Life—not only a creed to believe. It’s both creed and act.
Here is one heresy of our day: lovelessness. (note: love must be defined by God’s nature and Scripture). And lovelessness has equally bad results in the church as does Arianism. For God is love. To private love to the extent that we view our evil words as loving is to deny the nature of God and to live like a devil.
Repentance remains the only option for any of us who have fallen into this sinful pattern of life (cf. Rev 2:4). And strong words are needed to protect people from the discernment bloggers who so often eat and devour anyone in their path, lacking the loving concern of Lord that enabled his strong words to illustrate “the truth in love.”
Mark Matthias says
“We often must call out evil and evil people to protect other Christians and for the sake of truth”. I say, period.
That’s exactly what I mean when I find people stressed (some to the point of abject discomfort about not having been baptized in water — this can’t be holy beside the uselessness of the act.)
in one of my responses to you I wrote, Jesus tended to speak of the ‘positive’, and we humans tend to dwell on telling each other what is wrong with each other. It’s illogical to think a fallen cursed person can “fix” a fallen cursed world. And we know our best only when we reflect God — how consistently can we do that? I’m speaking strictly of the act, not pointing to anyone in particular. I have to cut this short, I am a target for spam it appears.
Mark Matthias says
I’ll try it this way…tow posts for one subject. Discernment also has a sharply spiritual component, in 1 Cor. 12:10…literally, the discernment of spirits — in other words, though I am not a charismatic, I have reduced everything that is ultimately important to a spiritual reality. I cannot imagine how fallen people like us can fix a fallen creation — the best we can do in our own strength is fail, as physics tells us, everything is doomed to deterioration, which is certainly the case without the Spirit. Yes, of course, we have to respect everyone’s right to tweak things as long as we don’t go too far away from God’s intent, but when things take His place this is disturbing. John ^:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6 — so there’s nothing wrong with Discernment in and of itself — there’s something wrong with us when we are speaking from our egos and not the Spirit. OK, that’s it. By the way, I don’t have this span trouble on any other site, I don’t know what to say, I can’t express myself properly, but all is well, thanks, Wyatt.
Eternity Matters says
“He’s the judge, not us. ”
So why are you judging discernment bloggers so harshly?
Sure, some may be over the top, but many provide a truly valuable service. People like James McDonald, Clayton Jennings and more weren’t outed by “traditional” ministries. The rich, elite Christian and “Christian” leaders have a vested interest in being shielded from criticism.
Thank you for that important perspective, Eternity Matters.
Mark Matthias says
Thank you, sister, for the feedback — Why would I want to do such a thing? Because I firmly believe it is Biblically correct, exegetically and hermeneutically — therefore I believe it will be for the betterment of my brothers and sisters whom I love from the bottom of my soul. John 3:3, 5; 2 Cor. 3:6; 2 Corinthians 32:6; 5:17; John 3:15-18, 36 — in other words, the Spirit through Jesus is quite sufficient — no malice here!
And I believe we have to take a good look at the word, ‘judge’, I think it is routinely misused.
David C Underwood says
It is not discernment at all when it is full of pride. It is the same blindness that filled the hearts of the Pharisees in John 9:39-41. These so called discernment bloggers are dangerous. Truth from a proud heart is heretical (the word means “to divide”).
Mark Matthias says
Thank you, David, for your comment — I would say it’s a bit more than pride.
Take, for example, Luke 11:24-26, 28 — Yes they had pride so much so that they were deaf to the voice of the So of God — they are most certainly not the only ones. It is the same pride that’s been crucifying Jesus for the last two thousand years. I have no doubt that there is a spiritual component parallel to every temp[oral action — we can discern but we cannot condemn. For you to speak of “pride”, may mean you are completely without pride — that would make you are very unusual. Lord since I do still have so much to improve, I pray You have mercy on my wretched self, that I may serve you properly. Amen.
David C Underwood says
I am definitely not humble enough. I really try hard to not comment on anything though when I feel my pride rearing up. Not sure what you mean by “more than pride”. I do know that nothing is ever as simple as one problem.
I have watched Christians tear each other apart over the color of the carpet. I have watched Pastor’s fellowships talk about those who were not present as to whether they were strong enough on the groups defining “issue”. Those same men could not understand why men quit understanding or understand why their churches were always in constant internal conflict.
Mark Matthias says
Right, David — I appreciate your words — By “more than pride” I mean that pride is of the devil; we are neutral in the sense that we could go either way…yet, we are so far gone from the initial calling, for example, Luke 18:8:… 8I tell you, He (God) will promptly carry out justice on their behalf. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” Rhetorical questions need no answers So, I am saying, if we could bolster our faith in these faithless times (which, I agree with you and I believe is the reason Christians sometimes eviscerate each other in public) See 2 Corinthians 10:5…a critical verse — that’s what we don’t do enough of…Oh David, only if we could do that every minute… nevertheless, we’re ok because we are positionally correct, therefore, as perfect as a human can be. God’s perfection is different from ours, but we are given the path to perfection — that’s good enough.
Alex G says
Warning is an act of love. Possibly, as well, you are missing how many times such Ministries do deliver edifying Doctrine which builds up and directs.
Robert Tuttle says
I think you are painting with too broad a brush here, condemning all discernment ministries. Granted, there are some that horrible, and some that spread false doctrine themselves. There are some that are legalistic and Pharisaical, some that strain at gnats, and some that do nothing more then attack the body of Christ, while ignoring those who are obviously false Christians. The operative word here is “some.” Not all are like that. There are many good – some very good – discernment ministries out there, who follow guidelines based on Scripture and common sense. Please don’t be so zealous that you throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Nobody Important says
Only partially correct, Wyatt, and in the process, partially hypocritical as well. Spend some time reviewing what the Spirit of God says about discernment, cynicism, and worldly evil and perhaps He will enlighten you regarding your narrow-minded (as opposed to fully orbed, fully biblical) cynicism against discernment and its requisite rebukes of worldly evil. https://anotherslownewsday.wordpress.com/christianity-politics/