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.”