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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Demise of Discernment Continues

Over the last few years, since I’ve been filling this tiny little corner of the blogsphere, one topic that seems to come up on a somewhat regular basis is the lack of discernment in the modern church (for just a few examples, you can read here, here and here). Maybe the subject comes up so often because the examples of this woeful lack continue to crop up so often.

The latest example is…no, not the Rob Bell book, let’s put that to rest…a little book about a little boy and his heartwarming tale of visiting heaven during a near death/out of body experience. OK, let me see if I can address this without completely losing my composure.

My first response is…are you serious?! This is actually selling? People are actually eating this up? Then I realize, this is the same church culture that kept The Shack at the top of the best seller list for how long? All it takes is some superficial Bible knowledge to see that this sort of book, as well as those that were popular before it (90 Minutes in Heaven, etc.) are just plain unbiblical. For example:

If anyone had anything to offer about what heaven is like, why don’t we hear more from Lazarus. This guy was dead for four days! We’re not talking a few minutes on the operating table or anything. Dead. Four Days. Buried, for crying out loud. And then Jesus comes and calls him out of the tomb. Don’t you think if anyone had a good story about the afterlife, this would be the guy (notwithstanding the old Carman song that imagined his experience). Don’t you think if God wanted us to know anymore about heaven than He’s already revealed, Lazarus would be the guy to tell us; and we’d surely believe him!

How about Paul? The apostle says that he was given a vision of heaven (assuming the account in 2 Corinthian 12 was the apostle himself). And yet, even when mentioning the vision itself, he gives no details. He offers nothing! Again, this is the perfect opportunity for God to give us these details. A Holy Spirit inspired letter that will be preserved in the church for all eternity. Yet the apostle is quiet.

Then there is the story of the other Lazarus in Luke 16, and the rich man whom Jesus describes for us in hell. Do you remember that man’s request? Please send someone back to tell my family about these horrors. And Abraham, speaking from heaven, says “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them…If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:29, 31) If they don’t believe Scripture, they won’t believe someone’s after death experience. And yet here we are, the modern church, believing more in those claimed after death experiences than we do in the Word of God itself.

Furthermore, what does all of this say about God? We have all these people who claim to have died and then return, essentially acting as if the whole thing were a cosmic accident. God is no longer the author of life and death, but merely is forced to respond to these giant gaffs with a Divine “oops.” What ever happened to “appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment?” (Hebrews 9:27)

And all of this isn’t even taking into consideration the mere observational reality that those who have looked at near death experiences world wide report that each person experiences “heaven” in exactly the way their culture has envisioned it. For one, it’s the warriors happy hunting ground, for other the tunnels of light and warm fuzzy, etc. Unless heaven is a transitory thing that changes based on culture, this should tell us that these experiences have more to do with brain synapses than divine visions.

I heard a sermon recently where it was said that “we often suffer from a lack of Bible knowledge…We don’t know this Word nearly as well as we should. If we did, the number one bestsellers at the Christian bookstores wouldn’t be the number one bestsellers; because we’d see them for the unbiblical junk they often are.” OK, so that was actually from my own sermon last Sunday. But it’s still true!

Folks, we need to stop being sidetracked by warm fuzzy, emotional responses to this or that claimed experience, and start reading The Book again. Stop letting experience define our theology and let the theology of the Bible define our experiences, as well as our understanding of the experiences of others.

We are called to be a discerning people, who have feasted on the solid food of God’s Word. As Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Powers of discernment that have been trained by constant practice. Oh, to see that kind of power in the church.

My prayer is the same as that of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:9-10, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” May the church grow in discernment so that we can truly approve what is excellent vs. what is just a really good story for the next Christian best seller.

(NOTE: for an excellent review of the book in question, read here)

1 comment:

Gregg said...

Ripping off kids! I saw the book and read a review or two, turns my stomach. There is almost no discernment today. Every man does, says, or writes that which is right in his own eyes.

Speaking of which, stop by my blog tomorrow, I can give you more fodder for your blog!
Gregg Metcalf
Colossians 1:28-29

Gospel-driven Disciples