For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Discerning or Judgmental?

We know we are called by Scripture to be discerning, to “test the spirits,” to hold to sound doctrine and so on. But when does the effort to do those things cross the line into judgmentalism?

We discussed this in my SS class yesterday. We were talking about some issues that came up in a message that we had all heard, and I confessed to the class that sometimes I think I can become over critical.

I noticed it recently at a conference I had attended. This was a conference hosted by a pastor I respect greatly. The speakers were all men I knew ran in the same “theological circles” as me, so I knew I would be given sound teaching. And then about midway through the conference, a thought hit me. My attitude was completely different there than it has been in other conferences/events where the folks aren’t so much “like me.” I recently posted about being careful to only associate with those exactly like us, and while there I was referring more to “culture” and likes/dislikes, etc. I’m wondering if I’m guilty of being overly critical.

Let me try to explain. I’m often at events or conferences where I know going in I’m not going to be in full agreement. Whether it’s the group hosting it, or the speaker themselves, I just have a pretty good idea we don’t see eye to eye on things. And so it seems as though I go in just waiting for the first “heretical” thing to be said, the first wrong emphasis to be brought up and so on. At this most recent conference, I noticed that my attitude was totally different. Because I didn’t go in assuming I would disagree, I wasn’t really looking for something to disagree with. So maybe, the fault lies at least in part with my attitude.

Now, as I began by saying, I know we need to be discerning, and we need to watch for error, etc. But could it be that sometimes I’m not truly being discerning, but rather being judgmental? Where do we draw the line?

Truth be told, there have been times when the speaker was “mostly good” in their presentation. Is it wrong of me then to focus on one or two things they got wrong? And how wrong does it have to be before we either say something, stop listening, etc.? Obviously, if someone utters outright heresy, say denying the virgin birth, or the substitutionary atonement, etc., then I’m done. But what if it’s just a matter of “questionable” or “debatable” issues?

I know I’m just asking questions here, not giving any answers, but that’s really the point. This is really a matter I’m trying to figure out. I want to be discerning, I want to hold to the truth, and I certainly want to point our church toward people and events that will do the same. But could it be that I avoid some events, or criticize certain people simply because I’m being overly critical?

Just wondering. I’d appreciate your prayers as I work through this. And any insight anyone would like to offer, I’m all ears (or, I guess in this format, all eyes!).

No comments: