Continuing on the theme of discernment here is a discernment tool the Lord gave to me years ago. I was helping to lead a small group and two friends were going to share with the group that evening on journaling as a way to hear the Lord’s voice. Personally, I have used a journal off and on over the years to record my thoughts. However, I had not used it in the way it was presented that evening nor after the presentation. I did however see it as a useful tool many had used to great effective in their relationship with Jesus.
Having a measure of responsibility for the group I was reflecting on what would be taught as I was driving there with a friend. On the way the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit and gave me a question to ask the group as an introduction to the teaching. He prompted me to ask the group to reflect on whether what they were about to hear was ‘unscriptural or unfamiliar.’
In the subsequent years I have applied this test regularly and it highlights for me where many run into difficulties. People resist change and new ideas because they like the familiarity of routine, structure and shared worldviews. Routine and structure are good things that help us to organize our lives and move through our days in a somewhat predictable manner. The problem crops up in how we think. In my book, Worldview: The Adventure of Seeing Through Scripture, an idea I highlighted is that we tend to think with instead of about our worldview. Thinking with is fine for our daily activities. Not for more significant issues. Here thinking about needs to be brought into play.
To illustrate the issue, I am part of more than one theological debate group on Facebook. More than once the topic of cessationism (the idea that the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 ceased with the completion of scripture) has come up in opposition to continuationism (the idea that the spiritual gifts are still active in the church today). I have always been a continuationist and in decades of debating the subject, in person or online, I have never heard a sound scriptural argument for cessationism. Yet in my experience few people change their position. There have been prominent examples like Jack Deere or Sam Storms, both well known theologians and both graduates of the famed Dallas Theological Seminary, which is thoroughly cessationist. Over time they re-examined their views and became continuationists, promoting the use of spiritual gifts.
This leads to the need to look at why others do not make the shift, even in the face of strong evidence that undermines their viewpoint. It comes back to thinking with instead of about our worldview. We all hold what are termed plausibility structures, ideas about what is or is not plausible. For example, treating anything that is unfamiliar in relation to our view of scripture as unscriptural is a plausibility structure. Paul referred to them as strongholds, ways of thinking in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6. If we believe that what we have been taught is correct, whether it is from a trusted teacher or elsewhere, we need to make a conscious decision to examine it to shift it.
In this process questions are useful and I am prone to asking people questions around why they believe what they do or whether they are open to change or seeing things differently. A few are able to explore new perspectives while others are so entrenched in their view that even though they may acknowledge they are unable to defend their position from scripture, they continue to hold to it because it is what they ‘believe.’
To make a shift in our thinking, to examine whether something is unscriptural or unfamiliar, we need to be reflective. This requires making a conscious choice to step back from our regular practices and thinking and reflect on what has led us to our present beliefs in order to determine whether they align with scripture.
Though we may find the idea daunting, consider those who followed Jesus in the gospels. They had to stand against the familiar beliefs of their culture and embrace beliefs at odds with how the majority of their culture understood scripture. Personally, I am thankful that they didn’t treat the unfamiliar as unscriptural because they followed Jesus and laid the foundation for the faith that I follow. Let’s seek to emulate them.