Tim Challies has long been one of my favorite Christian bloggers. On top of being an excellent designer, he’s a great practical theologian. He’s not afraid to write lengthy, in-depth entries where most of the blog world has succumbed to short “sound-byte” type content in order to keep skimmers. He wants thinkers, real readers. Not those who might scan his material for whatever their current itch is.
I was excited last year when he revealed his work in progress was on the topic of spiritual discernment. His book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment covers a topic near and dear to my heart, and after finally getting around to reading it last month (my mom ordered it for me for Christmas), I was not disappointed.
He pulls no punches in lambasting the Western church for having a childish faith in Christ rather than a to-be-commended childlike faith in Christ. In the first chapter, he takes to task those who would denigrate “theology” as being for seminary-trained, boorish, and argumentative types. Rather, he states unequivocally, theology is for every Christian.
Good theology helps us all to know and understand the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, left and right. Only by knowing truth as revealed in God’s Word are we prepared to avoid know and identify falsehood.
In firm but loving tones, Challies lays out the challenge of discernment for today’s church. He says we must become discerning because there is more falsehood and half-truths than ever before wafting through the airs of Christianity, competing for our attention.
Whether it’s the latest faith-healer, prosperity teacher, multi-mansion owning pastor or stadium-crusader, how is the church to know who are teaching truth and who are masquerading as shepherds when they are actually spiritual wolves?
To make matters worse, Christians, for the most part:
- Have a secular worldview. (A study by Barna says that as few as 9% of professing Christians have a biblical worldview.)
- Have a low view of Scripture. Quoting James Montgomery Boice: “Inerrancy is not the most crucial issue facing the church today. The most serious issue, I believe, is the Bible’s sufficiency,” Challies commented,
[Christians] forsake biblical reason in favor of feelings, voices, visions, or other subjective means of supposedly knowing God. This is a deadly error, for spiritual discernment must be founded upon God’s objective revelation of Himself in Scripture.
- Have a low view of theology.
- Have a low view of God.
When we think wrong thoughts about God we soon serve Him in wrong ways as well. We must get our theology right!
I was not disappointed with Tim’s first effort at publication. In fact, it’s destined to become a must-read in this crucial area of church health. He puts forth such a compelling argument for the urgent recovery of biblical discernment that I would encourage every believer – but especially every Christian leader to read it.
We do indeed live in a day where folks are eager to have preachers, teachers and flamboyant personalities simply affirm how they’re already living. Paul had powerful words for his protege Timothy who would be called upon to continue communicating and demonstrating the Gospel in a society much like ours:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4.1-4