From Our Corner...
I have been invited to join a discussion group on “how we think” including folks from other countries. Here are some concepts that popped up in my preparation that should be avoided:
1.one level research---Recently I preached on the spiritual discipline of journaling. I emailed the PPT and sermon draft to Dr. Don Whitney (author of Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life and old friend) for comment. He politely took me to task for erroneous numbers. I had committed "one level" research: I didn't take time to research where an article I quoted got its numbers. A key part of research is to trace your "fact/quote/statement" back to primary sources whenever possible. No hearsay, no quotes without certainty of the source. That's why footnotes are in books. When compiling a sermon or Bible study, dig deeper than the first page of Google entries. The entry could spring from a person’s research bias for a pet theory, a prejudice, or a presupposition that has no basis in fact.
Another “one level research” is when I only read authors/articles that agree with my perspective. This week I picked up Lesslie Newbigin's Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture. I used it for a doctoral paper 10 yrs. ago and haven't opened it since. I was astonished at his depth and creativity. Being a British missionary to India and heavily involved in the World Council of Churches screamed “liberal” to me, but as to missions he was prophetic when applied to our world today. Be sure your reading is varied, and not just those who share your theology, political affiliation, or ethnic background.
2. binary thinking---This considers everything in an "either/or" scenario as if the two alternatives are the only two available. It tends to polarize and separate people into opposing camps. It is the lazy, path-of-least-resistance way to address an issue. Rarely is a decision a simple either/or choice; more times than not there are more options that require us to expand our frame of reference. In Luke 4 and elsewhere in the NT the Jews of the day were convinced Jesus could not POSSIBLY be the Christ because their messianic frame of reference was incomplete, too small, and never included a sacrificial lamb instead of a conquering Lion of Judah. Church impasses are rarely breached by binary thinking. This is why my first question is "have you considered ........", "what if we altered this. . .", or "what if we reframed it as . . ." Messy? Yes. Take more time? Yes. Are you more interested in labels for your respective "camp, tribe, or group" or a solution that is mutually beneficial?
3. narrative ≠ truth---The ability to spin a plausible narrative does not necessarily equate with the truth just because it was spun. The only being in the universe allowed that privilege I worship. Whatever God says, does, or thinks is truth. We can debate that statement for hours, but no other being is granted such a license (Ps. 33.6-9). Narratives should be backed up with facts, experience, and evidence. When today's technology in audio and visual arenas combine with our loss of absolute truth in the public conscience, people become susceptible to that which titillates, entices, and overwhelms, and we lose our ability to discern, dissect, discuss, deliberate what we just heard or saw. YouTube, TikTok, Parler, the evening news, talking heads, politicians, even preachers, are all vulnerable to this. I often return to Mein Kampf (Hitler's book where he outlines his plans for Germany) to the place where he says you can get people to believe anything if you say it loud enough, often enough, passionately enough, and with conviction. One of the greatest God-gifts in the last forty years is the pause button. If you have cable or satellite TV, most broadcasts or programs will stop if you hit the pause button, and all DVD's do the same. Some speakers can become hypnotic over the course of their oration; consider the ideas they offer, not their skill at their presentation. Content over style.
Being Republican or Democrat does not obligate you to believe everything uttered by your preferred candidate or elected official. Just because you are Reformed, dispensational, or amillennial in your theology doesn't mean you have to believe everything your favorite author or podcaster says. Our standard for truth is the Word of God. When I can't find a clear path of understanding in its pages, the character of Christ coupled with the leading of His Spirit will guide my mind as I filter all I see and hear. (Prov. 3.13; John 16.13; Rom. 12.2; Eph. 1.17)