Tim Challies, Christian blogger, recently came out with his first book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. It received some strong endorsements–from Al Mohler, Nancy Pearcey, Mark Dever, and a foreword from John MacArthur. (My copy is on its way from Amazon, to find its place on my bookshelf among the many other wonderful books I should really get around to reading some day.)
He just completed a “blog tour“, in which he went around to a number of popular Christian blogs, answering questions about his book and the subject of discernment. There’s some good reading. (And I think I’ll have to add some of these blogs to my RSS reader.)
My favorite stop on the tour, I think, was the final one, at SharperIron. He answered the following challenging, meaty questions. (I’ll include excerpts from his answers, to tease you into going and reading the whole interview. )
- How does Scripture tell us to view discernment as a step of rational thought guided by the Holy Spirit, rather than a supra-rational sixth sense?
- “The Bible, though, teaches that discernment is a skill and that it is a practice of the mind more than the “heart” or “spirit.” Hebrews 5:14 tells us that discernment is a skill that is developed by constant practice and Romans 12:2 says that, in order to be men and women of discernment, we must have our minds renewed. In these passages and others we see that discernment is more than intuition and more than new revelation.”
- If I use my knowledge of Scripture to judge some action as evil, and this discernment seems clear, how should I view my brother who does not make the same discernment?
- “So when you judge an action to be evil or wrong, you will first want to see just how important an issue it is. If it is an issue that strikes right to the heart of the faith, you will want to address the issue immediately and firmly, though always with love and humility. It may require church discipline or disassociation. But if you find it is a second or third-level issue, you will want to first affirm your common fellowship and from there seek to understand whether this disagreement must preclude you from close fellowship or if it is a disputable matter than should not inhibit close communion.”
- In the same situation, how should I treat my discernment when no one around me agrees?
- “It may be that God is using this issue to move you out of a dying church; of course it may also be that Satan is using the issue to use you to divide a God-honoring church. So proceed humbly, cautiously, prayerfully and with a heart saturated with Scripture.”
- What about if I discern an action to clearly be good, how then should I view my brother who judges that to be evil?
- “Assuming that this is not a first-level issue, this may well represent a time to express humility and a time to keep in mind the “weaker brother” principle. [...] We do such things as an expression of love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord and as proof of a God-given desire to esteem others higher than ourselves. We build true Christian unity by humility.”