Deception lurks in the unknown, or so we tell ourselves. Often what we do to guard against deception is precisely what opens the door to it. We want to stay in our current comfortable level of knowledge. If we explore beyond it, if we journey to the edge of what we know, we cannot be assured that that book, that speaker, that preacher, that journalist is not going to draw us into a snare of deception.
The Bible is safe. Perhaps we will only read that. We can eschew all other books and stay in the safety of only reading the Word. If we hear controversy surrounds an author, we steer clear. We wouldn’t want to get deceived. Is that not how the thinking goes?
However, we cannot grow staying cloistered in what we believe is the totality of safe truth. Maybe we have been unknowingly nursing bondage. What if someone has the truth that unlocks us from our entrapment?
If we had a modern-day Martin Luther, a reformer compelling us to see differently, would we want to shun him or her or grow in that greater truth despite becoming a rebel?
What if our slice of truth from our perspective is flawed or incomplete? We can deceive ourselves that listening can draw us into bondage. But if we really know the Truth and are set free from lies, we should be keen to spot them. We should be adept at growing from truth to truth and not from truth to lies.
I’m not talking about listening to known lies – we do not want to explore false religions looking for truth. But we do want to learn the Bible better. We do want to learn to know Jesus better. We do want to seek His truth in all areas of life and learn and glean wisdom from faithful followers of Christ.
I am also not talking about running after the latest new theological fad. Good theology does not have a fan club. It has leaders willing to be considered the scum of the earth to see it made manifest. They will give their last breath to carry the truth that brings liberty from the bondage of lies. If the truth does not cost you something, you can know there is greater levels of truth you have yet to embody.
To learn we must be willing to listen to that which stretches us.
But as we encounter new or different ideas, we explore with some ground rules so to speak.
We listen to understand, not to agree (or disagree).
Listening to understand means that you have listened long enough to repeat back in your own words what you heard and the other person with that way of believing agrees you heard and understood what they said correctly.
It does not mean, necessarily that you agree. If you understand your own position on the topic, you can now see and enumerate the distinctions between your own argument and theirs. Expressing that difference is healthy. This is where dialog begins. After understanding you determine where you agree or disagree. Then you can move down the scale of agreement and disagreement as you learn to see it differently or reaffirm your worldview on the matter.
Disagreement is essential.
If we do not practice disagreement, we are a sponge always allowing others to think for us. We agree with everyone even when there is contradiction. We take everyone’s view as equally valid and agree with it. Or we say we agree just to be friendly. Every person has equal value, but every idea does not.
A great concern of mine is when someone tells me they agree with me, when I know for a fact, they do not. For one, what follows in summing what I said demonstrates he or she has not done the intellectual and relational work of understanding what I said. And second what I said is absorbed to be their own thoughts. Usually someone is only trying to be amiable, but it becomes a practice of anti-intellectualism. People mean well, but the conversation does not move forward, and I am prevented from learning the distinctions between our point of views. I could be wrong, and I cannot learn that if the person who thinks differently says we agree. I covet good argumentation because it is a tool in the process of learning truth.
Drawing the Line
Disagreement draws a line between how one person thinks and how the next person thinks. It creates two people or two ways of thinking that have distinctions. It requires engagement to understand and then decide if the argument given is true and if one’s spirit witnesses the substance of truth in what is being said. Sometimes we do agree before we understand when we hear truth by the Spirit (discernment – see last month’s bulletin), but we must still do the work of understanding. We should be able to articulate that I once thought XY and Z and now I think XY and 3. Then we know we have moved from what we used to believe to what we now hold to be true.
Sometimes that realization takes time. We get inculcated into a new community and we experience heart changes and life changes we did not even know were happening. We grow in the Spirit in a spirit-filled community and one day we look back and see how free we have become and how healthy. We then take stock of where we were and where we are now and how we used to think to how we think now.
We ought not think the same way we did 5 years ago. There should be some growth, changes, new territory conquered. New life experienced. New levels of learning, experiencing, understanding than we had before. Otherwise, we are playing it way too safe and therefore not safe at all.
Avoid a No Line Policy
A new fad in the church is that love matters more than truth. Or that somehow truth and love are the same word. That there are no lines, no boundaries, no borders. All is inclusion. In fact, this group champions diversity, but they go so far that there become no perceived differences. (I grant this is a bit of an oversimplification, but, popularly, this view travels along these lines).
There is distinction between this group and the world’s view of this sort of thinking, but the margin between the two is slim. A lot of this is coming from a popular embracing – a Christianized embracing – of what is taught in the Universities. I saw it there first. The church is the last place that philosophy travels after it goes from elitism to the academies to pop culture.
Christianity must be distinct. It does have a way that is the Lord’s way and there is a way that leads to death – a way (many ways) that are not the Lord’s way. We cannot embrace the world’s thinking and bring it in to the Body. That kills the Body.
Careful of Reactionary Movements
Some groups form because there is something corrupt to react to. In contrast they build insulating theology so that the corruption does not get in. We are all guilty of this. But that theology, that border, (yes, borders always exist even in movements that detest them) is built in reaction and is greatly flawed. Theology needs to be built from truth to truth not in reaction to lies. We do not react to the devil to build theology. We respond to the Lord in building theology. When the devil breaches a line of defense, it is time to observe how that rupture occurs but not get obsessed with it.
Process of Agreement & Disagreement
It is healthy to agree in bits and disagree in bits. This creates nuance. It demonstrates one has listened and knows where those lines are between what one agrees with and what one disagrees with. We could be quite wrong in where we agree and disagree, but if that is where we are at that is where the line gets drawn. It is good to make that line – knowing that somewhere in the future we may move it slightly or erase it completely – if the line no longer fits.
It is not a good practice to withhold making the distinction because we do not want to say “No, that you are telling me contradicts what I know to be true – at this juncture I have to say we disagree right here – we agree up to this line, but this line I go a different direction.” Once we can say that we can then look at why that is and where those lines take us when walked out. Who is closer to what the Bible says – to what Jesus and Paul taught – to what the entirety of Scripture Genesis to Revelation teaches? Sometimes we find it is not the doctrine but the application, or it might be the spirit and attitude that we disagree with. If we cannot see the difference, we will create unhealthy theology to deal with unhealthy attitudes.
There is a lot going on in our world right now. It is more important than ever to know what you believe and why and grow in truth. The more grounded we are in truth the more we can listen without fear and continue to grow in truth from a myriad of streams in the Church. We do so with properly practicing listening, understanding, disagreeing, and agreeing all while keeping our discernment sharp.
To reform a nation, you need to know what makes a nation truly great. Understanding America’s beginnings creates a pathway forward for all nations. From America’s first President, to the birth of capitalism, to the shaping of its institutions, Karla Perry shows the reader what makes nations flourish.