Monday, February 27, 2017

Revisiting the issue of discernment and discernment ministries

Back around the time when I first started this blog (2006), Christian blogs were proliferating and the notion of Discernment ministries was just forming. For good or for ill, I became involved with the discernment movement, which, as all movements are, are a mixed bag. The proliferation of discernment ministries, good as it may seem to be, ignores the fact that sin pervades all our thoughts, our actions, and even ministries. The Christian blogosphere became like the Wild West, totally unregulated, where everything goes. In the highly decentralized, naturally anti-authoritarian, radical egalitarian Western (especially American) societies, who has the right to tell another that he or she is not called or not qualified for discerning truth from error?

Thus, what was to be a good thing did not turn out as well as it should. There was almost zero QC (Quality Control), and, as we sinners are tempted to do, personal emotions get into the mix and tempers flare. It is not uncommon especially in the anti-ODM (Online Discernment Ministries) blogs to see flame wars happening non-stop. As much as there was light, there also seem to be much heat.

Many of the original Discernment bloggers however take the high road. My friend Mike Ratliff has recently posted an article Discernment and Slander". I do not know the exact reason why he posts this, but it shows the high road that those of us who are or were involved in the Discernment movement in the beginning aspire to.

So why have I did a short reflection on something that, in Internet time, is centuries ago? I did it not because "discernment" has (unjustly) gained a bad rep, although that is true. But I see the same dynamic continue to be in play when certain second or third generation "discernment bloggers" are, to put it nicely, sloppy in their research. Others react by attacking "discernment" and "discernment bloggers." The whole sordid affair that is seen in the episode of Tim Challies' article against discernment, which he published in 2009, just repeats itself, again! It's almost like nobody learns from the past! What is to be gained from making blanket generalizations and demonizing an entire group, just because perhaps your opponents are currently the most "prominent" among that group? Is that helpful? What do such blanket condemnations hope to achieve, besides slandering those in the group who are innocent?

If, just because certain Reformed Baptists sinned against me, it is right for me to attack ALL Reformed Baptists as wicked people? If an Arminian were to meet five self-declared "Calvinists" who taught Hyper-Calvinism, would it be justified for that Arminian to assert that ALL Calvinists were Hyper-Calvinists? But if we do not like broad generalizations when we ourselves become implicated because of the sins of others, why do we think it fit to inflict such a travesty on others?

Some of the Online Discernment Ministries continue, but the movement has mostly passed. What was good in it did benefit the Church, and what was bad was ugly, to be repented of. Yet one should not make broad generalizations against it all, especially when one was formerly a contributor to the team blog that one has now become so bitterly opposed.

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