Discernment Is a Gift, Not a Tactic
Friends, I am becoming sick to death of the oh-so-trendy, touchy-feely, all-views-are-equally-valid, sociologically driven, feel-good, human-potential-centered, quasi-psychological pottage that is being hustled on the streets by our denomination as "discernment."
This is not what God means by spiritual discernment. This is not what the Bible speaks of. This is not right or good. This human-centered "discernment" leads to the will of God being trampled by the exalted feelings and self-important opinions of mortals. It leads to manipulation and compromised convictions. For God's sake, we must lay it aside to be led by God's Word, which reveals God's will! Enough already of the misconceived and misused "discernment" that is being misspoken among us ad nauseam!
Just recently, presbytery moderators from all over the country were lined up and doused with this bogus "discernment" solution at a conference in Louisville, put on by the Office of the General Assembly (OGA). (The OGA appears determined to drag the denomination into both this kind of discernment and also troublesome consensus decision making, foisting both on an unsuspecting church at every opportunity.)
If one looks at the Presbyterian News Service account, Moderator Joan Gray shines. "It’s really about God; it’s not about us," she said. She reminded moderators that "Jesus Christ is the Lord and head of the church," and that authority must come from him and accord with his will. Preach it, sister! Discernment, she said, is "seeking, recognizing God’s will .... It's about surrender." Amen.
But when the account turns to the presentation on "discernment" that the Reverend Vicky Curtiss gave, what we get is a sociological process that listens to human opinion, pretty much without critical thinking. But the greatest shortcoming in this little exercise is the utter absence of looking to God's Word.
Look at the news story, and see if the Word of God is even mentioned in Curtiss's discernment process. It's not there. Instead we find a fuzzy "spiritual approach and a consensus-seeking approach in an effort to 'discern the mind of Christ.'" Do we seek what Scripture teaches us, since in the Bible we find the mind and will of God? No. We look inward and listen to others' feelings and opinions--"Praying, listening to one another and emphasizing the use of silence," she explains. All is subjective and captive to our totally depraved humanity.
This "discernment" is nothing more than a small-group tactic playing dress-up in Grandma's quasi-spiritual garb. It is not the spiritual discernment of the Bible, the spiritual gift supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit. It leads to our feelings and impressions, our brokenness and misperceptions, having authority over God's Word in how we determine what God wills. It is the poisonous extract of a church more psychologically than spiritually attuned. It's about me--and maybe you, if I get really generous.
If we Christians are to truly discern anything, let us go to the Word of God. And let us stay there until God's message to us is understood at least as clearly as it has been lovingly communicated to us by God.
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." ... For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. -1 Cor. 1:18-19, 25