Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thinking Christians

I rarely do this anymore, but I decided to read some of the long stream of posts on Biola’s BBS about recent political happenings. This often is both frustrating and enlightening, though usually more frustrating, (which is why I do it so rarely).

In any case, much of the discussion was concerning prop 8. Now I personally voted yes on it, and it was after some thought and reflection. I feel I came to an informed decision and voted with confidence and pride. After all, this is what a democracy is about, yes?

But I’ve come across several discussions within the church where people see this as entirely black and white. Some say that you can’t be a Bible believing Christian in submission to Christ and vote no. Others seem to imply that you can’t be an intelligent, enlightened person if you vote yes, and if in fact you do, you are in favor of “legislating morality” or worse yet, are in favor of discrimination and promoting inequality.

I’m not as interested in breaking down my points pro-8, but more in reflecting on how Christians handle discussions such as these. It rightly should strike us as alarming when we see Christians pandering so far to the secular that they have diluted (at best) their core faith, but it is equally disturbing (to me) to see Christians who refuse to actually engage an issue. I’m thinking specifically of those who would rather cite a passage from Leviticus or Romans 1 and think that essentially closes the case on an issue like prop 8. This is essentially a refusal to engage an issue intellectually, but also a painful oversimplification of God’s truth.

Certainly the morality of an issue such as homosexuality is clear enough from scripture. But issues such as how Christians should engage society and government, how Christians specifically should reach out and bring the Gospel to the homosexual community, and how the church and state relate are certainly not. These types of questions cannot be solved by simply quoting a passage from scripture, or citing truism.

Instead what is needed are things such as actively engaging such questions, spending arduous time thinking through these, and honestly engaging the discussion. It’s not that we really don’t think, or are incapable of thinking. Instead, we’re more interested in thinking about straw men and not actually engaging issues. What this should look like is instead of mischaracterizing, we need to first accurately portray. For example, when we can accurately reflect why a certain Christian voted no on 8, or voted yes for Obma, only then we can begin to engage and formulate a reasoned disagreement. The need is for Christians to actually use the mind God has given us. Certainly the Holy Spirit is involved here, and certainly Scripture is too. But the reality is that if God is the rational being we believe he must be, and if truth is truly based on his character and person, then we not only can but must engage such questions with our minds.

Instead, I have recently come across several who not only discourage such engagement, but nearly condemn those who try. Instead of promoting healthy discussion, the realm of ideas is portrayed as something dangerous, something that regularly is leading Christians away from Christ. Is our foundation of the Gospel as true this unstable? Are we this susceptible to corrupting influences?

The reality is that if ideas are this dangerous to the body, then Christian leaders should try and strengthen the body instead of protect it. If the church remains in this pattern, things will only get worse. And if we are afraid of having godly Christian thinkers, then this will only further damage the mind of the church. The reality is that Christian thinkers will rightly challenge the world, but they also raise challenges for the church. They fight against falling into easy patterns of oversimplified thinking, they can reveal holes in our popular ways of thinking about issues. This is frustrating, and it is very easy to respond in anger or hyperbole (or worse, condemn them as supporting the opposition), but the reality is that if we all listen to such men and women, and seek to become greater thinkers ourselves, then we will grow as Christians and as people. I certainly have fallen into this trap. After all, it is very annoying to think you have a simple and water tight argument for an issue, and find out it’s a ship full of holes sinking fast.

This isn’t just about becoming stronger Christians, but about having a more balanced perspective on truth. God is truth, and the more our thinking is oriented around truth, certainly the better we can know him, right? If Christians truly reclaim our grasp of truth, certainly this will spill over into how we engage culture and evangelize, right?

But more importantly, the more tightly we grasp truth, the stronger we will stand against attacks. The church should be an impenetrable fortress when it comes to truth. Because we know the one true God who is the source of truth, we should be beacons of light, intelligent thought, and truth. This certainly is proven true when it appears one of the more successful attacks by the enemy has been the stereotype of the church in the western world as an unthinking mass. This is bad, not as much because of how others see us, but because we’ve bought the lie.

We’ve degraded truth and thought as something entirely man made, and produced a false dichotomy between our minds and the Spirit. We hear Paul’s condemnation of the wisdom of man in 1 Cor 1, or his condemnation of the philosophies in Col 2 and we apply it far more broadly than the philosopher / theologian himself intended. What we see in scripture is not a mass of uneducated, unthinking men and women, but both the educated and uneducated, acting, thinking, and speaking with a greater grasp of truth and wisdom that humbled even the most educated in their society. This is what Christianity is about: its not the dichotomy between mind and spirit, but the reality that with a grasp of the Truth, both our mind and spirits can excel. Spiritually this means we have access to the one true life, and mentally because we have the foundation of Truth himself. This does not negate general revelation, but puts it in its right context.

So, Christians we should think more. :)

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