Growing in Discernment (Part 2)

August 29, 2016

Jeff Forrey

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Jeff Forrey

In the last post, I suggested that Spiritual discernment is a crucial element of wisdom in the Information Age. For biblical counselors, Spiritual discernment involves analyzing the claims of secular psychological claims against a biblical worldview. I ended with the question, How do you progressively develop a “biblical worldview”? Here are a couple of suggestions:

(1) Develop an awareness of the broad flow of thought in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. A plan for reading the Bible in a year is one way of doing this.

(2) Study books of the Bible individually, in-depth. Create full-sentence outlines of the books’ main points, in your own words. Your goal is to be able to show how the author’s thinking progresses from beginning to end.[1] Resist looking at such outlines in a Study Bible before doing your own. Get a “pew Bible” without any such extra features and from its text create your outlines; then check your outlines against that of a Study Bible.

You might also consider Wheaton College professor Mark Talbot’s suggestion: You spent approximately 10,000 to 13,000 hours of your life learning what you need to be a productive, functional adult member of society. That’s predominantly learning how to develop a career, fulfill civil responsibilities, etc. But all those things are what moth and rust destroy (Matt. 6:19-20)! How much more important is it to learn what God teaches in the Scriptures so you can be involved in his kingdom’s work? Dr. Talbot suggests that you tithe your time for the study of Scripture and prayer (7-10 hours a week). I’d also include in this time frame corporate worship, Sunday school, and small group studies (as long as Bible study and prayer are the focus).

(3) As you create a full-sentence outline, leave room in the margin of your notes for citing ideas related to God-honoring living addressed by the author. If the ideas are in the Old Testament, ask: How are the ideas used or developed in later Old Testament books? How does the New Testament address the same ideas in the light of Christ’s ministry? Principles for godly living should always be related to the ministry of Christ on our behalf.

Here are some books that could help you in studying and applying the Bible:

Doriani, Daniel. Getting the Message. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1996.

________. Putting the Truth to Work. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2001.

Duvall, J. Scott, & J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.

Fee, Gordon, & Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 4th  ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

________. How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Hendricks, Howard G. and William D. Hendricks. Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible, rev. ed., Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007.

Kuhatschek, Jack. Applying the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.

(4) Developing discernment grows as you learn to ask good questions about the conclusions and reasoning processes of people. To facilitate that process, I will recommend the sets of questions in the chart on the next page. You will note that valid critical thinking depends on a clear understanding of the secular claims being made and a thorough understanding of the relevant biblical information. It does you no good to critique a misunderstanding of what someone has said or to offer a bad critique based on a faulty understanding of Scripture. You will also note from this chart that discernment largely involves seeing how a secular perspective differs from a biblical-worldview perspective. Without seeing the difference between a biblically based point of view and a secular point of view, you will not be able to be “salt and light” in the world (Matthew 5:13-16).


Join the Conversation

How have you sought to grow in discernment? What challenges have you faced in your interaction with secular psychological claims?

[1] Of course, this suggestion will not apply to the books of Psalms and Proverbs; for them, you would do well to trace themes. Some of the Old Testament prophets are best studied in this manner too.