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Worldview Discernment

Worldview Discernment


by Kerby Anderson


 


 


 


            One of the words I find myself using so often at Worldview Weekends is the word "discernment." It is a word that appears fairly often in the Bible (1 Samuel 25:32-33; 1 Kings 3:10-11; 4:29; Psalm 119:66; Proverbs 2:3; Daniel 2:14; Philippians 1:9). And with so many facts, claims, and opinions being tossed about, we all need to be able to sort through what is true and what is false.


 


            Colossians 2:8 says, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." We need to develop discernment so that we are not taken captive by false ideas. Here are some things to watch for:


 


Equivocation - the use of vague terms. Someone can start off using language we think we understand and then veer off into a new meaning. Sometimes it can be obvious, like when President Clinton said that it depends what the meaning of is, is. In other cases, it may not be obvious at all and we should demand that people define their terms.


 


Religious cults are often guilty of this. A cult member might say that he believes in salvation by grace. But what he really means is that you have to join his cult and work your way toward salvation. Make people define the vague terms they use.


 


Card Stacking - the selective use of evidence. You don't need to jump on the latest bandwagon and intellectual fad without checking the evidence. Many advocates are guilty of listing all the points in their favor while ignoring the serious points against it.


 


At Worldview Weekends I have talked about the fact that the major biology textbooks never provide students with evidence against evolution. Jonathan Wells in his book Icons of Evolution shows that the examples that are used in most textbooks are either wrong or misleading. Some of the examples are known frauds (such as the Haeckel embryos) and continue to show up in textbooks decades after they were shown to be fraudulent.


 


Millions of women have obtained abortions due to the selective use of evidence. They weren't told all the facts about abortion. They weren't given a sonogram that would have allowed them to see their baby inside the womb. The facts concerning their pregnancy were selectively kept from them.


 


Appeal to authority - relying on authority to the exclusion of logic and evidence. Just because an expert says it, doesn't necessarily make it true. We live in a culture that worships experts, but not all experts are right. Hiram's Law says: "If you consult enough experts, you can confirm any opinion."


 


            Don't be intimidated because someone has a few academic letters behind his or her name. They have a bias just like you have a bias. In many cases self-proclaimed experts on radio and TV talk shows are speaking on issues outside of their expertise. Does the expert merely make a dogmatic statement? Or does the expert provide evidence that what he or she is saying is true?


 


            Ad Hominem – is Latin for "against the man." People using this tactic attack the person instead of dealing with the validity of their argument. Under this category would be all the disparaging comments made by professors about "dangerous, right-wing Christians." Add to that all the smearing of people as part of the "radical right" and the labeling of people as "ultra conservative." Ad hominem arguments signal that the person is out of ammunition and thus attacks the person rather than deal with his or her arguments.


 


            Straw man argument – making your opponent's argument seem so ridiculous that it is easy to attack and knock down. Liberal commentators say that evangelical Christians want to implement a religious theocracy in America. That's not true. But the hyperbole works to marginalize Christian activists who believe they have a responsibility to speak to social and political issues within society.


 


            One television special a number of years ago ignored all the scientific objections to evolution. And it portrayed any of the opponents to evolution as religious fundamentalists who lack scientific training. The viewer would not know that there are scientists with good scientific credentials who question the theory of evolution and are pursuing credible scientific research that supports intelligent design.


 


                Sidestepping - dodging the issue by changing the subject. Politicians do this in press conferences by not answering the question asked by the reporter, but instead answering a question they wish someone had asked. Professors sometimes do that when a student points out an inconsistency or a leap in logic.


 


            Sometimes the sidestepping is subtle. Most proponents of evolution will not say that humans descended from apes. They know that will not be popular with most people. Instead the scientists will claim that "apes and men had a common ancestor."  Of course this sidesteps the inference that any such common ancestor would have been essentially ape-like.


 


            Red Herring - going off on a tangent (from the practice of luring hunting dogs off the trail with the scent of a herring fish). Proponents of abortion may say that "this discussion is not about whether a fetus is human, it's about a woman's right to choose." Proponents of evolution might say: "this debate is not about evolution, but about the separation of church and state." They change the subject often before the discussion or debate begins.


 


            Be on the alert when someone in a debate changes the subject. They may want to argue their points on more familiar ground, or they may know they cannot win their argument on the relevant issue at hand.


 


            A person with discernment will recognize these tactics and beware. We are called to develop discernment as we tear down false arguments raised up against the knowledge of God. By doing this we will learn to take every thought captive to the obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).