Thursday, September 28, 2006

a test for teaching and experience

I don’t normally read blogs that champion one brand of theology over another, or those that raise a hue and cry against certain ministries. However even conscious avoidance of such places doesn’t always work.

This week I was surprised by overt criticism of a popular ministry on one of the blogs I frequent and grieved by how the comment hounds leapt after the bait. Then I came to another blog where the statement was made that a certain prominent Christian writer (with whom this blogger obviously disagrees) would do well to forsake his preaching and writing career to make toothpaste commercials.

The reason that last statement bothered me is obvious. It’s an ad hominem attack – and as such I guess should be taken as seriously as all such attacks – not very. Such statements reveal more about the writer than the person criticized.

But the first type of criticism is more subtle and bothered me a great deal – I’m still not completely sure why. Perhaps it was the way in which only one supposedly faulty statement was pulled from this person’s writings (or teachings) and then the ministry was named – giving notice, by implication (meant or not) that all this person’s teachings may be in error.

Of course the outcome of such is that factions form, people polarize, they begin to call each other names, those who have been helped by the ministry get confused or defensive while those that have been offended by it become pompous and puffy.

And yet in this world of multiplied ministries with the thousands of voices on radio, TV, the bookshelf and the internet there is a need for discernment (though I'm thinking a drive-by shooting on a blog is not the best way to deliver it). That need was only underlined in my personal Bible reading yesterday morning from I Thessalonians 5:21: “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” So, where do I find such a test? How can I differentiate between the bad things to discard and the good things to hold onto?

I pondered that yesterday morning, thinking how serendipitous that this command should come along right at the point where I was thinking I sure could use a test template. I began writing some points but was unsatisfied with the result and left my list unfinished.

Then in the evening, I decided to put myself to sleep with some Tozer. As I looked through the contents of the slim The Best of Tozer, the title “How to Try the Spirits” jumped out at me. And there, on the third page I found my template. In his own words:

There are large numbers of persons who have not left the true way but who want a rule by which they can test everything and by which they may prove the quality of Christian teaching and experience...Briefly stated the test is this:

How has it affected my attitude toward and my relation to God, Christ, the Holy Scriptures, self, other Christians, the world and sin.

By this sevenfold test we may prove everything religious and know beyond a doubt whether it is of God or not.

If you’re interested in reading a summary of how Tozer explained each of these points, go here.


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