An Antidote to Loose Thinking

I am happy to see that the majority of Christians I know seem to think deeply about their faith. The reason I mention this is that there’s a lot of very loose thinking going on about Christian faith, and it seems to me that the majority of it comes from emotionalism.

Now don’t get me wrong, emotion is not only good in a Christian’s faith, it is essential. For example, we are called to have emotional responses to God (like delight, Psalm 37:4, and desire Psalm 73:25). Indee, there is something of emotion involved in love too, as we are called both to love God and love our neighbour.

The problem comes in when we assume that our emotions lead us to a correct understanding of God. Of course this is manifestly incorrect from a Biblical perspective, as we know that our hearts are generally in rebellion to God, and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). I also do not think that the intellect fares any better, since the intellect also deceives (Romans 1).

The prevalence of error based on this is pretty clear, and has been shown in several discussions I’ve had with others over the last few weeks.

In one case, I had a discussion with a very nice person who also happened to believe that homosexuality is okay in the Church. Now, when he actually spoke of the divinity and glory of Jesus, I said AMEN, but this does not mean that I agree with him, or even think that he is not in greivous error, because I believe him to be placing the desires of his own heart above the commands of God. Do I even know if he will be in heaven? No. The Bible is rather clear that embracing sin is very dangerous (and a very good sign of not loving Jesus, after all, why inflict the hurt for sin on Jesus over and over again if you love Him?).

The second instance has been in a general conversation with some of my evangelical friends. In talking about denominations and the like, some of them expressed the opinion that there would be every different denomination and theological perspective in heaven. This was based on the way in which we all worship Jesus together and get community through that. Indeed, as we all love and worship Jesus, I agree that we will all be in heaven, but I don’t know that everyone IS worshipping and loving Jesus, as opposed to loving the spirit of community alone, or loving the music, or something similar. Indeed, you can appear to be very ardently loving the Lord, when your love is actually for the way others now see you, and thatis hypocracy, which is as sure a way to hell as the worst mass murderer.

I do not get to decide on who is in heaven, that is God’s decision, and so far from saying that “all theological perspectives” will be in heaven, God’s revelation in the Bible says that salvation is based on confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believing that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). This is a theological perspective not held by everybody.

Indeed, many are circumspect about calling Jesus “lord” in any way other than an honorific. They do not mean their Lord, as they do not seek to obey Him, even as they do good works in his name. Who these people are, I don’t know, but Jesus promises that they exist (Matthew 7:23).

Others doubt that Jesus was raised from the dead, or believe that our salvation is based on our works rather than God’s mercy through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Again, the Bible is clear that such are not ideas for the kingdom of God (see Luke 18:9-14, nb. who goes home justified and why).

I agree that there is unity in Christ. Indeed, I believe that definitionally any who place their hope in Jesus are of the Church, independant of what denomination they are part of, but that hope must be in Jesus, not in anything else. We must not be deceived by our own hearts, and that is why we have the revelation of the Bible, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the communion of fellow believers, that we might become wise, over and above our own intellect and emotions.

We are not left orphaned, the Lord is with us, but we must be willing to follow Him, and His word. Else our thinking will remain futile.

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Author: Stephen Dawe

Steve is a part-time vocational elder Calvary Baptist Church, St. John's as well as a full-time student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the Religious Studies Department.

10 thoughts on “An Antidote to Loose Thinking”

  1. Gossip and pride are also grievous sins within the Church. It seems a pity to single out Homosexuality as the only thing that could keep us from worship… and even that should not. Keep us from being clergy maybe… but I would not want an adulterer or wild gossip as my pastor either.

  2. Actually, if we want to be clear about it, Pride is actually far worse than homosexuality, though there’s probably pride in embracing and defending any sin that we do. Neither should be preached as good, either explicitly or implicitly

  3. From the outside, and looking in, I’d hazard that all you do by vilifying Pride is to admit, in as roundabout a way as possible, that you, yourself, consider that you are indeed unworthy of the Love your God offers you. You call this Humility, and you defend it with Pride by being unwavering in your stance that indeed, there is a trustworthy source of information- indeed, a Remedy For Loose Thinking– to be found in the Bible.

    Your stance depends on this authority. You ask us to substitute “Loose Thinking” by not thinking at all, since this authority is unquestionable, by its very nature. You’re really condemning the results of Loose Thinking, and not the otherwise lovely people who are involved. You do not see that you are confounding yourself, from the very start, by trusting in this source, and that indeed many other people have read (and cared to read) this source, and have followed its prescriptions to the best of their ability, with contrite and penitent hearts, and have found it wanting, time and time again.

    It causes me no wonder that you do not follow the course where there ought to be the most fear- at least, I will admit there is one train of thought that I did not think to indulge in, until lately, out of fear of the consequences- for, if there’s something worth thinking about, maybe it is the thing I am most afraid of. Maybe that’s the thing I ought to be exploring, bold and strong in the knowledge that there is a god with me, or that, if by some chance there is no god, I can actually take care of it of my own volition.

    It grieves me, Stephen, that you sound so much like Saul. You may come to understand that his particular brand of evangelism is running its course, and it too will pass. A sign of your end times, if you’d like one, will be this: the people will yawn and shrug when confronted with their worst fears, and you will despair when they yawn and shrug at your gospel.

  4. James, accepting an authority is not “not thinking at all” if we have found the authority to be trustworthy. That you have not is a possible source of evidence, but is not itself destructive of the authority. To be short, I will gladly accept your experience as evidence, but I may not interpret the evidence similarly to you.

    Interpretations can be different, even with similar experiences.

    I am unclear as to what you mean by the rest of your comment. It seems you are making some rather brash assumptions about what I have or have not experienced.

  5. Pilate asked, “What Is Truth”, Steve. You’re asserting it when you say there’s (of course) different interpretations, et al.

    Do you see appealing to specific interpretations as being undeniably true, like Homosexuality is Sinful. You call this sin and try to regulate the behaviour of those around you, by goading them to your right action, under the pain of suffering and eternal damnation. I think your justification for this belief is imaginary, and my reason for believing this is solid, testable, and true in my continuing experience. The specific authority, the bible, is particularly untrustworthy in my estimation because its authorship is far from clear, its composition and content is not internally consistent, and there have been many junctures at which “terrible, untrustworthy” humans have exerted their heavenly guided influence on what’s “Right” or “Wrong”. Strangely, I continually find out that what’s been given as “The Direct And Unquestionable Will Of God”, as evidenced by the acts of men, is either contradicted or discarded by those closest to that revelation.

    I’ll also reiterate that troublesome middle part- where I talk roundabout, instead of saying what the greatest fear, for me, was. I’m telling you that you choose not to think about what it must mean for you to be a lovable human being, of your own accord, and you do so based on the advice of an untrustworthy source. This source is precisely untrustworthy because it tells you that you and your ilk are not worthy of love, and yet God above loves you. This deep and abiding love that has been given to you must needs reside in your heart, then, so that you can serve this god, and his church. And the fruit of this love, unbending uncompromising assurance that the promise of Luke 12:10 is entirely true, and that if we but humble ourselves, we will be given comfort.

    So tell, me, Steve- you’re comforted?

  6. Okay James, I’m not sure I completely understand what you’re saying here, so I’ll just answer what I understand you to be saying. I apologize if this results in further misunderstanding.

    I am in fact not saying what Pilate said, I am simply saying that we each have interpretations that may or may not be true. You have given me nothing to work on in your assertions of truth, so I can’t critique your reasoning. You have yet to give me any save an appeal to experience which is simply raw data even to you, not an actual expression of truth (which I believe exists and is objective).

    That said, you attempt to attack my position in the authority of scripture based on several assertions you claim to be true and testable.

    You say:
    the bible, is particularly untrustworthy in my estimation because its authorship is far from clear,

    This one is a non-sequiter, if you are referring to the human authors of the text. To be simple about it, so what? Even if the human authors are questionable, that does not at all deal with whether the ultimate author was divine. Even if true, your evidence does not bear on the question. I also point out that “far from clear” is different from saying “in error”.

    You continue
    its composition and content is not internally consistent,

    Uh huh. You say that objectively, but to say such, you have to assert that your own interpretation of the text is the correct one, yet in most fields, the test for the veracity of an interpretation is its consistency with the text. Without specific examples, I worry you may be importing these inconsistencies into the text and then taking them as proof of your original assertion. This is, of course, circular.

    You say:
    and there have been many junctures at which “terrible, untrustworthy” humans have exerted their heavenly guided influence on what’s “Right” or “Wrong”

    Again, so what? This is a form of an ad hominium argument, though different as you are not attacking the person who wrote the Bible (since you say such is “unclear”). You seem to be saying that because people who accept its authority have done bad stuff based on authority, the authority must be bad. That is not a logical leap unless you can discount the other possibilities (and given that bad stuff is done by many people who hold all forms of different authority, at least one more likely interpretation…. Occam’s razor and all that) that humans are actually bad. But you don’t like that possible conclusion from the evidence, do you?

    Thus your reasons for disbelieving the Bible, while possibly “solid, testable, and true” in your experience, simply do not reasonably lead to the conclusion you seek to draw from them. This is what I meant when I said that while I cannot discount your experience, I can disagree with your interpretation of that experience.

    I have no idea what your second last paragraph is talking about, especially as it uses Luke 12:10, which I am betting I interpret differently than you do, therefore I cannot answer the final question with all the considerations you wish me to bring in, but as it stands now, and according to what I believe to be true from Luke 12:10, interpreted personally, and in consideration with the Church, yes, yes I am comforted. You?

  7. I think I also need to deal with an interpretation you are making of my beliefs which honestly does not accord with what I actually think.

    You say:
    I’m telling you that you choose not to think about what it must mean for you to be a lovable human being, of your own accord

    Actually, I do. So your conclusion here is based simply upon a false premise. I am created in the image of God, the reason I think I am deserving of wrath (as opposed to “not deserving of love”) is that I have taken the awesome and powerful thing that I was created it to be and twisted it into something evil. I deserve wrath because I am such a massively fearfully and wonderfully made thing, perverted. I border on arrogance on my lovability from the perspective of humans, as I honestly believe that other humans do not love me as they fail to see the image of God in me, and thus they are ignorant and blind.

  8. You say:
    and there have been many junctures at which “terrible, untrustworthy” humans have exerted their heavenly guided influence on what’s “Right” or “Wrong”

    Again, so what? This is a form of an ad hominium argument, though different as you are not attacking the person who wrote the Bible (since you say such is “unclear”). You seem to be saying that because people who accept its authority have done bad stuff based on authority, the authority must be bad.

    This is the BIG So What! So! If, say, the people who chose the books now represented in our current canonical bible were, indeed, NOT following the exact will of god, you don’t see what that might mean to US, today, when we assert that this is unquestionably ordained as god’s holy writ? It certainly makes the bible a bit more uniform… too bad all those pesky “ought to have been destroyed by fire” OTHER texts survived. It would make a big difference, say, to people who wanted to live and love whom they pleased; or, to men and women who discover a vocation for work within the same church.

    When the majority of a national synod votes for a change, and the bishops stop it by a narrow margin, you have to ask… what’s god’s will, here, exactly? He’s of two minds, then? Or, would I merely be making an ad hominum attack by remarking that, at least, it saves those poor bishop’s nationally-managed pension funds, long enough for them to get into the clear?

    I am comforted, curiously enough. In all of this, whatever still small voice I could rely on in days gone is still with me, now. Ain’t that a gas!

  9. This is the BIG So What! So! If, say, the people who chose the books now represented in our current canonical bible were, indeed, NOT following the exact will of god, you don’t see what that might mean to US, today, when we assert that this is unquestionably ordained as god’s holy writ?

    *L* You are talking about collusion between tens of thousands of Christians, hundreds of Churches (which did not agree on many things) over centuries. Is it possible? Yeah. Is it likely? No. And that’s despite what you may have read by Dan Brown, Bart Ehrman, or Karen Armstrong (who all seem more into making extreme claims than making scholarly ones).

    It certainly makes the bible a bit more uniform… too bad all those pesky “ought to have been destroyed by fire” OTHER texts survived. It would make a big difference, say, to people who wanted to live and love whom they pleased; or, to men and women who discover a vocation for work within the same church.

    Didn’t you tell me that the Bible was internally inconsistent? So not only are you saying that these many Christians who colluded over centuries to come up with the canon of scripture not only attempted to make the text more uniform, but did it poorly?

    Would those other texts have made a difference for those things you refer to? Sure, we might have women praying that by the teaching of Jesus they would be “made male” because “she is not worthy of life”. Of course, maybe you’re not referring to the Gospel of Mary Magdelene…. which minority text are you referring to? I have a few in my shelves, but there are a great many of them.

    And NO Christian is opposed to a person living and loving whom they please. Christians oppose sex with anybody you please. And I imagine you’ve lived enough to know that sex and love are not coextensive.

    When the majority of a national synod votes for a change, and the bishops stop it by a narrow margin, you have to ask… what’s god’s will, here, exactly? He’s of two minds, then? Or, would I merely be making an ad hominum attack by remarking that, at least, it saves those poor bishop’s nationally-managed pension funds, long enough for them to get into the clear?

    Yes, that is an ad hominium, unless you can prove the intentions of those bishops. Indeed, their action is slightly questionable as saving their pension funds from a legal perspective, so I think the evidence is actually against the conclusion you’re drawing. But in any case, what makes you think that a national synod with many ministers who pointedly do not believe in Jesus Christ as their salvation, or God, or even special, are following the Holy Spirit (read some Ingham or Gibson). The comforter is also supposed to testify to Christ (if the Bible is to be believed). If whatever they’re following is not testifying Christ, they are not an example of people led by the Holy Spirit. If you’re using this as an example, I wonder what Bible you were reading to come to your skepticism of the Holy Spirit.

    I also do not think that the synod’s decision was for correct motives, but it is more likely that the Bishops honestly believed that it was best to wait on the decision so that the whole Church will join them (and evil conservative evangelicals like me leave for other denominations).

    I am comforted, curiously enough. In all of this, whatever still small voice I could rely on in days gone is still with me, now. Ain’t that a gas!

    Indeed, why do you think that is?

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