What is the difference between judgement and discernment?

For me, the simple test – based on study of scripture and of linguistics – is this:

1) When you are giving a critique of words (weighing what is said) or actions (what is done) and comparing those words/actions to a scriptural standard, you are being discerning.

2) When you are critiquing the unstated motives of individuals (why did they do/say what they did/said?) or their state of salvation (where is their destination in the afterlife), you are judging.

In the first case, we are instructed to be discerning, and this is completely acceptable. In the second case, we are being judgemental, which is to be left up to God.

As Matthew 7:2 states: For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

In light of this, it is important that the focus of critique be on words and actions and not on ad homenim insinuations, mockery and ‘guessing’ the state of someone else’s heart or spiritual final destination. 

I find myself forgetting this sometimes, particularly when my sarcasm gene kicks in…




Comments

This entry was posted on Friday, August 18th, 2006 at 12:00 pm and is filed under Legalism, Misuse of Scripture, Moral Dilemmas, Religion/Philosophy, Responses to Slice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Comments so far

  1. Ken Silva on August 18, 2006 5:58 pm

    Hello Chris,

    You might wish to add these Scriptures also spoken by the Master to your query :-) :

    “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

    “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

  2. Chris L. on August 18, 2006 9:57 pm

    I would agree that the Matthew 7 verse is relevant to the discussion, as it is part of Jesus’ instructions on the topic of ‘judgement’ – and the dangers of judging…

    The John passage, on the other hand, is taken out of context, as it is not really a teaching on judgement, but part of a larger condemnation of the legalistic pharisees who were rendering an inccorect judging of Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath.

    Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

    In our current context, where the line between discernment and judgement keeps getting confused is in the criticisms of Rob Bell, specifically. The words being used to describe him are (per the above definitions) judgemental.

    On several occasions that I have read, he has eschewed the “Emergent” and “Emergent Church” titles, as these terms describe a movement that is most accurately as individual churches’ response to a postmodern culture, and inaccurately described as having any one set of doctrines.

    The Mars Hill Bible church, where Mr. Bell teaches, does not hold to or teach many of the “out there” concepts that some “emergent” churches in more liberal denominations teach. The MHBC, from my discussion with its members in person and online, holds to the primacy of scripture and that Jesus words that no one can come to the Father except through Him hold true.

    However, what I have read in your posts to date have truly been attempts to create “guilt by association”, in much the same way as the pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with ’sinners’ (i.e. tax collectors and the like). The jist I got from reading part 1 of your article today was that 1) Rob Bell spoke in night clubs where on normal nights dancing, drinking and loud music are the norm; and 2) Rob used to play in a Christian punk band. The conclusion that was obvious in the article was that by doing so, he was somehow invalidating his message.

    In continuing to refer to Mr. Bell’s seminar as ‘performance art’, the tone of the article is one of judgement that whatever he has to say is somehow (by default) wrong or misleading or scripturally inferior.

    Did you attend one of the EIS seminars? You have quoted scripture calling Mr. Bell a false prophet, which, as a statement, is itself both judgemental and smacks of hubris. Since I did attend the EIS lecture in Indianapolis and hear it first hand, I can tell you that, as a Bible teacher and a long-time student of the scripture, in my personal discernment of his words, Mr. Bell did not say anything that I interpreted as heretical or unorthodox.

    My background is from the Restoration Movement church, which I realize is not Calvinistic (and therefore not reformed), but both of our traditions hold to the primacy of scripture. There are huge parts of the ECM that I am uncomfortable with – and they primarily spring from the EC churches which came out of the more liberal denominations. My response to those in these churches and the unchurched is somewhat different that yours, though, in that I believe that a kind word turns away anger and that the ‘bullhorn guy’ approach (which Slice comes off as) only turns people away, rather than bringing them one step closer to the truth.

    I am careful to watch out for ‘false prophets’, but I don’t assume that I hold a monopoly on the ‘correct’ interpretation of every scripture – primarily because they were written in a different era and a different culture that we are only now coming to understand because of the scholarship enabled by the creation of the modern state of Israel. I am in complete agreement with you on the incorrectness of the Burke ‘opt out’ theory, but I think you are lumping Mr. Bell in with many others unfairly, and in doing so, you are damaging your own cause.

    Earlier, you quoted to me the scripture that you will know falst prophets by their fruit. To date, the materials provided by Mr. Bell have been fruitful and useful to me, as a teacher. No, the Nooma videos aren’t deep and all-encompassing, they are only supplementary and effective in teaching a message to a culture that has grown up on MTV and 10-second sound bites. As such, I’ve not seen him producing bitter fruit, but it seems that the slice of Laodicea has become quite tart of late…

  3. Bob Jones on July 8, 2007 6:02 pm

    The drash passage of Matt 7.2 is 10.33. Pulling the context together, the opposite of judgment is confession. After we have agreed with God about our own condition, we can, as fellow sinners, and fellow priests, encourage each other to righteousness.

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