In part 1 of my exhortation, I discussed how, in these days, we believers face a demonic conspiracy far greater than any human conspiracy. This bigger conspiracy is not ultimately concerned with destroying our governments or harming our bodies but with leading our spirits into distraction, division, and despair. But we should not be ignorant of the devil’s schemes (2 Cor 2:11) but instead determine to stand firm together by the power and promises of Christ (Eph 6:10-13).
Though certainly the evil one has many schemes at work today, there are two that are proving particularly dangerous now and for which we must remain on special alert:
1. Shallow Discernment
The Misinformation Age is upon us in full force, with fake news and unstated agendas touching all our media. In such a confusing environment, we are tempted to make simplifying, black-and-white judgments: “these information sources and people are completely trustworthy, while these other information sources and people are completely untrustworthy.” And we might do this with election news, racism claims, and Covid-19 recommendations.
But such a judgment is foolish, as making sure to hear multiple sides of an issue is basic biblical wisdom (Prov 18:17). Certainly, some counselor “companions” are better than others (Prov 13:20), but not everything the “untrustworthy” sources say is false, and not everything the “trustworthy” sources say is true. Even good men—including Christian leaders with generally sound doctrine—can be mistaken and misinformed, and some good men turn out not to be. Consider that Satan disguises both himself and his servants as “angels of light” (2 Cor 11:12-15) and that his false teachers are promised to deceive many (2 Pet 2:1-3).
Furthermore, there is no such thing as “unbiased” news; it’s just news biased in a different direction! But rather than concluding that reality is ultimately unknowable or uncritically accepting information from only certain “trustworthy” sources, we must try to account for biases in all truth claims around us and subject every assertion we hear to what God reliably says in his word.
2. Prideful Isolation
Obviously, practicing the kind of discernment recommended above is difficult, which is why we were not meant to do so alone. To protect ourselves from being led astray by any source (even our own minds!), we must purpose to abide in a faithful community of fellow interpreters (Heb 3:12-14). That is, we must humbly make our conclusions about life and the Bible accountable to the assessment of our brethren in a solid local church. Where we find ourselves believing and thinking very differently than our faithful community, we should beware, for such is the pattern of one going dangerously astray (James 5:19-20).
One of the saddest experiences of my Christian life has been observing someone who is no longer teachable. He (or she) becomes so sure of a certain view that no can dissuade him—even if the view is wrong and self-destructive! This can happen due to a supposed experience of divine revelation, due to devotion to only one or a few teachers, or even due to educational training and personal study. A person becomes puffed up in his thinking, like Diotrephes in 3 John, not only unwilling to accept correction but also separating from and regarding with contempt and hostility those who do not take the same view (3 John 1:9-10).
Tragically, today’s social media algorithms and search engine optimizations contribute to this kind of proud un-teachableness. Our technology constantly retrieves for us what it thinks we want to see and hear (and what will generate engagement and clicks for advertisers). We therefore easily find ourselves in an online echo chamber of our own viewpoint, which not only solidifies our own exalted opinions but also often makes them more extreme. All this is, of course, by design—demonic design. We cannot fall for this scheme and allow ourselves to become isolated and arrogant. We need to guard each other’s thinking in humble community.
What will be the consequences if we do not beware the above two schemes? I’ll talk about those consequences in my third post.
2 Corinthians 11:2-3, For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
Questions to Consider:
1. How can believers also end up with shallow discernment when it comes to Christian teaching? And how does the Bible show us the need to be both charitable and guarded? Consider and compare 1 Cor 1:4, 10 and Gal 1:6, 3:1; Gal 1:8 and 1 Cor 5:11; Mark 9:38-41 and Gal 2:11-14.
2. What might be the biases and blind spots in your information sources/teachers?
3. Would you say you humbly make your thinking accountable to your faithful community? Why or why not?