Tuesday, February 24, 2015

To Have Our Thinking Challenged

It difficult for us to be willing to have our thinking challenged. I started out in the sciences, and I am convinced that one of the characteristics of good thinking is being willing to test our opinions by the facts. For the Christian, one of the basic sources of facts is the Scriptures. Now we all have backgrounds and traditions that can keep us from seeing things clearly. But we need to be willing to test what we believe. This can be a dangerous thing. I have been afraid that I will come up with such a combination of beliefs that no church organization would ever accept me. I have not ultimately succeeded in that, but there were times I have come close. But I believe the endeavor is worth it.

We need to be willing to think our positions through. This means being willing to think and to encourage others to think. It can mean going back to the beginning and working things out step by step. This can be hard, for we may have always understood certain Biblical passages one way. And we may find it hard to see them any other way. One thing that helps here is being willing to read or interact with people from different theological positions and time periods. This can be scary. But I believe a faith worth having will stand up to being challenged. And an unexamined faith will rarely stand up under pressure.

Also, we need to be willing to admit that we do not have all the answers and may never have all the answers. We can get the idea that we need to have dogmatic answers to every question. But sometimes it is better to reserve judgment or to hold to an answer tentatively, rather than feeling we need to have solved every problem. I have found that meditating on a question over time often leads me to better conclusions than I would have come to if I forced myself to reach an immediate conclusion.

Also, we need to get past the stained glass barrier. We can see the Bible through a false pious veneer which keeps us from understanding it. We can see Noah and the ark as a boat full of cute little animals. But the flood certainly was not cute. Or we can read the Sermon on the Mount with vague veneration, rather than being overwhelmed by what it requires. Sometimes it might help to go back and ask how we would react to something if we met it for the first time. But this also can be hard to do.

It is worth facing the difficult issues and working your way through them. As C. S. Lewis points out, progress is only made through resisting material. He says it is just the part of the Christian faith that I do not understand that contains the truth I most need to know. And we should not evade dealing with it.


  1. I have had my thinking challenged here Mike. And I am thankful for that.

    1. You have challenged my own thinking in return. And I think that is a good thing.