spacer
Ransom Fellowship
spacer articles movies music books art faith discernment spacer
 
articles
publications
search
people
links
faq
blank
about
contact
press kit
Ransom Blogs
spacer
spacer
current article  
spacer
spacer
spacer
Discernment 101a: Always begin objectively spacer Discernment 101a: Always begin objectively
BY: Denis Haack
spacer
The process of Christian cultural discernment involves asking a series of questions that allow us to deepen our understanding of whatever it is we are seeking to engage. Whether it is a novel or film, popular song or news article, lecture, essay or statement by a friend, political ideology, or whatever, the questions form a framework for reflection, learning, and conversation. The questions are simple enough to teach to children and probing enough to guide a scholar’s inquiry. They can be easily adapted and expanded to fit the subject at hand, and can summarized to look like this:

What’s being communicated?
What’s made to be attractive? How?
Where do I agree? What might I challenge? Why?
How can I speak and live the truth in a creative and understandable way in my pluralistic world?


One thing that is essential to understand is that the first two questions call for careful objectivity. They do not ask for our opinion, or for our judgment, or for our feelings. What we believe enters the discernment process, but later, in the third question. For the first two questions—What’s being said? What’s attractive?—we need to carefully observe, listen, see and understand as clearly and objectively as possible

Here’s a good way to put this into perspective. As you seek to answer the first two questions, imagine the author of the book or magazine article you are reading, or the director of the movie you are watching, etc., is present. Your goal with these first two questions is to provide answers that will satisfy them. Your goal is to summarize and talk about the book’s or movie’s message or themes, and how the book or movie makes these messages or themes attractive with such objectivity that the author or director will respond, “You listened to me well. You took me seriously. Thank you.”

So, for example, when I am leading a film discussion I tell people we are going to begin by examining the film as carefully and objectively as we can. I tell them not to raise their opinion or express how they feel—there will be time for that later. We’re going to begin objectively and then—and only then—we’ll be ready to respond to the film.

There are multiple reasons for beginning the process of cultural discernment this way, as objectively as possible. The artist is a person made in God’s image, and so must be treated with dignity and care. This is true regardless of what they believe, how they live, or the god they worship. Second, if we do not first carefully listen, how can we possibly know how to respond or what we are actually responding to? C. S. Lewis argued that we should receive an artwork before we can properly judge it. Third, beginning with our opinion or some point of disagreement—as too often happens—merely makes us seem disagreeable and arrogant.

Some Christians are so eager to insert some Christian message into the conversation that they feel obligated to talk about the “gospel.” (I use quotation marks because usually only the atonement is mentioned, which is only one aspect of the good news about Christ.) When St Paul entered Athens and saw “the city was full of idols,” he did not begin telling people about how Jesus died for them. Instead, he “went through the city and looked carefully” so he could understand Athenian beliefs and practices (Acts 17:16, 23). And when he did speak he had something creative to say that presented Christ as Lord in a way the Athenians could understand. Some of them even believed (17:34).

Beginning as objectively as possible not only provides a good basis for continuing the process of discernment, it demonstrates something essential about what we believe.

This brief piece expands on “Discernment 101: An explanation of discernment,” found here


image

Questions:
-

Source:
-
spacer
spacer
spacer
about the author
spacer
Denis Haack
Denis is the author of The Rest of Success: What the World Didn’t Tell You About Having It All and has written articles for such journals as Reformation & Revival Journal, Eternity, Covenant, and World. He holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.
spacer spacer spacer
other articles from this author
spacer
Listening to Critics: When Musicians Raise Questions About Faith (II)

Lost Sparrow (Chris Billing, 2009)

Talking Can Be Wrong

spacer
related articles
spacer Discernment 101c: Liking it or Getting it

Flourishing with technology: Discernment Exercise

Discernment 101b: What’s obvious might not be

A Toolkit for Conversations: Discernment Exercise

Discernment 101a: Always begin objectively

Responding to a Changing World: Discernment Exercise

Nudity in Art: Discernment Exercise

The School of Life: Discernment Exercise

Internalizing the Scriptures: Discernment Exercise

God, Jehovah, and Allah: Discernment Exercise

Loving People: Discernment Exercise

Should Christians Wear This Sh**t?: Discernment Exercise

Postville II: Discernment Exercise

Shoulds, Wants, and Faithfulness: Discernment Exercise

Engaging the Arts: Are You A Patron?: Discernment Exercise

Concern for children at play and work: Discernment Exercise

Halloween- Magic and Monsters: Discernment Exercise

Does Sprituality Mean Inner Peace?: Discernment Exercise

Pottering About Potter: Discernment Exercise

Should We Pray? Or Protest?: Discernment Exercise

spacer
spacer spacer spacer bottom
Ransom Fellowship
Ransom Fellowship
spacer This web site is old and creaky. The email function functions poorly when it functions at all. Worse, it all looks old. So we are starting work on building a new site, and hope to have it functioning by fall.

Our vision will not change, nor will our attempt in this little spot of the Internet to invite you to join us in thinking about the things that matter most. Thanks for visiting.

Denis & Margie Haack
Anita Gorder
spacer
spacer
bottom

Home | Articles | Publications | Search | People | Links | FAQ | Donate | About | Contact | Press

All material © 2000-2017 Ransom Fellowship Ministries
Site design by JaM Multimedia