I am sometimes bothered when lay Christians defer to Christian leaders on controversial matters that they might be afraid to speak up about on their own or simply don’t form an opinion but defer totally to the belief of another.
Another closely related issue is when lay Christians legitimize their viewpoint based on the fact that an esteemed Christian leader agrees with them (or they with the leader).
I do this all the time. I bother myself.
Not to say it’s wrong to do this. There is such a thing as a trusted Christian leader who has proven themselves faithful to the Bible and we are not wrong to trust them. However, no matter how trusted the Christian leader, they will never be a replacement for good, old-fashioned-Biblical-critical thinking. God has given us His God-breathed Word and a brain and a soul. We should make good use of them.
We can never fully trust any human being to be perfectly faithful to the Word. Sin is real. It is ugly and real in my own life and I know that it is also ugly and real in the lives of the Christian men to whom I submit myself. I think we (I) are on shaky ground when we read a book by someone our Christian community respects and as we read we let our Biblical guard down. We take their words as Gospel-truth.
This is especially dangerous when the White Lab Coat Syndrome kicks in. Perhaps they stray from their area of expertise, but we trust them anyway, because they are our pastors, our teachers, our respected leaders. Is there any area outside the realm of their expertise?
The reason I titled my post, “critical thinking in love,” is because I’m really good at the critical thinking part, it’s the ‘in love’ part that I have often neglected. When I come across something that many seem to buy into, that a Christian leader has endorsed, that I believe to be in opposition to the Counsel of God’s Word, my gut reaction is adversarial, not loving. It is a bad sin and deadly in the body of Christ where the world will know we are Christians by our love. With God’s help, I am working on this.
Instead, I should examine my own heart and motives and, if necessary, gently and lovingly point out the areas that do not hold up in light of Scripture. The more I really see people as God’s, instead of seeing people as the sum of their opinions, the easier this will be.
So, take this as an admonition to think critically about everything and when you find a flaw (and you certainly will find many, probably even in this post!), to approach people, when needed, with love.
Disclaimer: For all of you from BBC, I did not write this with Pastor John in mind, however, it applies as easily to him as any.