Sunday, October 06, 2013

Christians and Discernment

I am a research assistant for a dental researcher.  While seeking to learn more about informatics and data mining, my boss said he was skeptical about data mining as he felt that people sometimes just 'punch in the numbers and believe anything that falls out the bottom'.

Now, librarians are all about using data properly, so this misconception struck me as important.  If we are using data 'science' and retrieving data and packaging it, we may expect that whatever we find is 'right' and true. However, data science does not work in isolation.  Mined data is not more intelligent that surveyed data just because it is mined and collected by intelligent systems, it still takes an intelligent brain ( or more importantly, a well trained brain) to assimilate that data and use it wisely.  If there are 'unscientific' people in research devouring data without the skills to digest and understand it, this is a real problem.  Intelligence is more than receiving, remembering and regurgitating data, it is critically assessing, analysing, questioning and applying data appropriately in a given context.

Bachelor students can be guilty of only learning 'whats on the exam', not learning for the sheer joy and enrichment of learning.  Learning to think takes more than attending lectures and reading course notes.  It takes an imaginative, innovative approach to the information they receive.

Christians, too, can be guilty of this failure.  1 Corinthians talks about wise and foolish people, intelligent people are frustrated by the gospel, its very simplicity and lunacy does not require great intelligence to understand - it is for everyone.

However the wisdom of the Holy Spirit is with every Christian, and it is the Christians' responsibility to wrestle with, analyse, enjoy and digest Christian teaching.  Acts says they 'devoted themselves to the apostles teaching'.  They could not wait to be together, to hear preaching, to discuss how to serve God in their lives, to share their griefs and joys.

The Bereans listened to the apsotle Paul's teaching and tested and analysed the scriptures to make sure that what Paul said made sense. They did not just give up their Jewish lifestyles, wholus bolus, at the first mention of Jesus.  They tested his claims against scriptures, and I imagine their joy in receiving Jesus was even greater as a result of it.

We can be guilty of going to church to 'have our batteries recharged' and sit in the pews, absorbing preaching into our cells like anenomies, instead of seeking out Christians afterwards to break down and digest the meal we give thanks for.  Some churches also unwittingly fall into a 'complacent acceptance is next to godliness' model where the preacher or elders are sensitive about feedback, criticism or challenge, rather than letting discussion be promoted by the teaching they provide.

Of course, we must also be wary of a congregation that continually complains about the kind of food they get dished up, like children who were hoping for pizza and got apricot chicken (again).  Yet turning a wary and fussy church member into a lover of vegetables will not be achieved through giving a double helping and refusing to explain what the funny looking green bits are.

I pray that church members grow in loving discernment and delectation of the gospel, all the better to share it boldly and lovingly, being confident that it is so very good and worth enjoying again and again with everyone who will receive it.