Tuesday, July 1, 2008

REVIEW: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment
Tim Challies
Crossway, 2007

'With discernment comes division. A person who seeks to be discerning must be willing to
suffer the effects of this division' (p39).

And here lies the rub: not many in the church today seem willing to suffer whatsoever, much less suffer the ignominy of being called 'judgmental.'

Tim Challies points out that the worldview of 'Christians' is no different from the rest of the population, and recognizes the need in the church for believers who are gifted with spiritual discernment. He challenges congregations to seek the gift, overcome obstacles to its use, and actually employ it in the life of the church.

Challies does a good job of assessing the effects that a lack of discernment cause and the various challenges to its use. He surveys the biblical mandate for a discerning spirit, and cautions against improper judgment before setting out what things God tells us to judge.

Challies is unfairly critical, however, of gifts assessment tools. He takes several opportunities to criticize tools such as spiritual gifts inventories and surveys because there is no warrant for these in scripture (p131). However, in the same discussion he asserts that churches must create opportunities for their members to exercise their gifts, which does not seem to enjoy the scriptural warrant he demands for assessment tools. In the right context, and employed by those properly gifted, assessment tools are merely a method of helping to discern each member's giftedness. Besides, Challies later offers 'Five Principles' for a believer to discern his spiritual gift, which itself seems quite like an assessment tool!

Despite this slight misstep, Challies provides a good discussion of the need for discernment and how it should operate in the local church. His list of practical ways to exercise the gift should identify for most readers how their congregations are failing in this area: discernment can help the church 1) separate truth from error; 2) discern the will of God; 3) identify the presence and work of the Holy Spirit; 4) identify worldliness; 5) oversee the exercise of spiritual gifts; 6) decide disputes and 7) protect new Christians.

Good discernment, as it were, would recommend this book.

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