Discernment is one of the attributes that followers of Jesus Christ seem to gather as the years roll on. It comes from various sources: their practical experiences in Christian service, wisdom gathered from raising a family, the work place and reading the Bible from which the Holy Spirit meanders through the living words
“When it doesn't ring true” is a phrase that applies both 'scepticism and cynicism'.
Historically, a sceptic (or sceptic, the spelling is interchangeable) doubts the truth of 'the Christian or all religious doctrines'. It also coveys the idea that this person is 'unconvinced of truth of particular fact or theory'. A 'Christian sceptic' is thus impossible in this strict definition.
However, a Christian that senses when something done or said 'doesn't ring true' is exercising a form of scepticism, as used in modern language, and is therefore valid. The term 'healthy scepticism' is regularly read and heard.
The word ‘cynic’ conveys ideas of someone who is churlish; captious; incredulous of human goodness; sneering. Here again, the Christian can exercise cynicism when something 'doesn't ring true'.
Recently, listening to a talk by a retired Lieutenant Colonel on the 1966 Vietnam War battle of Long Tan, in which the Australian Government insisted on Australian leadership over Australians after disastrous WWI and WWII campaigns of non-Australian leadership over Australians.
This sense of scepticism and cynicism is a very Australian trait that has its roots with the first Fleet. It was widely exercised by the leaders who found themselves in charge of a settlement with completely novel social situations, as they realised that London's view of their predicament in settling a new colony was unreal and completely out of touch.
It came naturally to the convicts as they reflected on their plight of being sent to the other side of the world for stealing a handkerchief. Moreover those ‘in charge’ found themselves in a new situation divorced from the rigid class structure of ‘old England’ and likewise reflected on such issues.
A valid question is whether attitudes of scepticism and cynicism were in the Scriptures - the idea that when something 'didn't ring true' — evidence of following one's conscience about what was ‘right’. Such attitudes are found from Genesis through to Revelation, and possibly the most important use was in helping to separate truth from falsehood.
When something 'doesn't ring true' it carries a deep inner feeling that what is presented as truth, is actually false; often without being able to articulate why it is false. Every ounce of one's soul erupts with this sixth sense.
Reading afresh Paul's letters to the Churches, he warned his readers to be on the lookout for those who would take Jesus work on the Cross and misconstrue it. More often than not, it's the leaders of congregations who have come in and given a different Gospel and who are taken to task by the Apostle.
He got wind of these things by members of those congregations who understood that the teaching of Paul's opponents did not ring true. It's there in black and white for all to see.
Further, the Book of Galatians heightens this specific attitude. There are numerous Christian Internet sites that alert us to rogues in the disguise of preachers, often backed by internal governance structures and so-called ‘theological’ positions. They are set up to scam and to steal.
The Apostle Paul spoke of the fruits of the Spirit, yet gave equal weight to being watchful and wary of those who spoil the truth. We will find in any congregation those who put more weight on one or the other, and this generally provides congregations with balances.
I for one, tend to err on the side of having an attitude of scepticism and cynicism after 40 years in Christian ministry. Many of my colleagues in Christian ministry do so as well, as so much of what we have seen and heard just 'doesn't ring true'.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html