I remember listening to a radio personality some time ago, whom I will keep unnamed. He was asked what the secret of his success was. His answer was simple, yet profound. He said, “Common sense became marketable.”
Common sense is what helps us know how to make good decisions and avoid bad ones. Why not put our hand in a fire? Common sense says that we will be burned. But common sense is not necessarily automatic. Everyone we know has learned that fire will burn you, so everyone shares the same sense regarding the handling of flames. We would say to stick your hand in a fire is foolish, or that it betrays common sense. But we don’t call young ignorant children foolish. We just elevate them to the level of knowledge that the rest of us share.
Our ability to discern is based in our knowledge of a thing. When we hold that knowledge in common, we share what we call, common sense, or common discernment. So let’s look at this issue of discernment.
Our process of discernment is rooted in our ability to reason — fundamentally from our worldview. If our worldview conforms to reality, we see the difference between good and bad more clearly than when our worldview is ill-informed. Our ability to discern between good and evil is related to how well our worldview aligns with what is true.
When it comes to the worldview Christians possess, has our common sense suffered?
Did you know, according to the Bible Literacy Project poll of 2005, that 50 percent of graduating High School seniors believe Sodom and Gomorrah are a married couple? George Barna found that 12 percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This ignorance isn’t limited to the secular world either. I can remember counseling a couple in my office, who professed to be followers of Christ, but didn’t know who Cain was, and had no understanding of the concept of sin and Adam’s failure.
These individuals aren’t stupid. Rather, they are people we refer to as biblically illiterate. The biblically illiterate person doesn’t know much of what the Bible teaches. Today, he doesn’t even know the “stories” let alone, have an understanding of biblical precepts.
Biblical illiteracy, in the Christian ranks, is a major reason for a wide spread lack of discernment in the church. The Apostle Paul tells believers, “Don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” [Romans 12:2] The ability to know the difference between the “world” and what our minds are to be “renewed” unto is based, simply, in biblical information. But how could a person be expected to make good decisions without that information?
Such is the plight of the biblically illiterate. They are relegated to do what is right in their own eyes. This is a problem. Fallen people who remain in ignorance to the things of God have no basis beyond their whims to choose well — and far too often, they do not.
I have been teaching on the subject of worldviews for years. Some have failed to see the need to build a strong Christian worldview, and, as a result, live with a tremendous handicap when it comes to discerning the nature of reality in our world today. This handicap affects everything from moral fidelity to retaining our joy in trials. It is often the underpinning for the dissatisfied “believer” to defect from the ranks of the Church.
The Christian worldview, or biblical worldview as many refer to it, is the basis for the Christian’s discernment in the world today. We all possess a worldview — no one is exempt. If our worldview is not Christian, then by default, it is something else, and anything other than Christian is necessarily non-Christian.
Is it shocking that believers, possessing a non-Christian worldview, would have a problem discerning the difference between good and bad choices? It wouldn’t surprise me. In a way, they are like children who don’t have the sense to leave fire alone.
Jesus, in His Great Commission, told His followers to make disciples. [Matthew 28:19] That is our primary mission as the Church. The first followers of Christ were simply called disciples, and the title of Christian came a bit later as a name for those disciples. You can read when the term Christian first came into use in the book of Acts chapter 11 verse 26. The process of making a disciple is the process of teaching someone to put to use information they don’t already have.
Unless God reapplied the term Christian to refer to something other than a disciple (and I know of no place this was done) then I don’t see how a person can be a Christian (as the Bible defines it) without being a disciple of Jesus. Furthermore, a person cannot be a disciple of Jesus, without the process of learning, and applying, new biblical information. The truth is rather blunt at this point. We cannot expect to be considered good Christians if we remain biblically illiterate. A good disciple is one who is specifically in the process of erasing that illiteracy.
Thus our need for Christians to know the Bible and what it teaches. We can gain scriptural understanding through many different means as long as they are based in the Bible’s doctrines. The Sunday sermon is most helpful and has aided generations of non reading Christians for hundreds of years, when the average follower had no Bible for himself. Today, we have radio broadcasts, internet forums, and many sound churches to teach the precepts of the Word of God. Add to that, the accessibility of the Scriptures, and we have no good excuse for our ignorance.
Do we really lack common sense when it comes to the Christian worldview? Too many who call themselves Christian just don’t know what a Christian worldview entails. So I’m inclined to say, yes. Many of us have not internalized the Bible sufficiently enough to guide ourselves properly. We who do understand biblical precepts, should address this issue head on.
At the risk of sounding redundant, we cannot be good Christians and remain biblically illiterate. It is a contradiction of terms. The good sense, that Christians share in common, comes from the Bible. Without it, our conformity to the world is inevitable. Jesus asked, “What good is salt that has lost its flavor?” [Matthew 5:13] The implication is easy — nothing. He was talking to us.
So let’s be about the effort of teaching and cultivating a Christian worldview in the minds of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Let’s also learn to defend that worldview against all detractors, so that those in our circle are confident enough to give themselves to applying the teaching of the Bible.
To expect believers to behave in conformity to the Christian worldview— in ignorance—is just plain silly. Common sense should tell us that.