Does God call us to blind obedience, or does He expect us to engage the intellect He has given us?
It was fourth grade.
Our class was working on globes made of balloons wrapped in papier-mâché. We traced the shapes of the continents onto paper and cut them out, then began to glue them into place. First North America, then South America, then Asia.
It was time to affix Europe onto the globe. My friend, Robert, and I knew exactly where Europe went: joined to Russia on the Asian continent. We squeezed a glob of white paste onto the back of Europe and placed it where it was supposed to go.
We glanced up at our teacher, who, to our horror, was telling the class to paste Europe too far south, attaching it to the Arabian peninsula instead of to Russia.
I raised my hand to let her know.
She insisted she was correct.
Robert and I shrugged it off and waited for further directions.
As the teacher went around to check on everyone’s work, she saw what Robert and I had done, placing Europe where we thought it should go instead of where she told us to place it.
Her face twisting into a scowl, she snatched the globe off my desk, ripped Europe off, and slapped it onto the Arabian peninsula, scolding me for being disobedient.
That was the day I learned to stop trusting authority.
I was nine years old.
I thought that teachers were supposed to be smarter, or at least, more informed, than I was. If this teacher was wrong about one thing, what else might have she been wrong about? How could I trust that anything she was teaching us was correct?
I learned to start thinking for myself, doing my own research and making informed decisions on my own rather than blindly accepting what someone else tells me. This is why I didn’t decide to follow Jesus until I was in my mid-thirties: I wouldn’t believe in a deity based solely on what someone else would tell me about God. When I was seventeen, I prayed, “God, if you’re out there, I want to know you myself. I don’t want to hear about you from other people, I don’t want to only read about you in books. I want to truly know you for myself.” He answered my prayer in so many ways, I started a blog to share the stories.
This is why, as a children’s pastor, I encourage parents to let their kids wrestle with the tough questions about faith. We shouldn’t condition them to blindly accept what they don’t understand. Faith in Christ requires us to engage the mind as well as the heart and soul:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2 NIV)
1. Good discernment requires critical thinking skills. We need to know for ourselves what the Scriptures say so that we may compare and contrast any situation against them, making informed decisions while remaining dependent on the Holy Spirit.
2. Faith and intellect are not mutually exclusive. God created us as whole persons, with a mind, body, and soul. Yes, “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1), but this is faith in God, whom we know through His revelations to us. The mind is always engaged to some degree when we encounter God: we read about Him in the Bible, we process what we see Him doing in our lives, we sense the Holy Spirit moving– and senses are all processed by the mind.
3. Knowledge is power. And knowledge of God – a personal knowledge, not one that has been chewed by someone else and spoon-fed to us like a momma bird feeding her chicks – is essential to our faith.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)
Don’t just accept what someone else tells you as truth without looking into the matter yourself.
Why would you give anyone but God that much power over you?
Stephen Bay is the Newsong Kids Pastor. You can check out more of his writing at www.ransomedlife.com.