Obligation to Examine


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The follower of any belief system has an obligation to examine whether what they suppose to be true, actually is true. Theologian and educator John Locke (1632 – 1704) once said that, “He that examines, and upon a fair examination embraces an error for a truth, has done his duty more than he who embraces the profession of the truth without having examined whether it be true or no.” Locke’s statement is based on the logical assumption that if someone really has given a fair examination to any supposition they will discover the truth (or at least come closer to it) and embrace it, replacing that which was erroneous or what might be called only half true.

It is not intelligent to say that something is believed, though it may be true, unless it has been thoroughly examined for its accuracy. Deviation from the truth usually happens very gradually and unless one has an inclination to give fair analysis to theological propositions, deviation from the truth in favor of opinions and creeds will take place. Nothing good comes from a lack of an honest examination regarding theological premise. However, many have placed a lack of scholastic review under the banner of faith. Some have even gone so far as to say that such intellectual examination is a bane to faith. In fact, those that do not fully pursue intellectual confirmation for what they suppose is true do not understand the nature of faith.

Religion should be passionate if it is to be believed, but that passion must always be bridled by that which is known and can be understood within the mental capacities of man or else it is of little use. John Caird (1820 – 1898) was a professor of Divinity at the University of Glasgow. Professor Caird said that the way to elevate religion above subjective caprice and waywardness and to distinguish between that which is true and false in religion, we must appeal to an objective standard. That which enters the heart must first be discerned by the intelligence to be true. Caird said that, “Feeling is necessary in religion, but it is by the content or intelligent basis of a religion, and not by feeling, that its character and worth are to be determined.” Those that subscribe to the Bible as the objective standard referred to by Dr. Caird, are, if the Scriptures are understood and applied properly, on solid ground for advocating a system that is at least worthy of consideration.

The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 17 (vv. 1-13) depict what has come to be called the “Transfiguration.” Three of Christ’s disciples (Peter, James and John) are with Jesus on what was probably Mount Hermon. Christ is “transfigured,” (v. 2) before them and Moses and Elijah appear with Him. While this is taking place, a voice from a bright cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” It is important that the wording does not say, “Obey Him” or “Worship Him.” Blind, unknowing obedience or unwarranted worship is never advocated in the Bible. The word “hear” as used in Matthew 17:5 means to hear with the ear of the mind. This is a vitally important point. The message conveyed was that if people really thoughtfully considered what Christ had to say they would come to know that it was logical, common sense and practical.

“He that takes upon the opinions of any church in the lump, without examining them, has truly neither searched after nor found truth, but has only found those that he thinks have found the truth, and so receives what they say with an implicit faith (so called), and so pays them the homage that is due only to God,” says Locke. The truth is far too precious and scarce a commodity in the present world to treat its discovery with such a cavalier attitude. Those that follow Christ are to generate more answers than questions. That means being clear on why something is believed and being willing to share a well examined truth with a world that is desperately looking for reliable answers and solutions to its problems.

 

This column is the opinion of Dr. M. Hildon Guy, President of the University of Christian Studies and Seminary in Eagle River. He has earned doctorates in theology, counseling education and apologetics. (www.universityofcss.org)

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