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When Voices Say “Don’t Think!”

(Note: The context of this post is in regard to reading Christian writing and material related to understanding God’s Word as well as the thinking of the world around us. It is not in reference to fiction, entertainment, and other reading contexts.)

I have two adopted Cambodian brothers. Their family escaped communist genocide in Cambodia in the early 1970’s. During those years, 3.5 million Cambodians were murdered—slaughtered. Do you know who the communists targeted? The educated. The leaders. The readers. The informed. They killed anybody that could think through the dangers of their movement. And along with it, they burned books, destroyed educational institutions, and armed rural, uneducated children. Communism didn’t want people to think.

Recently, someone asked me about a line of thinking that says—”Don’t read anybody but …” This is not a biblical message. Over 38 years of Christian life, I’ve been taught by thinking, biblical, godly men (that number in the hundreds.) All of them taught me “You can learn something from everyone!” They taught me to read everything I could. And they taught me biblical discernment. They gave a solid foundation of good doctrine, and encouraged me to be widely read, but also wisely read! They taught me to allow God’s Holy Spirit to give discernment and to guide into all truth. (John 16:13.)

A new philosophy sometimes gets around that says, “Don’t read anybody but… (fill in the blank with your group.)” If you ever hear or see this—DANGER WILL ROBINSON!! DANGER!! Someone is attempting to be God to you. Someone, other than Jesus, is attempting to govern your thinking rather than equip your thinking. This is a HUGE overreach of biblical authority and influence—and men who teach this tread on God’s heritage. Biblical thinking is not reclusive or segregated—it’s immersive and discerning. Biblical thinking doesn’t think LESS it thinks MORE! It doesn’t read LESS, it reads MORE!

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 

Don’t buy into this. It’s not old, it’s new. Ground yourself in God’s Word. Then READ! Read agreeing arguments. Read opposing arguments. Read everything in the light of God’s truth and with the discerning guidance of His Holy Spirit. Have an ANSWER for every man! Know their arguments and answer their arguments with TRUTH. Study their positions, know their beliefs, and at the same time wrap your brain around biblical truth that answers false teaching. Be available to be questioned!

“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4:5, 6 

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” 1 Peter 3:15 

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11 

If I am threatened by questions, I’m merely advertising that I don’t have a good answer. The Bible always gives a GOOD ANSWER for anything that’s TRUE.

The reason many walk away from good doctrine is that they were not equipped to answer bad doctrine—they were taught NOT to think. “Not widely reading” is a sure way to kill your ability to discern and to ground yourself in truth. Being told “not to read… (fill in the blank)” is remarkably like Communism in 1970’s Cambodia.

There are TWO ways to fall into error. The first is to read WITHOUT biblical discernment. This will leave you intellectually weak and easily deceived. It will lead into biblical error, not away from it. The second is to read only those with whom you agree. This leads you into an inbred error—an increasingly myopic, gradually diminishing world of “not thinking” and “not learning” where you have no choice but to stagnate and turn inward. Both are erroneous paths.

The biblical path of Christian wisdom is one of continued growth in God’s Word—which is inexhaustible—and continued understanding of the thinking/arguments of others whom you may persuade to embrace biblical truth. If you read only “your own”, how would you ever be salt and light to arguments you have never encountered and bad thinking for which you have no answer? How could you ever learn that which a “small, inner-circle of influence” does not know?

Great Christian leaders of decades and centuries past—those whose biblical thinking shapes our heritage—were readers, widely read, wisely read. They were discerning and persuasive in their arguments. Why? Because they read.

One of the BEST ways to LOSE an entire generation of Christian leaders, making them susceptible to every wind of doctrine, is to attempt to control or restrict their thinking, or their reading. Refusing to engage with threatening dialogue is a cowardly, fear-driven tactic. It shows that I am not equipped with a good answer. It shows tremendous insecurity. It shows a real lack of dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s ability to give discernment. And it’s a sure way to ultimately weaken one’s faith and doctrinal stability.

Searching the scriptures is what strengthens our belief in good doctrine. Facing questions we can’t answer is a great way to force us into God’s Word for final answers. And the Christian faith is built on VERY GOOD answers. Furthermore, learning how to think biblically is a life-skill that every generation needs—and good thinking is only strengthened when it is well-equipped and well-versed with biblical discernment.

Telling someone “only read (fill in the blank)” is a veiled way of saying, “Let me do all your thinking for you.” And that’s plainly unbiblical and unhealthy. Don’t fall for it! You will hurt yourself and the faith of Jesus Christ. You will greatly limit your ability to bring others to the gospel. Be widely read and wisely read!

These thoughts remind me of a post from early last year, entitled “Who’s Doing Your Thinking?” I close with that, in hopes that it will stir you to think, study, read, and refuse to hand your brain over to anyone but Jesus.

Repost—Who’s Doing Your Thinking?

Pharisees say “Don’t think!” 

A manipulative person says “I will think for you—listen ONLY to me.” A spiritual leader leads you to think biblically for yourself, with discernment.

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men…” (Matthew 23:13)

“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9)

Jesus says, “Think deeply!”

Come and see! Search the scriptures—see for yourself! Jesus is not afraid of your questions. He expects you to use the brain that He created.

“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27)

“And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)

Apostles Paul and Peter say, “Think out loud with others!”

Dogma demands that we quit thinking. Dialogue invites us to increase our thinking and deepen our faith with solid logic and truth.

“And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,” (Acts 17:2)

“And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” (Acts 24:25)

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”  (1 Peter 3:15)

A few questions worthy of consideration:

Are you afraid to think or to let others think? Why? Is your belief threatened by thought? Biblical truth thrives with deeper thought.

Is someone else asking you not to think? Why? What do they have to lose? Be sure Jesus is your Lord.

Are you thinking biblically and willing to be honest with Jesus, with the scriptures, and with yourself?

Are you threatened by those who think? Do the questions of others irritate you? Why? What does this say about your belief system or position?

Are you leading others to think biblically and become deeply grounded in their own faith? Or are you trying to do their thinking and expecting them to follow? Intellectual or emotional dependence makes for a very weak faith.

Are you equipped to reason intelligently and persuasively about Jesus and His truth? God calls us to reason, or to dialogue—to “think out loud” with people about intelligent gospel truths.

Thinking is a great gift! Don’t let others do your thinking. Don’t try to think for others. Don’t be afraid to think. Don’t be afraid to help others think biblically.

In closing, God gives a principle to protect you from any “one person” doing the thinking for you.

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)

“Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” (Proverbs 15:22)

“For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 24:6)

Who’s doing your thinking?

Hopefully your answer is JESUS!

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5 Comments

  • Thanks for the thorough article on this difficult problem of critics!

  • Thank you brother Schmidt so much for writing this. Truly, this must be the cry to a younger generation! Read, study, think and know what the word of God says.

  • Thank you for being an encouraging voice & a sharpening spirit. This was very helpful to me.

  • Once upon a time, I thought that being “theologically mature” meant the ability to read a book or hear a sermon without really listening to it at any point where it might disagree with what I already believed. It would go something like this, “Well, I can tell in this book that this author is amillennial. I know I am not amillennial. Because I can; A. – Tag my position, and B. – Tag his position, and C. – Not be affected by anything he says that might change my position, I am thus theologically mature enough to read this book without being corrupted.” I have given books out to so many people over the years. I would always try to figure out “are they mature enough to read this book (as defined above)?” If I thought they weren’t, they didn’t get the book. If I thought they were close, I’d give them the book, and write in the front, “Hey, this guy is amill, (or calvinist, or egalitarian, or whatever other point I disagreed with him on)” to help them with the “identification” part. So they would know not to listen to “bad stuff.”
    I couldn’t have been more immature. Theological maturity is not the ability to hold to what I already believe despite all opposing arguments without changing. There is nothing inherently virtuous in “not changing.” If every muslim followed the advice sometimes offered to me (just rest in the heritage behind you; just trust your authorities; don’t listen to the opposing arguments) then we could never bring them to Jesus. Repeating that same close-mindedness in Christian discussion is no more mature. Rather, theological maturity is the ability to listen closely to every argument from every side; To not arrogantly assume that I, of course, am already right about everything; To be willing to humbly listen to arguments from both sides of any issue; to seek out the most balanced, clear, and accurate representations of each position instead of caricatures and straw men. To be humbling willing, after evaluating carefully and wisely, to call everyone to follow the truth. If it means that that author should change, after I’ve heard all he has to say, so be it. And if it means I must change to be closer to the truth, so be it. That is humility. That is theological maturity. Humbly and carefully weighing both sides. Admitting that I don’t know everything. Following the truth of Scripture wherever it leads.
    Somewhere deep inside me, I had always been afraid of that. Afraid it might “take me someplace bad.” Did I really think that error could make a better case than right? Was I really afraid that falsehood could ever be more convincing than truth? Did I really think that God wanted me to just “turn my brain off” at some points, as though that didn’t inherently dishonor Him and His Word? Did I really think that the truth couldn’t defend itself, and that God’s Spirit wouldn’t push His people towards it whenever they listened humbly? God is never afraid that we might think. We honor Him and the Scripture He has given us when we do. We dishonor them when we refuse to.

  • I loved this article and the one about lording leadership. Thank you for your willingness to write on these difficult subjects. many of us greatly appreciate it.


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