The thinking Christian
Its true. It seems that many Christians do not want to think too much. When thinking gets too deep or complex they are quick to say something like: ‘I just want to follow Jesus!’ There can be a glib superficiality amongst some fellowships whereby they are more interested in singing and having an emotional boost rather than living a godly life. And I have also come across some fellowships where there is a very strong emphasis on teaching and maintaining the minutiae of doctrine, theology and what I call ‘party spirit’, by which I mean the orthodox set of beliefs and practices that form the hallmark of that particular Christian group, be they Catholic or Protestant; Calvinist or Arminian; Charismatic or Conservative or whatever. Some fellowships place a high premium on their member’s adherence to a wide range of Biblical tenets, to the point where they go beyond being ‘sober-minded’ and become ‘dour, depressing and downbeat’. Deviate from the ‘party line’ and someone will soon let you know about it – either directly or more probably indirectly, through disapproving looks, critical tones of voice disguised as ‘concern’ or some form of withdrawal. Somewhere in the middle there is the right balance.
Diversity in Unity
It is of course also true that we are not all the same. When it comes to Christians: ‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines……If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body…..Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?’ (I Corinthians 12 v 4 – 11; 17 – 20; 29, 30).
The gift of thinking and knowledge
I am a thinking Christian. That is what I am. That is the gift that I have. I am not an Overseer/Elder or a Deacon. I don’t have the qualifications for those roles. I am not a teacher – I have not been formally asked to fill the role of teacher and again, I do not consider myself to be qualified to fill that role anyway. But I think a lot. Because of the makeup of my personality and temperament, I need to anchor myself with a good cognitive foundation – a good understanding, a firm perception and apprehension of basic principles – so that I am orientated, so that I know where I am, and so that I know what direction I am travelling in and what my destination is. I find myself constantly asking questions about Christianity and sometimes I find that the answers that I get are not adequate – so I have to explore the theme for myself, more deeply. So, all being well, I eventually find answers that seem to satisfy the questions that I have asked. What then? Shall I keep them to myself? Shall I hide them under cover so that no one else can see them? This does not seem to be the attitude that Christians are meant to have. I am a Christian. I am no one special. In fact I regard myself as a poor servant of Christ. So shall I remain silent? By no means! What does the apostle say? ‘What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up’ (I Corinthians 14 v 26). You see I come with something. I come with what I have thought about, with what I have learned about God and His dealings with me and with us in general. Other Christians come with a song of praise, with a reading of Scripture, with an ability to play a musical instrument – with any number of a whole host of gifts and abilities that they can bring to build up the fellowship. I come with what I have thought about and some of the things that I have thought about I share here, in the hope that it is profitable to others.
Of course I do have to remind myself that not every Christian is a thinker in this way. A Christian fellowship is not primarily a theological or philosophical debating society. The gift of thinking, like each of the other gifts that Christians bring to build up the fellowship, has its place in the living Temple. It is not to be ignored but it has a place and function alongside all the other diverse gifts that Christians are blessed with and bring to the fellowship. And thinking is not mere academic theorizing either. The apostle Paul constantly encourages Christians to know and understand because such understanding and knowledge is part of the Christian’s growth in Christ and such understanding informs the principles not only of their beliefs but also their day-to-day behaviour in the world and their relationship to God through Christ. Knowledge and understanding works itself out into practical living – godly behaviour is the fruit of right knowledge and understanding.