The Crisis of Discernment
Discernment: keen perception or judgment, insight
Discernment has function. It is an early warning system, a warning system that admits of a significant danger or threat to an accepted base line. It doesn’t create the edges but senses them by a kind of faith received. That base line may consist of, as examples, a culture, or perhaps a body politic, a religion or world view. Standing within those base lines, discernment guards against those things that are of a contrary nature.
Discernment has form. It is knowledge, though of a source and nature beyond the academic. As knowledge alone, it is torpid. It only becomes real as it is believed and acted upon.
Discernment has purpose. It is moral, and judicially so, because discernment circumscribes something that is essentially social and relational. It defines correctness. Examples would include Cultural Correctness, Political Correctness and for the Evangelical branch of the religious sphere, Evangelical Correctness. Herein lies the problem. Discernment isn’t objective. It doesn’t create the edges but accepts them by a kind of faith received. The tenants of that faith make all the difference. If that faith is moral, discernment stands in the light and discerns all that tends to darkness. If that faith is immoral, discernment stands in the darkness and discerns all that tends to the light. If that faith is amoral, discernment stands in the shadows and discerns all that tends to the light.
It is my observation that our cultural, political and evangelical discernment rarely stand in the light and discern all that tends to darkness. At best it loiters in the shadows and discerns all that tends to the light. A predisposition to an increasing grayness prevails at the point of origin. Cultural correctness, political correctness, and yes, evangelical correctness are keen to discount all the sharp edges except, of course, that one remaining edge which is the right to discount all the sharp edges. We are left to awaken each morning to a world smudged into a nondescript value, a picket fence with no linear definitions. Sadly, this is not a static position. It is a continuum moving by stages from the amoral to the immoral. Discernment is as keen as ever it was, however its reference point has changed and is changing.