The need for thinking Christians.
Isaiah spoke God's words to Israel: "Come now, let us reason together" (Isa.1:18), and those words still apply today. Although becoming a Christian requires faith, Christianity itself is logical and can be reasoned through. Just because you believe, it doesn't mean that you can stop thinking about what you believe and why. Just because you are saved, doesn't mean that you are not supposed to do or learn anything further.
After his resurrection, Jesus gave the great commission: "Go and make disciples of all nations." (Matt.28:19). He expects us all to tell people the good news of the gospel. How can you preach the gospel if you cannot explain it? How can you stand up for your faith unless you have studied it and know which scriptures apply in each case?
Many times I see examples of Christians living by superstition, or showing reactions which are not thought through. Knee-jerk reactions e.g. it's dangerous to have JWs in the house or to read cult literature; snap judgements based on minimal information e.g. the Harry Potter books are bad because they have magic, the Shadowmancer book is good because it has Christian imagery and was written by a vicar. All of these examples are basically not true, but have to be thought through in depth and in the light of scripture.
It is dangerous to have JWs in your house if you are a weak and uninformed Christian who may be confused or led astray by them. It is not dangerous as such, as they will not put an evil influence over your house just by being there. To quote Paul, "How can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Rom.10:14). The secret is to get better informed about the issues they will raise and to know what the Bible says about them. Also take note of what the Bible says about treating people with love. Then invite them into your home, show them love, and gently help them to see the truth from the Bible.
I know of a Christian young woman who had not been to church for some time. In an attempt to reach out to her and her boyfriend, her former youth leader invited them to tea with her family. Then she and her husband found out that the boyfriend's mother was a pagan, and he had dabbled in it himself. The invitation was immediately withdrawn because they felt that their children would not be safe with him in the house. They were afraid of the influence of paganism coming into their home. What kind of witness is that? Family and friends now have to work to undo the damage.
The same applies to reading cult literature. It does not have an evil spirit, it will not affect you spiritually, unless you allow it to. If you are informed and know how to reason through the faith issues, reading cult literature will help you to understand them and be prepared to show them the errors of their faith. It will also challenge you to deal with their misuse of scripture and their challenges to your faith. I would not recommend it for most people, simply because there are better books to read and better things to do with your time. But used wisely, it can be a growing experience.
Harry Potter does have magic in it and is about wizards, but it is make-believe. Most children know that. Teach your children to reason things out and they can enjoy the book for its adventure and suspense and the lessons it teaches about loyalty and standing up for the truth. But only if they can understand it on that level.
I once had correspondence with a Christian lady who was unhappy about me criticising what she called a 'Christian book' - Shadowmancer. It was written by a vicar and contains Christian imagery, but it is far from Christian - as a careful reading will show. Also, further investigation into Taylor, the author, shows that he is increasingly involved in the New Age. I would not recommend it except as entertainment - again, for those with their eyes open, not to be misled.
Peter said, ''Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.'' (1 Pet.1:15). It is not enough to say, ''My hope is in Jesus.'' You need to be able to explain and reason through your own faith. Sermons and Bible studies in church are designed for this and there are many good books, magazine articles and tapes which can help you. But again you must be careful to be critically alert. ''So that you may be able to discern what is best.'' (Philip.1:10).
You cannot live in a vacuum; there are influences all around you. If you do not read, you are still influenced by sermons and the beliefs of those around you in church. You cannot rely on others to always give you correct doctrine. You must check it out for yourself. Even if it is right, you will learn and remember it better if you study it out. Be like the Bereans: ''for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.'' (Acts 17:11), Come, let us reason together.
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7 months ago