The Key to Discernment

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Spoiler: The key to discernment is to know the Bible.

I read a letter from a former Hindu (early 2021), who is distressed about Christians who have a low view of Scripture and who are adopting teachings/practices from pagan religions.

And I noticed these two books: Barbara Brown Taylor’s Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others and Learning from Other Religious Traditions: Leaving Room for Holy Envy (compiled from various authors, various faiths). Holy envy? The idea seems to be to acknowledge “beauty in traditions other than our own” and to have “an appreciation of world faiths.”

You can look up some reviews of those books on your own. Get below the surface and consider some of the implications. Yes, we know there are bits of truth everywhere. Yes, we might feel “envy” that, say, a certain Buddhist temple has been decorated nicer than our church sanctuary. But in any interfaith books, watch for the subtle accusation that if you claim something is true, that means you’re not loving your neighbor … that if you don’t appreciate other religious teaching, you don’t value the person who believes it. One book reviewer said that he himself had tended to point out flaws in other religions while ignoring the flaws in Christianity. Wait—if Christianity is true and the Bible is God’s true Word, there wouldn’t be “flaws.” Though of course, people have flaws. We have to read such things carefully and watch for apples-to-oranges confusion. Discernment.

And then there’s New Age influence. Former New Agers can help us here. I’d not heard of Melissa Dougherty (and I confess I did not investigate much beyond her 20-minute video here). In Ms. Dougherty’s “Top Five New Age Teachings in the Church,” she clearly and simply warns of the Christian drift into New Age and Eastern practice, and of our craving for spiritual experiences and secret knowledge. There are multiple mentions of needing to know the Bible in order to be discerning. The final five minutes are a strong emphasis on reading the Bible. If your friends won’t listen to your warnings/advice, they might listen to someone like her.

May we all aim to grow in knowledge and “discern what is best” (Philippians 1:9-11).


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