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Friday, April 23, 2010

Dabbling Can Be Dangerous

If you know me, or have read enough of my writings (including my profile for this blog), then you know that I'm a collector of things, trivia, and experiences.  In college, I wrote papers and took classes on a variety of subjects, and drove professors crazy because I never picked a style or topic to make my "trademark style" in all that time.  My home is filled with a variety of collections, ranging from vintage fruit-crate labels to rocks and old coins, to piles of post cards and Eastern-style cookbooks.  Having said all that, I have to say that dabbling and collecting is overrated (hard to dust!), and sometimes it's even dangerous.


The Dangers of Dabbling


It might be the kind of danger that entangled Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant in the movie, Charade.  More often, though, it's a moral and ethical kind of danger.  People try everything that comes their way, believing that by expanding their knowledge and experience, they will be better-educated, metropolitan, well-rounded, or empathetic toward the "outsiders."  Instead, they end up jaded, cynical, and amoral, and they're usually angry at God (if they're even still willing to believe that God exists).  It hardly makes sense that learning about all the beauty and riches the world has to offer would work this way.  When we see the power of the human mind, see the beauty of nature, or enjoy the taste of an unusual food, why don't we appreciate the power and creativity of the God who made it all possible?  Why don't we see the pain that life without God holds, and cling all the more closely to Him?

The problem, at least as I encountered it in college, is that the more we explore and dabble, the greater the risk of losing sight of what is truly important.  When we dabble too much, we hear things that contradict what we already know.  Invariably, someone will come along, someone we respect, who will tell us that what we used to know was somehow "stunted" or "backward," and speak favorably of the new knowledge.  Sometimes, this person is correct; more often, however, this person is speaking out of a desire to justify his own mind.  The old knowledge you held offended him or her, because it denied a privilege or spoke condemnation over a lifestyle, and getting you to move on from that sore point will ease the discomfort for a little while, even if it doesn't take away the consequences for them (see an example of this dynamic in 2 Chronicles chapter 18).

Perhaps it is not a friend or colleague who dislikes the way your background reflects upon him.  Maybe it's just a book written by someone who hates the things you've always believed, and so has employed every literary device, argument fallacy, and skewing of facts within his power to make what you believed look manipulative or outdated.  Believe me, I've read such books.  They're one really good reason why I started this blog.

So what am I saying?  Never try new things, live a spartan, deprived life and die stupid and isolated?  Certainly not.  I believe the world is full of beautiful things and vast stores of knowledge that God put here for us to enjoy--to His glory.  And we should enjoy them, but we should never forget that Satan has attempted to taint and pervert every one of those good things, because purity and goodness bring condemnation upon him.  When we try new things, we should stay away from things that speak against the goodness and purity of our Creator, and the lifestyle He has established for us.  These are like poison for our souls, and we would do well to know how to recognize them (2 Kings 4: 38-41).


Using Discernment to Guard Our Souls


How do we know what is good and what is evil?  So often the truth is buried under a complex tapestry of false ethics and tricky logic.  The Bible offers a clear solution to the problem, but it takes a contrite heart to learn the lesson:
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 KJV)
If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
       and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2: 2-5 NIV).
I put this in the King James Version because that was the way I learned it in Sunday school around the age of six.  In case you didn't learn it that way, or you are reading it for the first time in memory,  I'll explain it.  When you discipline yourself to learn the Bible, above all other knowledge, you will be prepared when someone (or a book, or a foreign religious teaching) challenges your beliefs.  In what way?  When you are presented with a muddle of truths, half-truths, and lies, you will be so accustomed to hearing what is true that you will be able to separate the truth from the midst of all of it.  You won't be clinging weakly to your belief by the meager ties of tradition or familiarity; you'll be confident, unshakable, in what you believe.  And that boldness and confidence is the reward of a diligent workman.

These days it can be terribly difficult for a Christian to know the difference between God's perspective on an issue and the latest popular view of how a Christian should react.  For the past ten years or so, I've encountered more and more people who are struggling to make the two things mesh, or who have just given up and adopted the postmodern there-is-no-truth perspective.  The only solution to their trouble is to get back into the Bible and be ready to be amazed.  Immerse yourself in the truth--don't merely dabble in it--and your foundations will become more secure.

"Aw, but how presumptuous you are, Rachel," some have said, "because you claim that the Bible is the only source of truth."  I'll answer them again, for your benefit as readers this time, that I'm more than presumptuous.  I am certain, not merely claiming that the Bible is the truth.  Why?  Because I've studied and I've seen, and the Bible has been proven accurate and trustworthy in every test.  In the end, all my dabbling just reinforces the wonderful, glorious truth that I already know, because I've done my best to take what is good and flee from what is evil in this world.

So, to summarize what I've just said:
  • Do dabble, do try new things, but desire only what is good.  Cherish what is godly and throw out what is corrupt. "He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it" (Proverbs 11: 27 NIV).
  • Don't join with those who encourage you to dabble in falsehood, but rather cling to the truth that you know. "In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them" (Proverbs 22: 5 NIV).
  • Never let anyone make you feel ashamed of the truth, especially if you've always known it was the truth: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" (Romans 1: 15-17 NIV).
  • Don't be intimidated by those who seem to have more knowledge than you.  If you've studied the Bible, and their words cannot stand up to it, don't be afraid to say they are wrong. "Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.  I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.  I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts" (Psalm 119: 98-100 NIV). 
  • If in doubt, seek the Word of God for the truth, because in God, you will always find the truth.  Jesus Himself said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14: 6 NIV).

2 comments:

Keith Andrew said...

Dabbling can be dangerous, and not just for the doubts and ideas you encounter. I heard a recent sermon called, "one mistake away". It talked about how we are all just one mistake away from being that person covered in shame on the evening news. Not that God can't forgive us, because he always will, but it is important now more than ever to stay protected on the straight and narrow. I know from personal experience how much Satan tries to destroy our witness. If we aren't even a close reflection of Christ, how will the world know the love of God. Dabbling is playing with fire, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

Rachel M. said...

I thoroughly agree with you there! "Playing with fire" is exactly what it can be sometimes. I love to try new things, but I try to always ask myself if it is something I really should be trying.
And, yes, I completely agree that we should think about our testimonies when we are wanting to do something or try something. Our critics already disapprove of us because they don't understand our beliefs; it's best not to draw reasonable and just criticism from them for behavior we both know is unacceptable.
Thanks for the comment!

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