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Think For Yourself

If you are unsure about your spiritual status, go with your feelings. After all, 200 million Americans can’t be wrong! If you want to know the truth, check the Gallup poll and the consensus of scholarly opinion.
—Matthew 7:13-15, Reversed Fractured Version

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
—Matthew 7:13-15, NIV

I learned to read in the same year that Sputnik became the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth. Because I was sick a lot that year, I relieved my boredom with books—I was reading on an adult level before I finished the first grade. The frumpy old library ladies wouldn’t let me check out books that were officially beyond my grade level, so my father let me select my books from the adult section and he checked them out for me. (He was genuinely surprised to find out that I could really read and understand them.) Because of Sputnik, I read a lot of books on astronomy. However, since there is a time lag between writing and publishing, almost all the books I read were written by serious scientists who expounded the expert opinion that artificial satellites and space travel were not possible. Yet at the same time, Sputnik whizzed above our heads in defiance of their learned opinions.

Today I read a lot of scholarly works about the Bible. Most of the experts say that Jesus’ resurrection and ascension never happened, at least not in the way it’s commonly depicted. So I wonder: Does He, like Sputnik, rule above their heads anyway?

You see, the truth doesn’t care about the preponderance of scholarly opinion, and neither should you. Just because many people believe a thing, it doesn’t make it true. Even a Bible scholar who has studied at the best universities and who has published the most papers and has received the greatest acclaim for his views and is considered the final word in the field can be proven wrong by what turns up when a shepherd boy discovers clay jars in a cave in the desert.

You cannot rely on other people’s judgments. You have to “work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” When you were little, your mother told you that “everybody’s doing it” is not a justification, and that’s still true today. You have to make up your own mind. I’ve read about many felony cases in the newspaper, and I have never yet read about a defendant who successfully defended himself on the grounds that it felt right or that everyone else was doing it. Crime is not justified by the number or social status of your accomplices, nor are lies made into truths because of sentiment.

So if someone says, “believe it, because most scholars do,” or “believe it, because it’s the American way,” or “believe it, because it makes you feel good,” or “believe it, because I have a gift from the Spirit and I am an authority,” by all means consider their views, but don’t swallow them uncritically. The truth or falsehood of a proposition is not determined by the personal attractiveness of its advocate. Rely on experts, but not uncritically.

Beloved, go with your feelings. Religion is a matter of the heart, not of the head, so don’t be so critical. However you feel led is just fine.
—1 John 4:1, Reversed Fractured Version

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
—1 John 4:1, NIV

The only valid reason for believing something is because it is true, and the only valid reason for rejecting something is because it is false. You have to make that final determination yourself.