Curiosity for the forbidden
A Christian leader, usually conservative, will write a blog post or mention in a sermon or casual conversation that Thinker X is dangerous. Thinker X is maybe even a heretic. Thinker X’s ideas will lead people astray, and Christians should be careful not to be lured in. Christians should not be alarmed by Thinker X though, as of course we have seen Thinker X’s brand of wrongness before. Nothing new under the sun and whatnot.
If I have already heard of and read Thinker X, I can most likely see this warning for the silliness it is and move on, but if I haven’t, well…you just guaranteed I will read him/her at my earliest possible convenience. Thank you, but I don’t think that was your intention.
Thoughts for rebels:
As is always the case, you need to engage your brain when you read or listen to new ideas. Not every single thing you read is true, and yes, it is possible for a writer or speaker to say things that are false and unhelpful. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be willing to listen and dialogue, and it doesn’t mean we should be afraid of exploring ideas, but we do need to be mindful both of what we believe and of how the lines connect between different ideas within our beliefs. Curiosity and open-mindedness are good things, but don’t be hasty to agree with or endorse something just because a leader you often disagree with forbids it. I generally find it to be a good policy only to agree with Al Mohler on the 6th Monday of every month, but if I get in the habit of disengaging my brain and compulsively disagreeing with him, sooner or later I will find myself blindly endorsing something without knowing why, and we’re back to fundamentalism, just with different slogans. Agree with an idea because you think it’s true, not because John MacArthur says it isn’t.
Thoughts for churches:
You need to create an environment that allows for dialogue. Telling people to avoid certain writers will only work with the ones who aren’t thinking for themselves. The rest of us need to make those determinations for ourselves. You need to teach people to think, not just what to think. Conversation has become such a progressive buzzword I’m almost sick of it, but it’s become a cliche for a reason – you’re still hearing about it because you still need more of it. Chances are you know the individuals in your church who are open to new ideas and are attracted to the books and writers you disagree with. Talk to them. Don’t fear them and don’t rebuke them. Engage them. Since they likely relate to that writer in some way, they probably have a clearer understanding of what he or she is trying to say than you might. At the risk of being annoying, join the conversation. We’ll all benefit.