The Berean Spirit

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, November 7, 2014 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” ~Acts 17:11

What is “the Berean Spirit”? We often hear this phrase in Christian circles but what does it really mean? Why should we emulate it? Berea was a city in Greece that Paul, Silas, and Luke traveled to between their stops in Thessalonica and Athens. This is right before Paul had his epic showdown with the Greek philosophers at Mars Hill. Luke noticed a difference between the Jews in Berea and the Jews in Thessalonica as Paul and Silas preached the Gospel of Christ. This difference is that the Jews in Berea would constantly study and search the Scriptures to find out if what Paul and Silas were saying was true. And what the Bereans found out was that their message was true in full accordance with Scripture.

But something has happened in the last few generations. This concept of going back to confirm if what a source says is valid is rarely seen today. It is important to have valid sources in doing your research, but how do we know if they are valid? We can check for multiple sources if they are saying the same thing, but that does not eliminate issues of collaboration (especially in the cases where results must adhere to a preferred paradigm) or “he said/she said” battles. And with today’s Internet access, what are the filters being used to discern what is true information from the junk? What are the standards to help us determine what is true or not?

Too many times I am seeing papers just repeat what is being said, but they do not find out if what is being said is actually true. In my graduate courses to get my teaching certification, this was the worst. In most of the papers I had to read, rarely could I tell if the author actually had anything to say on the topic. Most of the time, the papers were a regurgitation of what others said. Even when the sources had competing views, the papers were mostly “x says this”, “y says that.” I usually did not see if the author of the papers actually had anything to say about it.

Let me illustrate this with one example: UCSB has an on-line forum for questions and answers. One student asked about radiometric dating and the validity. Response #5 described how we can get within a 2-5% error rate and said that we can date a rock at 2.5 billion years with an error rate of 2 million years. This is clearly not thought out or checked out because a +/- rate of 2 million years requires a 0.08% error rate. If we have 2-5% error, that requires 50-125 million years. Did this responder check his sources, or did he just repeat what he read from what he thought was valid? I’ve tested this with several evolution supporters and they said the full quote was just fine. They did not check to see if what was said was valid or not.

This is a major problem. We have lots of people who can Google search, but can they sort out the good stuff from the junk? Do they even know what qualifies as good stuff or junk? When I am in a discussion on the Creation/Evolution debate, a good majority of the time the person I am discussing with can only repeat what is being said. They usually do not analyze for themselves what is actually being said. Now I understand that most of these people are lay people and they leave the upper level science to the “qualified experts.” But this is just admitting they are holding with blind faith that these scientists are doing their job right, are reporting their data correctly, etc. This also allows the dishonest ones to much more readily slip their junk through, because so few people are actually checking them out.

Many times, I see science articles like “Science Daily” and “Nature” and science textbooks and museum displays do the same thing. They don’t look at the actual scientific studies with any kind of analysis or reasonable scrutiny. They take what they see as fact because the “scientists are experts and know what they are doing.” Remember that all these sources are what the public considers to be science. And there is virtually no checking up on them. Where it really gets bad is when there is fierce backlash for trying to check up on some of this stuff. Let us not forget what American humorist Will Rogers once said: “Scientists get bigger and bigger reputations the more they talk about stuff you can’t check on.”

This is not just a science or education problem. It is also a theological problem. Too many times, I see well-meaning people take what a theologian says at his word rather than checking him out with Scripture. Too many people are more interested in what man says the Bible says, rather than what the Bible says the Bible says. I’ve seen many people on Facebook do a great job at citing preachers I don’t necessarily agree with, like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Rob Bell, and others. I’ve seen them post from preachers I do agree with like Paul Washer, Eric Ludy, Charles Spurgeon, and others. And there is nothing wrong with quoting them as it is. But are we checking out what they say with Scripture? I will be the first to say that not one person on this planet has 100% correct theology, except one: Jesus Christ. Paul Washer has a good interview where he tells us that if we are getting our spiritual feeding just from these pastors, including himself, and NOT looking at Scripture, we have ears but are not hearing, we have eyes but are not seeing. Now, we can glean from them. We can learn from them. No question there. But whom do we trust more? God and his Word, or these fallible men? Where is the Berean? Who is saying, “This is a false preacher/false teaching and here is why”? Who is saying, “This is a true preacher/true teaching and here is why”? Are we slamming what we hear against Scripture to see if it stands? Let us do that more. If it stands, great. If not, reject it.

There is a LOT of good stuff out there. But there is a lot of junk too. Bias always plays a role not matter who you are. Deception very often plays a role when money or politics are involved. And never forget that we have an enemy who has a sole purpose of leading us away from the truth. We know the truth is found in the Bible. When you hear someone speak, check it out. I’m speaking this to me as well as you. If anything I say here in my Worldview Warriors blog posts does not line up with Scripture, tell me. I take Jesus’ warning about a millstone very seriously. Just know I’ll be checking up on such claims with Scripture as well.

Know the truth. And when you know the truth, you will not be fooled by the false teachers nor be swept away by any teaching that comes and goes. To be a Berean means to test everything with Scripture. But what makes Scripture the standard that we use for testing? In the next three weeks, I’ll be discussing how the Bible is that standard. Next week, I’ll introduce you to the Canon Test, the criteria used to determine what could be included in the Bible or not. Don’t miss it.