Should Christians Judge?

Occasionally, we receive correspondence from individuals (liberal, progressive, postmodern, moral relativist, monist, etc.) which are judgmental and seek to censor our liberty in Christ and our obligation to exercise judgment/discernment (1 Cor. 2:15).  Curiously, these individuals fail to see the blatant contradiction and hypocrisy of their own position--that of engaging in the very behavior which they CLAIM is religiously, philosophically or politically unacceptable.  Typically, they quote Matthew 7:1 out of context "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." as a 'proof text' to the exclusion of what the remainder of Scripture has to say on this important subject.  Of course, their motive is often that of intimidating anyone who would seek to discern error/falsehood from truth, or immorality from virtue.  Consider the following thoughts written by Miles J. Stanford.   



The terms "judge," or "judgment," are used in different ways in the Word of God; their meanings and usage are mainly governed by the context in which they are found.

When they mean to condemn, to sentence, or to punish, man [individually] is to leave that prerogative with God.  "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19).   [During "the times of the Gentiles," God has established government--civil authority--as His earthly delegated representative/agent to administer justice upon evildoers.  See  Romans 13:1-7.
]

At other times the words mean to distinguish, to decide, to determine, to conclude, to try, to think, and to call into question.  This is what God would have believers do in love, especially as to whether or not preaching and teaching is true or false to His Word. Paul wrote, "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent" (Philippians 1:9,10).

The Lord Jesus both warns and commands to "Beware of false prophets" (Matthew 7:15).  We could not "beware," or know a false prophet unless we exercised true judgment.  For that we are given the correct standard: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).

There are realms in which the believer is generally not to judge.  In most instances he is not to judge whether or not a person is saved, if he professes to be scripturally* born again. "The Lord knoweth them that are his" (2 Timothy 2:19).

Nor are we to judge another's motives.  Only God can see into the heart and know the motives that underlie actions.  (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)  [However, Scripture does allow for some exceptions--e.g. Philippians 1:15-18].

And we are not to judge believers concerning the eating of certain kinds of foods or drink, or keeping certain days, etc.  (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33; and Colossians 2:16,17)

All too many believers remain immature or are actually drawn into error because they seek to exercise love apart from Scripture-guided discernment and judgment.  Christians who are mature, of "full age," are "those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14).

One of the reasons for the Church being in such a sickly condition today is that believers have not obeyed the commands of God's Word to judge error.  "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).  The false teachers make the "divisions," and not those who protest against their errors.

An often misapplied Scripture is "Judge not" (Matthew 7:1).  This is a command against hypocritical judgment, and is not directed to those who in love and sincerity discern whether a teacher or teaching is true or false to the Word.
  "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considereth not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (Matthew 7:1-5).

Actually, the last statement of this Scripture commands sincere judgment: "then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."  We are not to forget nor seek to avoid the fact that our Lord Jesus commanded us to "judge righteous judgment."  He commended one, "Thou hast rightly judged."  He asked others, "Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" (John 7:24; Luke 7:43; 12:57).  Paul wrote, "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say."  Again, "He that is spiritual judgeth all things" (1 Corinthians 10:15; 2:15).

It is all too common and easy for Christians to assume a critical and censorious attitude toward those who do not share their opinions about matters other than those which have to do with Bible doctrine and moral practice.  But it is our privilege and duty to do all we can to encourage their spiritual growth.  We are to love and pray for one another, and to consider ourselves lest we be tempted.  The safest and most profitable thing to do is to judge ourselves. "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened (child trained) of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:31,32).

It will make all the difference if we judge our own faults as uncharitably as we do the faults of others; and judge the failings of others as charitably as we do our own!

* Mr. Stanford's statement was written several decades ago, when the profession to be "scripturally born again" was largely if not exclusively used in fundamental/evangelical circles.  Accordingly, the exercise of discernment was conditioned upon a "scriptural" profession.  It was never his intention to convey the idea that it was impossible to discern who are true Christians and who are imposters, e.g. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.  Today, the term "born again" has been prostituted and carries numerous meanings.  Believers have both the right and the obligation to discern (judge) when the term is abused or the context is not scriptural.   Dan R. Smedra


Further comments by Dan R. Smedra

  • BIBLICAL KNOWLEDGE -- An understanding (judgment), supernaturally given to new-creation Christians by God the Holy Spirit, concerning a specific proposition, statement, or point-of-view; the truth or falsehood of which is adequately supported by the Word of God--the Bible.  In theological terms, the process by which such certain knowledge is obtained is referred to as "illumination" and is the sole privilege of new-creation Christians.  Despite human fallibility, illumination produces genuine (qualitative, not exhaustive) knowledge—knowledge with "epistemological certainty." 

    We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him", but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.  The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.

  • OPINION -- Opinion is a point of view regarding any proposition, statement, theory or event, the truth or falsehood of which is supported by evidence.  This evidence renders the viewpoint probable, but does not produce the degree of knowledge or certainty mentioned above.  Opinions often contain some degree of bias and can be speculative in nature.  Because men and women originally were created in the image of God, they possess a God-given right to form opinions, but only in those areas in which the Bible is silent or unclear.  To assert a differing opinion where God has provided clarity is arrogance and an act of independence/rebellion; it is sin.

  • PREJUDICE and BIGOTRY -- Prejudice is a premature, emotionally-adverse perspective, which is formed without awareness or regard for evidence or facts.  Bigotry is prejudice push to an extreme.  It finds expression in an emotionally-controlled, unreasonable, and obstinate attitude and often seeks to masquerade as opinion.  Because God is reasonable, just, and fair, both prejudice and bigotry are ungodly; they are sin.

  • BULLSHIT -- First, an apology for use of this 'expletive' term.  However, given its ubiquitous presence in today's society, it's important to provide a clear definition so that you can accurately identify it when it's encountered.  The rise of 'bullshitting' and 'bullshitters' is directly related to the rise in forms of philosophic relativism, which reject categories of truth and error.  Without these philosophical categories, or the ability to discern the difference, all dialogue is reduced to the level of propaganda and/or the exercise of power.  Since no viewpoint can be more "true" than another, superiority of argument is measured according to the wit, skill, stealth, or force by which the viewpoint is presented.

Bullshit is commonly used to describe statements made by people more concerned with the response of the audience than in truth and accuracy, such as goal-oriented statements made in the field of politics or advertising.

"Bullshit" does not necessarily have to be a complete fabrication; with only basic knowledge about a topic, bullshit is often used to make the audience believe that one knows far more about the topic by feigning total certainty or making probable predictions. It may also merely be 'filler' or nonsense that, by virtue of its style or wording, gives the impression that it actually means something.

In his essay 'On Bullshit' (originally written in 1986, and published as a monograph in 2005), philosopher Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University characterizes bullshit as a form of falsehood distinct from lying. The liar, Frankfurt holds, knows and cares about the truth, but deliberately sets out to mislead instead of telling the truth. The "bullshitter", on the other hand, does not care about the truth and is only seeking to impress. It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

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