Guiding principles: Think and let think

Think and let think

Now, before you get the impression that this blog is going to be about controversial issues between the scientific and faith communities, let me assure you otherwise. I have no intention of trying to argue one view or another. As I have said before, I value unity in the church over convincing anyone that my view is the right view. My goal with this blog is simply to explore what we can learn about our Creator from His creation, and vice versa. I am both a biologist and an avid outdoorsman – I love the Lord and His creation and want to see His hand in everything.

But I do feel that I owe the reader a brief explanation of the principles that guide my thoughts about God, creation, and science.

Technically, I’m not a member of the Church of the Nazarene. But I went to a Nazarene college, gave my life to Christ at that Nazarene college, attended a Nazarene church for a year, and now work for the same Nazarene college. So it’s fair to say that I have been strongly influenced by Nazarene theology and practices.

The Church of the Nazarene arose in the early years of the 20th century out of the Methodist movement of John Wesley. Wesley preached on personal holiness among a people who think, speak, and live “according to the method laid down in the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1

Wesley also talked about the importance of unity among believers, holding to a core set of beliefs dogmatically, but willing to disagree in areas that are not central to the gospel message.

“But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.”1

This phrase, “think and let think,” has been used to describe Methodist and Nazarene theology for decades. It has also been criticized by some who rightly say that such theological freedom can lead to theological diversity and even controversy within the church. But freedom has always been a hallmark of the gospel message: freedom from sin and bondage, and freedom to love God or walk away. It was a risk the Father was willing to take, and I think it’s a risk we must also be willing to take.

And Jesus points to the same idea as well when He says that, to inherit eternal life, one must “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Thinking, and thinking deeply, is part of loving God.

So how does this principle impact my own thinking about faith, science, and nature? I believe that Christians need to be willing to disagree with one another on issue that are not central to the gospel. Admittedly, that leaves room for some interpretation of what constitutes “central to the gospel”. But in general I think most of us can reasonably identify core and non-core Christian faith issues.  And it is in these arenas where we must jealously defend and protect our unity above our drive to be right or to convince others of the correctness of our view. There’s nothing that makes the enemy happier than to drive the church apart over non-essential issues. So we choose to think and let think.

 

Questions for further thought

Does the phrase “open-minded” scare you?

How well do you relate to other Christians who do not agree with you on certain topics, or who don’t see the world the same way?

How do you define the “root of Christianity”?

 

Prayer

Father God, give us humble hearts as we approach our brothers and sisters with whom we may disagree. Teach us to be good listeners and gentle teachers. Show us which subjects are at the “root of Christianity”, which of our beliefs are worth fighting for. Teach us to think and let think without compromising our core beliefs. In the name of Jesus, amen.

1 From Wesley’s sermon, “The Character of a Methodist” as recorded in The Works of John Wesley (1872), the Thomas Jackson edition.

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About Dave Cummings

Dave Cummings is a husband, father of three, college professor, biologist, and urban outdoorsman. Most importantly, he is a Christ follower.
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