As a high school teacher, administering and grading tests is a regular part of my duties. Some of that testing is done in an objective manner, such as multiple choice, matching, true/false, etc. Some of it is done in a more subjective manner such as short answer/essay and free response. As one would expect, the objective portions of tests are much easier to grade, as they are straight forward; with answers clearly determined as correct or incorrect by a glance, or even faster, by a computer program. The subjective portions require more mental energy and time to evaluate.
When I am evaluating what a student has written in response to one of these questions, I need to assess them on how well they have actually answered the question. In order to do that properly, I need to have an in-depth understanding of what said question is asking. I need to be continuously conscious of what the question is asking while I am reading and trying to understand what the student has written, and evaluate their response against the correct range of responses and context of said question.
As one would expect, some of these student responses are going to be better than others. Some of the easiest and least time consuming responses to evaluate are the ones that are clearly written, directly answering the question, without any diversions from the topic or from what the question was genuinely asking. They are also usually written out and presented neatly and clearly, with no distractions of any sort. Any elaboration that may have been asked for is clearly within the boundaries specified and displays logic that is coherent and is easily followed, always remaining congruent with the intent of the question.
Blank responses are also easy to evaluate; no response, no credit; on to the next; very cut and dry, so to speak. Responses to mathematical questions with correct answers and clearly shown work, as well as wrong answers and no shown work are also cut and dry and easy to make a quick decision on.
The responses that are most time consuming and often frustrating to grade are the ones that are vague, difficult to read, unclear, debatably partially correct, perhaps all of the above, etc. Often times when I am trying to evaluate these abuses of the English language that are flat out torturous to the reader, to see if I can actually justify awarding any credit for them, I start to forget what the question was actually asking in the first place. I then have to stop where I am and go back and reread the question in order to reground my thought process.
I think that this principle also applies to the walk/discipleship of the Christian; Christian referring the one who has trusted Christ as Savior plus nothing for eternal life. Much like the content and context of a free response question its self is my standard for determining if a response to it on a test is correct, the content and context of Scripture needs to be the Christian’s standard for determining if what may be said or written by other people is correct. I know that I have come across many bad philosophies that claim to somehow be correct. Some of the folks who have put forth these things have thought them through very well and may be very convincing to some; even believers, at times. These bad philosophies can range from the ideas of the cynical atheist, the pseudointellectual agnostic, the sweet and serene follower and promoter of some eastern religious philosophy, the bitter but thoughtful friend who has rejected or “abandoned” the Gospel, the cult member who you may work alongside of, or who has perhaps come to your door.
Worse yet, bad, and sometimes convincing philosophies can often be promoted by respected pastors and teachers from well-known and respected “legitimate” churches. There are many ways to corrupt the Gospel; the most dangerous ones being the more subtle ones, such as the ever-present smorgasbord of lordship “salvation” philosophies that are discussed in numerous other places on this site. We often hear messages stating in one way or another that in order to get saved and inherit eternal life we must “count the cost,” that we must be ready to turn from and promise to turn from all of our sin, that we must be ready to totally commit our all to Christ, poses or muster up (a sort of faking…a lie) a gut wrenching sorrow for anything that we have ever done that is wrong, walk down a church aisle, pray the right prayer, etc. We may also even hear such false teaching to the effect that salvation is something that must be kept and maintained by the conduct and continuous “repentance” of the believer, and will be lost if adequate standards in relation to this are not continuously met. This all may sound very noble, pious and “spiritual,” but it is not Biblical.
Yes, as I have said over and over on this site, AS BELIEVERS we should indeed be counting the cost before we commit to any endeavor for Christ, we should be making an effort to resist temptations to sin, etc. However the unsaved man has no ability whatsoever to do any of this on his own; before he is saved and sealed with and empowered by the Holy Spirit; before he is born again. The Word of God, WHEN WE GO BACK AND READ IT, reminds us of this and assures us that when we have trusted Christ as Savior and believed the Gospel, that we possess eternal life. Something that we are in current possession of that is eternal cannot be lost; the Scriptures on this clearly speak for themselves. When we read the Scriptures we are also given clear instructions on how BELIEVERS are supposed to be striving to live. Scripture, when we read it, also reminds us that God does not repent of (change his mind about, or revoke) His gifts and callings (Romans 11:29).
There are many other examples of bad doctrine from both inside and outside of the visible Church. We must continuously remain grounded in Scripture; regularly (preferably daily; perhaps even more often) studying and rightly dividing it (2 timothy 2:15) so our minds stay congruent with the truth; being able to clearly and efficiently assess and evaluate false doctrine for what it is and award it the zero credit that it deserves.
Remember that Satan is very smart. As far as the unsaved person is concerned, as long as they do not truly trust Christ as Savior, he is fine with it. He knows, however that he has lost the believer forever; that salvation is a done deal and that there is no undoing it. Those passages are discussed in many places on this site. Satan’s objective concerning the believer is to somehow distract us and rob us of our joy, and make our witness nonexistent or at least as ineffective as possible. A believer doesn’t have to look far to know how successful he can be at that. Most of the time we needn’t even look beyond ourselves for the evidence. Satan’s best way of successfully doing this to a believer is to keep him distracted from the guideline and truth of Scripture.
Let us all stay in the Word; grounded in the truth, so we can continuously be free from being caught up in and misguided in Satan’s distractions and bad answers.