“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11, NIV)
Some people think that faith has nothing to do with careful thought and examination. They assume that faith is something you feel, or something you simply choose without critical examination or careful thought. One could, of course, choose to define faith in such a way. However, the type of faith that the Bible encourages is not at all incompatible with critical examination and careful thought.
Take the example provided by the Bereans in Acts 17:11. We are told that they examined the Scriptures every day to see if the message that Paul was presenting was true or not!
The Greek word translated as “examined” in that verse is related to our modern-day usage for “exercising critical judgment”. Thus, the Bereans exercised critical, careful thought when assessing whether what Paul said was consistent with the truth of Scripture.
Some may exclaim, “What? How audacious of them to judge critically the great apostle Paul’s teaching? Shouldn’t they have just humbly and submissively accepted the authority of the apostle’s teaching without question or thought?”
Whilst some might be hesitant to affirm such critical examination, the inspired biblical writer St Luke positively encourages it. He describes the Berean Jews as being of “more noble character” precisely because, unlike some others, they were diligent in exercising careful thought and critical examination. Theirs was a true faith that was inspired and nurtured through careful thought and examination.
Many people assume that critical thinking is synonymous with a dry and boring discourse or demeanour. But this cannot be said of these “noble” Bereans.
We are told that they combined their critical examination of Paul’s message with a “great eagerness” of spirit. They were both reasonable and enthusiastic in their faith – similar to how John Wesley is described by Henry D. Rack, a historian of Methodism, in his book, Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism.
Would that Methodists today might also be described, like the noble Bereans and John Wesley, as “reasonable enthusiasts”.
The Rev Dr Gordon Wong –
was re-elected President of Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) in 2016 for a second quadrennial term, but is primarily grateful to God for the gift of his wife Lai Foon and two children Deborah and Jeremy.
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