Discerning motives?

(Joseph Bayly) #1

Hey everybody,

I think this is an area where there is some great discussion to be had. Obviously this is something we think is important, as we ask this question on the citizenship application:

Is it ever appropriate to judge someone else’s motives?

We also address it in our Town Charter/FAQ as follows:

On Judging Motives

Evangelicals have swallowed the belief that we should never judge someone elses’ motives. More than that, we must assume that everyone’s motives are pure as the wind-driven snow. That’s ridiculous.

Obviously, God alone can see the heart. And yet, it is foolishly naive to act as if we have no ability to discern motives. If this is a new concept to you, start here:

Still, I really like the following rules from another community I’m a part of:

When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names. “That is idiotic; 1 + 1 is 2, not 3” can be shortened to “1 + 1 is 2, not 3.”

Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that’s easier to criticize. Assume good faith.

These don’t directly contradict the idea of judging motives, but they do put a damper on the inclination to do so right away. And those rules also really help keep the quality of discussion high.

There are a lot of moving parts to this whole thing, just practically speaking. On top of that, @perrycog2000 gave some good scriptural guidelines on the topic. Would you mind sharing that here, Perry?

(Perry Coghlan) #2

I submit it must be done with great discernment and caution and, of course, it cannot be done perfectly. The Scripture guides us in this enterprise. For example, “out of the heart the mouth speaks.” So, yes I believe it is possible, with maturity and wisdom, to discern someone’s motives in order to “judge” them. The warning to us is that “by what standard we judge, we shall also be judged.” In the light of the 9th Commandment (and the Second Great Commandment) cautiousness, not perfection, is the requirement.