I think I like this guy Larry Osborne, who is teaching pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, California.  Pastor Osborne just wrote a book entitled 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe (Multnomah Press 2009) in which he points out 10 “spiritual urban legends” which many thoughtful Christians (and maybe some pastors) consider to be true.  The book is well written and is endorsed by many evangelical leaders, including one of my former spiritual mentors, Pete Briscoe, senior pastor of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, Texas.

Osborne knows that busy folks like us may not be “smart” enough (or patient enough) to handle more than 10 issues at a time, so he limits the topics and the length of discussion to just under 200 pages, making this book a quick and easy read.  His book is well referenced to Scripture, and chock full of deep spiritual truths which underpin his obviously vibrant faith. 
CAUTION:  Osborne only scratches the surface of  much deeper messages which underscore the huge problem of doctrinal ignorance within the Church.  Furthermore, his solution is so simple and obvious that it almost hurts:  As thoughtful Christians, ALL of our beliefs must align with (and square with) Scripture.  Clearly, Osborne has more than just 10 doctrinal misunderstandings about which he could write.  Do I sense a sequel in the making, which could be called “10 MORE Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe”?

Osborne has been around long enough to know that stupid beliefs do not stand up to the lens of Scripture and do not pass muster in the throws of life.  He speaks with the clarity and honesty of a mature Christian believer who has personally encountered real pain and who empathizes deeply with those who are walking through the valley of adversity right now.  To enter the valley does not necessarily mean we have taken “a wrong turn” (which is Dumb Idea 9), particularly if God is leading us into that valley.  
The presumption that “everything happens for a reason”, wrongly inferred from Romans 8:28 (which is Dumb Idea 6), may cause well meaning Christians to treat those with serious illness insensitively. Osborne shares a touching account of such ill-informed well-wishing when his wife was sick with cancer.  
Osborne's handling of the false notion that “Christians shouldn't judge” (which is Dumb Idea 5) emphasizes that we must judge in order to “distinguish between truth and error”.  That includes judging the behavior of fellow Christians.  Further, “we miss out on truth” if we do not judge. 
And for anyone with the understanding that God has a blueprint for their life filled with specific things they must do (which is Dumb Idea 4), Osborne points out that the path toward holiness is less about finding someTHING than becoming someONE who reflects the character of Christ regardless of life’s circumstances.

His solution to the problem of doctrinal ignorance is straight forward.  We are to ask ourselves two questions in order to discern if an idea is true:  “(1) How does this idea or teaching match up with the way life really works? and (2) How does this idea or teaching match up with what the Bible says?  Not just one verse, but the ENTIRE Bible.” (see page 174).

Osborne opens and closes his book with the fairly radical and Biblical notion that it is our responsibility as church members (also called the priesthood of believers) to follow the example of the Bereans of the New Testament (see Acts 17:11).  Here, the apostle Paul welcomed the Bereans’ noble search for truth and encouraged them to discern the truth in everything that he taught them from the Scriptures.

 Healthy skepticism among church members as they seek to “align with the scriptures” isn't a sign of  "a lack of faith”.  Rather, it’s a sign of “a love of the truth”.  This approach may come as a bit of a shock to hyper-authoritarian pastors who are not used to the kind of critical thinking and dialogue that Osborne encourages among his church members, but such was the standard set by the Bereans for “spiritual myth busting”.

Osborne also knows that Christian pastors like to think of themselves as “smart Christians”, and it appears that he wants to help his colleagues avoid doing and teaching “dumb things”. Whether you are a pastor or a church member, and whether you think you are a dumb Christian or a smart Christian, Osborne encourages ALL of us to believe in what is scripturally true and to do those things which are wise according to the Bible.

I would respectfully submit to Pastor Osborne that one reason some “smart” Christians may believe dumb things is because they are being taught dumb things by certain pastors who think they are smart.  In other words, I think part of the problem is a lack of a “teachable spirit” and a lack of doctrinal accountability in Christian leadership.  It wouldn't hurt if these pastors listened a bit more closely to feedback from their parishioners on doctrinal matters.  What do they have to lose (other than their ego)?  The last time I checked my Bible, wisdom is not granted exclusively to those with an “M.Div.” after their name.  Who knows, these pastors might learn something and as a result use their pulpit humbly and responsibly to correct any misunderstandings on their part. 


 Unfortunately, I doubt that many hyper-authoritarian leaders would deal well with congregational feedback like:  “Pastor, I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but you just taught something that sounds a bit dumb to me”.  Transparency and peer review within the blogosphere are helpful tools in addressing this problem of pastoral ignorance and lack of humble teachability in the leadership of certain churches (see my guest blog post from 8-5-09: Pastoral Accountability and Christian Blogs: A New Form of Quality Assurance).

I think Osborne’s book is important, not so much because he deals with 10 doctrinal issues wisely, but because he uses those 10 examples to help us think more maturely as Christians as we strive to address ALL of the issues of life.  Pastor Osborne writes with such humility that I'm not sure he even thinks that he is a “smart” Christian.  But it is clear that what he believes and teaches has been carefully thought out in light of the Scriptures.  That makes him pretty "smart" to my way of thinking.  I sense the humility of one beggar trying to help other beggars like you and me find bread.  Such is the way of truth and servant leadership.  Maybe that’s why I think I like this guy.

Dr. Jon 

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