Avoiding the Whatever Syndrome

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Avoiding the Whatever Syndrome

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Obtaining a formal education has both benefits and challenges. The financial rewards for obtaining a college degree are easily documented. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, a person with a bachelor’s degree earns, on average, nearly twice as much as someone with only a high school diploma ($51,206 a year, compared to $27,915). Workers with an advanced degree make an average of $74,602.

But the money is secondary. More valuable is obtaining an education and continuing to learn throughout one’s life, being stimulated to think critically. Of course, while our thinking is often stimulated through higher education, we have to be careful that our thinking is also grounded in God’s truth as found in the Bible.

Learning to think critically on this level—that is, to carefully analyze what is being said in light of God’s Word—is one of the reasons Vertical Thought exists. We often refer to this kind of approach as vertical thinking, after the name of our magazine.

Those of us on the staff of this magazine pray that each of you will learn to filter what you hear and read through God’s Word regardless of the type of education you receive—whether formal, a trade school or self-directed. This skill is necessary for avoiding the whatever syndrome that characterizes people who can’t discern right from wrong. You’re familiar with this syndrome. It’s whatever you want to believe. It’s whatever someone else wants to believe. It’s simply whatever.

But whatever does not work with God. He alone makes the rules and determines truth. We only get to decide whether we will accept His authority and live by His instructions or not. We don’t get to reshape His rules for life and then judge ourselves as to whether we’ve been good or not. That is playing God. Regrettably, many today do play God. But that isn’t going to get us very far when we each have to look the real God in the eye and give an account for our conduct.

A recent study by religious pollster George Barna is titled “Commitment to Christianity Depends on How It Is Measured” (Nov. 8, 2005, www.barna.org ).While this study verifies what one would expect, Barna’s observation about the data is most insightful: “For starters, it appears that most Americans like the security and the identity of the label ‘Christian’ but resist the biblical responsibilities that are associated with that identification. For most Americans, being a Christian is more about image than action.

“Further,” he continued, “researchers and those who use research data must be careful how they portray people’s spiritual commitment. Such descriptions are greatly affected by the way in which commitment is measured.” When Jesus was walking this earth as a human being, He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×
). This real, authentic Christianity of the Bible includes action.

Could it be that the whatever syndrome has led people to mistakenly conclude that they don’t need to do anything to demonstrate their Christianity? Don’t let this happen to you! Be a critical thinker. Be a vertical thinker. Read this issue for some inspiration on how to do this as you take responsibility for your lifelong education. VT

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