What Do Christians Mean By Discernment?


Discernment is a term used in Christian tradition to describe the process of discerning God's will for one's life. In large part, it describes the interior search for an answer to the question of one's vocation, namely, determining whether or not God is calling one to the married life, single life, religious life; ordained ministry or priesthood (Roman Catholic or Anglican/Episcopal) or any other ministerial calling by virtue of Baptism. The concept is not limited to ordination or vowed life.

All moral conduct may be summed up in the rule: avoid evil and do good. In the language of Christian asceticism, spirits, in the broad sense, is the term applied to certain complex influences, capable of impelling the will, the ones toward good, the others toward evil.

However, in the restricted sense, spirits indicate the various spiritual agents which, by their suggestions and movements, may influence the moral value of our acts. Concupiscence, disturbances of the imagination and errors of sensibility, thwart or pervert the operations of the intellect and will, by deterring the one from the true and the other from the good (Genesis 8:21; James 1:14). In opposition to our vitiated nature, or so to speak, to the flesh which drags us into sin, the Holy Spirit acts within us by grace, a supernatural help given to our intellect and will to lead us back to good and to the observance of the moral law (Epistle to the Romans 7:22-25). Besides these two spirits, the human and the Divine, in the actual order of Providence, two others must be observed. The Creator willed that there should be communication between angels and men, and as the angels are of two kinds, good and bad, the latter try to win us over to their rebellion and the former endeavour to make us their companions in obedience. Hence four spirits lay siege to our liberty: the angelic and the Divine seeking its good, and the human (in the sense heretofore mentioned) and the diabolical its misery.

Next page - Scriptural Basis of Discernment

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.
Ben Stein
Commentary
Ring of Light Saint Catherine
of Alexandria
The Discernment Web Ring
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