All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment: Reading Hannah Anderson While Thinking About 2020

We need discernment now more than ever. But it appears to be a disappearing commodity. Especially in 2020.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. There were only three sources of evening news television: CBS, ABC and NBC, but my parents liked Cronkite on CBS the best.

That started to change in the mid-1970s, when the Watergate affair blew the lid off of America’s innocence. While Nixon and his White House staff were under scrutiny practically every night, the MacNeil/Lehrer Report premiered on PBS, to eventually become the PBS Newshour. Having a new choice in where to get news was refreshing. Getting the news was still pretty simple back then, but it was about to get more complicated.

Way more complicated.

Cable TV in the 1980s brought a plethora of new television channels, along with other news networks. By 1992, Bruce Springsteen wrote the song “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).” And that was before the Internet exploded.


Fast forward to the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century. Except for my mother-in-law, I do not know anyone who watches the 6:30 Evening News anymore. We all have our cultivated social media feeds, podcasts, and streaming radio news sources, designed to fit our preferences. Not since the dawn of movable type, that catapulted an obscure German monk, Martin Luther, to become the best known person in Europe, have we seen anything like it, in world history. For medieval Europe, the voice of Rome was the voice of newsworthy authority, until Luther came along, as the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

Luther almost single-handedly cracked the traditional authority of the medieval church, through the power of his printed words, as they rolled off the printing press. Then when Luther came into conflict with other Reformers, over the nature of the Lord’s Supper, even the Protestant Reformation movement began to splinter. The Christian church obviously survived the crisis, and even thrived as Christianity continued to spread across the world. However, the church was fractured in ways that we are still deeply struggling with, 500 years later. The voice of Rome became but one voice, alongside a plethora of Protestant voices. But this is nothing like what we have with the Internet and social media landscape, of the first quarter of the 21st century.

Historian Brad S. Gregory makes the case in his The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (another book on my to-be read list), that the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation have led to “hyperpluralism of beliefs, intellectual disagreements that splinter into fractals of specialized discourse, the absence of a substantive common good, and the triumph of capitalism’s driver, consumerism.” These days I tend to think that he might be right.

You can even go to a website now that displays “The Media Bias Chart,” showing how an amazing spread of news organizations, including Christian ones, fall on a scale, with “Neutral” in the middle, and “Most Extreme Left” to “Most Extreme Right,” on either side. There are so many “news sources” out there now, I can not even count them all. All you need is an iPhone and an Internet connection, and you can become your own news source.

The Internet has revolutionized global society, and taken the Christian church with it. Today, we have Protestantism on-steroids. Everyone has their “own interpretation” about everything, it seems. And, as a professional Information Technology specialist, who builds computer networks for a living, I helped to make it all happen.


Even scarier: I have been in the business of computer science and Internet technology for 35 years… and not once has a church pastor or youth group leader asked me (or someone else, with my technical background … I freely admit that I am not the best speaker) to speak to parents about how Internet technology really works. Now, perhaps such church leaders have other resources to help address this problem. I pray that this is, in fact, the case. But my honest observation, from my vantage point, is that most church leaders take a “head in the sand” approach to social media.

A recent documentary, The Social Dilemma, features interviews with Internet technologists at Google, Facebook, and other monster social media companies, explaining how the simple practice of searching for something in a Google search box, or thumbing through new entries in your Pinterest feed, has been carefully tailored to manipulate you, and get you hooked on using the technology. Technology pioneers, like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and the late inventor of the Apple iPhone, Steve Jobs, both limited their children’s use of smartphone technology. Bill Gates refused to get a smartphone for his children until they reached the age of 14.

Sadly, I see Christian parents all of the time handing out smartphones to their 12-year old kids in middle school, if not even earlier! It is as though many Christian parents are either being pushed by peer pressure or they are amazingly unaware that by giving such powerful technology to young children, that they are potentially exposing them to forms of addictive behavior, which is already having a negative impact on a whole generation of teenagers. All of this is leading to confusion as to how we can help a growing generation of young people develop the art of discernment, ranging from how a person can wisely consume news and information, to even the most addictive form of all, unfettered and almost endless pornography.

Wow. We are in deep trouble.


It is with this backdrop of information overload, addiction, and disinformation that I read this selection from Hannah Anderson’s 2018 book, All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment. Hannah was writing about what draws her to enjoy murder mystery novels, and these few paragraphs hit me like a bolt of lightning (page 84):


You don’t have to be a student of world history or a fan of murder mysteries to understand why truth is so important to discerning goodness–just look at your social media feed. Unlike the compact boundaries of a village, the digital world sprawls, leaving us with a type of informational vertigo. But it’s not simply that we have too much information; it’s that we have too little shared reality. Like the characters in a mystery, we don’t know what is true and what isn’t. We can’t agree on who is an expert and who isn’t. So more often than not, we simply craft our own reality and can’t be bothered with whether we share it with anyone else or not.

The result is a confusing muddle experience of the world. When my “facts” collide with your “facts,” it results in anger, conflict, mistrust, and isolation. Family members blocking and unfriending family members. Perfect strangers yelling and belittling each other. Communities coming apart at the seams– not simply because we can’t agree on what is good and valuable, but because we can’t agree on what is true anymore. And slowly but surely, our separately constructed realities cut us off from each other and lead us to solitude. Surrounded by a mass of people, we feel unloved and misunderstood, for the simple fact that we’ve created millions of worlds with a population of one.

Because shared reality is necessary to a good, flourishing life, Paul begins Philippians 4:8 by calling us to first seek “whatever is true.” The importance of shared reality to a good, flourishing life also explains why the serpent attacked truth from the start and why Jesus links falsehood with murder. “You are of your father the devil,” He says in John 8:44. “He was the murderer from he beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. … He is a liar and the father of lies.” When the serpent lied to the woman about the consequences of disobedience, he, in effect, murdered her, bringing death and isolation upon the human race.

And when we lie to and about each other, we destroy the bonds of community that sustain life, effectively destroying the people in them.


That pretty much sums up what I see in American culture these days, and in the evangelical church, in particular. As a side note, a few years ago, I discovered Hannah Anderson, the wife of a pastor in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and a blogger at She came on my radar after being forced to think through the theological issues, regarding the complementarian/egalitarian controversy, that continues to divide evangelical churches today, and Hannah came across to me as someone who thinks deeply theologically about what it means to be male and female, created in the image of God. However, she apparently thinks deeply about other matters, too, in a way that stretches and renews me spiritually.

As I have been reading her All That’s Good, it has helped to remind me just how important is for Christians to be pursuers of truth. Discernment seems to be something lacking in a number of the Christian circles I come across, so All That’s Good has been a great source for thinking through, what it means to know truth, and meditate on how we come to know that truth. Hannah has another great section that explores epistemology, a ten-dollar word for the study of knowledge and opinions. It answers questions like: How do we know what we know?” (page 86). She explains why discernment of what the Holy Spirit is saying to us must be grounded in factual reality:


While it’s true that God guides us to truth through His Spirit, it won’t happen apart from the physical reality that He has ordained for us. After all, we don’t have a sensory experience of the world by accident– God made us both spiritual and physical, and we dare not reject either. Because of this truth must be rooted in factual reality. Facts are not the sum total of all that is true, but truth is not a set of privately held beliefs that cannot be tested by other people. The information that we use to come to our decisions and opinions to come under scrutiny. We must not be offended when people ask us to prove them. We must not expect people to accept anyone else’s opinions simple because they claim that they are true.


This is especially true in how much of American evangelicalism portrays the Christian faith today, particularly as I look back on 2020. We sadly also have far too many Christian celebrities, who make a name for themselves, through their charisma and winsome personalities, instead of investing in the type of true spiritual discernment that Hannah Anderson is arguing for.

Too many have made claims that the Holy Spirit has given them private revelations, that others are unable to confirm, and that lack a convincing grasp of Scriptural knowledge ( I appreciate legitimate concerns about voter fraud, but I have to ask some questions:  What was that whole crazy “Jericho March” really supposed to be about?….. Eric Metaxas is a very funny and sweet Christian man, but is he claiming to be a prophet, or is he just pulling our leg?…. We are about to find out in less than a month).

Others have unintentionally or even intentionally redefined traditional theological categories to unwittingly make room for anti-Christian ideologies to permeate the church (is critical theory, or “wokeness,” really just a tool to help in recasting Martin Luther King Jr’s biblical vision of a colorblind society, or is it an ideological agenda bent on undercutting classic Christianity with Neo-Marxism propaganda?).

Others have gained the acclaim of their followers, while living lives that lack sufficient accountability (who was asking the tough questions in apologist Ravi Zacharias’ life, particularly when doubts about Ravi began to surface five years ago, if not sooner?). Others have been elevated as leaders, despite lacking the theological foundations and spiritual maturity that should help them to weather the storms of life. The cause of truth suffers as a result.

That can all sound quite depressing. So, it would be best to end on a brighter, and still truthful, note.

Thankfully, there are millions of Christ followers who humbly and quietly follow Jesus, loving God and loving their neighbors, sharing their faith and living out Christ-likeness in very concrete ways, whose stories never show up in our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Godly Christian parents are training up their children to be confident in their faith, with no Pinterest fanfare. Across the world, thousands are coming to know Christ, despite persecution of the faith. For example, in Iran alone, a great spiritual revival is happening there, where Christianity is growing faster there than anywhere else in the world, despite the pandemic. Even in America, the growth of small groups of believers meeting either in person or on Zoom potentially signals a revitalization of American Christianity, during the time of COVID. A mission my wife and I support, International Cooperating Ministries, is on the verge of building their 10,000th church! The accessibility of high-quality, peer-reviewed biblical scholarship to the average Christian is at an all-time high, due to the ease of the Internet. A new crop of young, knowledgeable Christian apologists are having a huge impact in defending the faith on YouTube , for the up and coming generation. Just one example: Aside from Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message, YouTube apologist Michael Jones’ (a.k.a. Inspiring Philosophy) “The Lost Message of the Bible” was in my mind this years best YouTube Christmas video, encouraging me to dig more into the Bible, and share the Good News of Jesus with others! ….  So, there are still plenty of good reasons to rejoice, even in an era when spiritual discernment more generally seems to be in short supply.

Hannah Anderson goes on in other chapters, exploring more themes derived from Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.” This is not really a super-heady book, but it still helped me to think more deeply about where I am with God, and where the church of Jesus Christ is today. Sprinkled with her own family anecdotes, and wise thinking, this is the best devotional type of writing I read all year.

Just get the book and read it, if you want to see what I mean. It will be like balm to your soul.

Onward to 2021!


About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

17 responses to “All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment: Reading Hannah Anderson While Thinking About 2020

  • Clarke Morledge

    Insightful analysis from Denny Burk as to why conservatives do not trust the mainstream media anymore:

    I agree with Burk that there was at least some voter fraud in this election (just as there has been in most every election!!), but not enough voter fraud that can be substantiated by available evidence to warrant overturning the results of the 2020 Presidential election. But the long term consequence of distrust in the mainstream media is that it will lead to continued polarization for years to come.


  • Clarke Morledge

    We have some major discernment issues in the evangelical church today:

    “Vice President Pence has the ability to elect the President himself and Jericho March calls on him to exercise his rightful power in the face of the blatant election fraud and corruption,” the group said in a statement.


    Wow. If anyone reads the Constitution (see below), you will see that the VP does not have the right to override the elector selection process, as the Constitution explicitly puts this power into the hands of the states, and not the VP. The Jericho March people are calling for Mike Pence to break the law. If these people read the Constitution so poorly, I wonder how well they read the Bible?

    US Constitution: Article II, Section 1, Clause 2:

    Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.


  • Clarke Morledge

    Sure enough. Eric Metaxas fully believes that the attackers who stormed the Capital today were infiltrated by Antifa, as if the only folks who perpetrated acts of violence were Antifa persons posing as Trump supporters, complete with MAGA hats and Trump 2020 flags. All the “mainstream media” to blame, of course….. Someone like me is simply a “sucker”, a tool being used by “The Left”. ….. Uh, yeah.

    The thing about a conspiracy theory is that no matter what evidence you try to bring up to fact-check a claim, or even to ask for evidence to support the theory, the conspiracy theory mindset has a way to selectively sift through such allegations, and turn the sliver of a possibility into a most probable scenario.

    Incredibly sad. No wonder why so many people today lack confidence in the Gospel being proclaimed by so many Christians:

    This is like something out of the Twilight Zone.


  • Clarke Morledge

    Sorry, Eric Metaxas. There is good evidence to indicate that you are wrong about this. Perhaps there were some Antifa people interspersed in the crowd, but the rest of story challenges the narrative you wish to hold….. But since you probably are not interested in considering the other side, this will not change your mind. But perhaps, a more cautious person might think more carefully about this:


  • Clarke Morledge

    Much of this debate about the election results, and what happened at the Capital yesterday comes down to who has the burden of proof. In support of Eric Metaxas’ argument, here is posted video of an Antifa supporter, attempting to break into the Capital, being stopped and booed by Trump supporters. OK. This looks legit.
    But does this effectively explain the violence from hundreds of other individuals who stormed the Capital, not just this one example? From Eric’s perspective, only Antifa was to blame for the violence, and anyone else who wants to dispute this claim bears the burden of proof. Someone like myself looks at it differently, believing that Antifa was the outlier here, and that it was mostly extreme Trump supporters who were responsible for the bulk of the violence….. so the burden of proof rests on Eric’s shoulders.

    This just seems like a never-ending game of “wack-a-mole.”

    Trump officials, who resigned in support of VP Mike Pence, are called “cowards”, for their insistence that the rule of law, per the Constitution be kept.

    Kind of difficult to have meaningful fruitful dialogue with this kind of epistemological impasse:


    • Clarke Morledge

      Yeah, Eric Metaxas. Obviously this was Antifa posing as Trump supporters waving American flags, with MAGA hats on, shouting “USA, USA”, ….. attacking the U.S. Capital security forces…. joining in singing hymns and Christian songs just moments later (???)…. yeah, Antifa….. RIGHT…..

      ….. But of course, in the mind of Eric Metaxas, it is I who must bear the burden of proof and demonstrate that these folks were not Antifa-posers. …. OR even more to the point, what about the failure to stop the radical Black Lives Matter protests? What about this? What about that? *SIGH*

      Of course, there will be a different spin on this from the far-right MAGA side. Something that I have never considered, that will require yet another answer. It just keeps going and going. Wack-a-mole again and again.

      All the while, the WOKE LEFT just gets reinforced with their disdain for conservative Christians… encouraging them to double-down on their radical agenda even more….. it just seems to get worse and worse.

      This Republican Congressman, Peter Meijer, an evangelical Christian, had to the courage the call yesterday’s attack on the Capital exactly what it was….. of course, Meijer will undoubtedly be called a “coward” for not standing up for the President:

      Thankfully, in a little over 24 hours after this, President Trump finally announces that there will be a smooth transition of power to the next administration. Why he did not announce this sooner, and repeatedly, over and over again, is beyond my ability to comprehend. The crisis has been adverted for now, but the postmodern spirit continues to seduce many well-meaning people, including many Christians among them…. sadly, many Christians will suffer needlessly because of this. Just pitiful.

      God help us.

      Oh, Lord. Come quickly. Spare us from ourselves.


  • Clarke Morledge

    Recap 2 days later…. let’s see how the chaos of social media news is leading people to have different sets of “facts” to work with, just as Hannah Anderson tells us in her book.

    Mother Jones, on the far left, is making the whole Capital incident about racism, as expected:

    Towards left of center, CNN focuses on the Democrats bringing up impeachment, led by Democrat Pelosi (as opposed to a Republican), while also upholding Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN ambassador as a critic of the President, while Trump-loyalist who once liked her, have now thrown her under the bus:

    Moving towards the center right, the Wall Street Journal also acknowledges the impeachment efforts, but with less focus on Pelosi…. while also publishing opinion pieces critical of the President:

    Then, on over to the far right, at One America News (OAN), we read the headline “Chicago Police Union President: Far-left infiltrated Capitol protests”….. but if you read closer, you find that they conveniently fail to note that Antifa’s presence at the Capital was minimal.

    All the while the center right is treated like the left, from the far right, and the center left is treated like the right, from the far left.

    In the meantime, both Twitter and Facebook threaten free speech by suspending President Trump temporarily (Twitter) and permanently (Facebook), which is the completely wrong thing to do.

    That’s pretty much our crazy world today, and Christians go right along with it.

    I need a break.

    …. Come to think it: The best thing for any of us to do is to pray.

    …… JUST ONE MORE THING: As I was finishing up my comment on this post, I just learned that Twitter finally banned President Trump. This is just awful. I respect David French’s perspective in most cases, in the current crisis, but aside from the fact that Twitter is a private company, and can ban whomever they want, I completely reject David French’s argument that Twitter should ban Donald Trump. Without freedom of speech, democracy can not exist. Sorry, David French, I respectfully disagree. Eric Metaxas is surely wrong, but the action that David French is endorsing here sets an absolutely horrible precedent:

    I believe Trump bears a lot of responsibility here, but the pressure from Trump’s antagonists on the left have managed to silence him, which is just the OPPOSITE of freedom of speech…. and with the loss of freedom of speech, the threat to the freedom of worship is not far behind. I hope Rod Dreher is dead wrong here, but the payback for what happened on Wednesday night is coming, and it will be big…. I pray that the season will be short, but it may not….

    As for me, I intend to follow Jesus, and seek to be an “ambassador for Christ,” instead of a “jerk for Jesus”. I still believe in the power of persuasion, that the Holy Spirit can and will turn hearts.

    …. With that in mind…. Back to prayer.


    • Clarke Morledge

      Trump was wrong in how he fanned the flames for right-wing extremism, and he is a deranged maniac. But by Twitter and Facebook banning him, it sets a terrible precedent. Where will this censorship stop? Will the rules be evenly applied? Who determines those rules, and why? True, Twitter and Facebook are both private companies, and can ban whomever they want. Granted. But we are also a society for free speech, and we must protect the freedom of speech, even when we strongly disagree with others when they say outrageous things. Hopefully, these bans are just temporary, in order to lower the temperature. But will these moves truly lower the temperature, or just make the polarization worse?? We need more conversation, not less.

      Lord help us. Lord help us. Lord help us.

      …… One more thing today: Brett Weinstein reports on the madness response from Evergreen University, about the incident at the Capital. If you do not know who Brett Weinstein is, read my post about his experience at Evergreen University here. If you thought Donald Trump was crazy, you have not seen anything yet until read about what happened to Brett Weinstein. Leftist ideology on steroids, coming to your neighborhood:


  • Clarke Morledge

    Some resources on the current constitutional crisis (Spoiler alert: Mike Pence did the right thing by not interfering with electoral college certification process. That is the States business, and not something that a Federal government official can reject):


  • Clarke Morledge

    There is a lot of “whataboutism” going around about how the BLM protests went too far this past summer. If anyone has read the Veracity blog this past summer knows, it is stunning at just how crazy folks on the extreme woke left have taken a legitimate concern about racism, and have completely fold it into a worldview narrative that shows no restraint…. and no signs of it abating any time soon. But now we have the whole Capital debacle to deal with on the extreme right…. which unfortunately has fooled a lot of well-meaning, well-intentioned, but horribly misinformed Christians, in its wake.

    This Christian believes that Jesus told him to go in and participate in the insurrection of the Capital. How is it that Jesus does not speak like this to me?

    Analysis of the Capital insurrection, which of course was led by Antifa supporters posing as Trump supporters, who believed that the election was stolen…. right? Or was it Trump supporters posing as Antifa supporters, posing as Trump supporters? Or was it something even more sinister? How about Antifa supporters, posing as Trump supporters, posing as Antifa supporters, posing as Trump supporters? …… I need a flow chart diagram to try to follow this whole thing. It is so confusing and convoluted:


  • Clarke Morledge

    Well, it looks like the “unity” that Joe Biden promised might really mean “uniformity.” Andrew Sullivan is a secular liberal, who thinks that the polices of the far left are being institutionalized already in Biden’s first week in office. Of course, a good bit of this is the type of complete nonsense that Trump supporters have feared all along. It looks like we might be in for a tough and divisive next four years. I am posting this here now, so I can come back to check and see how well things have really gone since Biden’s first week in office:

    Former New York Times columnist, Bari Weiss, left the Times due to its extreme liberal bent, in its media reporting. She tells us that she voted for Biden, but is greatly concerned that the far left policies, that seem to be in vogue at the New York Times, are making their way into the new Biden administration agenda. Get ready for a solid thrust of Critical Race Theory coming to your neighborhood and workplace.

    Just a snippet here:

    “……..On his first day in office, President Biden rescinded Trump’s executive order [banning CRT indoctrination]. That’s not a good sign.

    Do we still believe in Dr. King’s dream, in which we are all judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin? Or do enough of us now believe in a kind of collective guilt, that skin color determines our place in a new caste system?

    For the past few weeks I’ve been talking to teachers and parents across the country about the takeover of American schools by this illiberal ideology, which disguises itself as “social justice” and “anti-racism” but indoctrinates children as young as kindergarten to see everything and everyone through the lens of race.

    It’s an important story that’s been largely overlooked, and I’m eager to report it out……”

    Of course, someone will eventually come back at me and complain why I was so critical of Eric Metaxas’ blind allegiance to Trump-mania… *SIGH*

    I hope people who say such things will come back and read this.


  • Clarke Morledge

    The concept that Twitter proposes sounds admirable, but we will have to wait and see how well it works:


  • Clarke Morledge

    It is very difficult to take the claims of massive voting fraud, directly involving Dominion Voting Systems, flipping millions of votes with their software, when former promoters of the claim officially backtrack and remove articles that originally promoted the con.

    Does that mean that there were not other instance of voting fraud? No, it does not. We should take great interest in resolving problems with our voting system. But it does mean that particular, extraordinary claims, like those leveled against Dominion Voting Systems should be examined with a great deal of skepticism.


  • Clarke Morledge

    I do not condone the use of profanity in this video, but this discussion between Bret Weinstein and guest Daniel Schmachtenberger brilliantly shows why consuming social media is just like eating junk food. Daniel Schmachtenberger specializes in studying how we can make our online world more “anti-fragile”:


  • Clarke Morledge

    David French on QAnon and why it is so hard to reach out to conspiracy theorists:


  • Clarke Morledge

    Attorney Sidney Powell, who alleged that Dominion Voting Systems voting machines threw the elections in Biden’s favor, with hundreds of thousands of votes, has now backed off from her claim….. (all “in the name of Jesus” I am sure….. why she felt compelled to make this a media spectacle, as a Christian, is beyond my comprehension).

    But what is sad about all of this is that she views those who believed what she was saying about Dominion were simply fools:


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