Exploring Christianity – Part 9 – Open mindedness

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Here’s the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity.

Nicholas asked, “Christianity, like so many religions, insists that it encompasses the ultimate truth. Therefore, to be Christian is to believe that to disagree with this ‘truth’ is to be wrong. This in mind, is it possible to be Christian and open-minded at the same time?”

Yes.

And in a very real sense, people of faith (not just Christians) are clearly more open minded than atheists in at least one way: We submit that things can have material (physical) or spiritual causes.  The atheist only considers material causes for everything in the universe, including concepts such as trust, love, justice, etc.  That doesn’t make us right, but it does show that we take all possibilities into consideration.

Everyone makes truth claims – atheists and agnostics included – and that doesn’t impact their ability to be open-minded.  You can be a Christian and be open or closed-minded and you can be an atheist and be open or closed-minded.

Christians have wrestled with all the tough questions for 2,000 years.  (Why do the wicked prosper?  Why do bad things happen to good people? etc.)  And most of these were already addressed in the Bible – check out Job, Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, etc.  The stereotype of blind faith is simply inaccurate.  On a large scale, the Reformation would never have happened if Luther et al weren’t thinking critically. 

I think it was Augustine who said, “All truth is God’s truth.”  We believe that the Bible contains God’s truth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other truths outside the Bible.  The Apostle Paul, for example, was obviously very well read.  John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, said, “Religion without reason is no religion at all.”

Clear thinking is a Christian virtue.  Here are just a couple examples.  (BTW, this was probably just a coincidence, but my Bible software usually defaults to the last verse I referred to, which happened to have been in Romans.  But when I alt-tabbed over to it the first verse I wanted was already there.  Odds?  1 out of 41,173.)

Please read the first one especially closely and keep in mind that Paul was arguably the greatest evangelist of all time.  Yet the Bereans are lauded for being skeptical and not believing until they compared what Paul said with what was in the Old Testament.  This is certainly not a “blind faith.” 

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Open-mindedness is a virtue – to a point.  As Ben Witherington III (Christian scholar) is fond of saying, his Grandma told him not to be so open-minded that his brains fell out. 

Intellectual honesty requires seeking the truth regardless of where it leads.  But when you find it, it’s closing time (at least for that topic, or until someone offers up new evidence). 

Are we always as open-minded as we should be?  Perhaps not.  But don’t underestimate how much thought countless people have put into their faith.  Christians around the world put their livelihoods and their lives on the line every day for their faith.  I’m pretty sure they have put a lot of thought into it. 

It might help to consider some examples.  I have researched the essentials of the faith exhaustively: Jesus is God, He is the only way to salvation, the Trinity, etc. and it would take a tremendous amount of new counterevidence and persuasion to move my positions on those topics.

However, there are countless topics of faith such as the age of the earth (Old?  Young?), method of Baptism (Sprinkling?  Immersion?), etc. that I keep an open mind on.  I also keep an open mind on secular issues – i.e., what is the best way to accomplish the best for society?  If you or others have specific topics where they question others’ open-mindedness, please mention them in the comments section.

Again, is our approach to truth and our worldview really much different than with non-religious people?  Many atheists/agnostics I know seem rather entrenched in their positions.   Is it possible for them to think they possess the “truth” (that there is no God or that He didn’t clearly reveal himself to us) yet still keep open minds? 

Remember, the secular world agrees with much of the evidence that we are grounding our faith upon.  Even skeptics and critics of the Bible concede that Jesus died on a Roman cross, that his body was not located, that many people claimed to have witnessed his post-resurrection appearances and that even more had radically transformed lives and died rather than deny that He was God.  Based on those facts and others I came to the conclusion that the most logical explanation is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that He is God.  Others may draw different conclusions, but that alone doesn’t make either of us close minded.

Previous installments

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