I try to keep an open mind.
You can broach just about any subject with me and I’m willing to listen and consider other perspectives… usually.
There’s one thing that tends to get in the way of my open mind. That’s when someone has a go at someone I love. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still willing to talk about those things and I try to still keep an open mind. But it’s different.
If I were discussing yesterday’s weather, I’d be willing to abandon my preconceived notions and consider any evidence and any theory with an open mind. You could say there’d be about a 95% openness to alternate conclusions.
But when I’m discussing something closely connected to a personal relationship, it’s different. While I’d still be willing to consider any evidence and any theory, I would do so with a certain reserve. You could say there’d be about a 5% openness to alternate conclusions.
In other words, I’m still honest with myself. And I love truth more than my current views. But on the other hand, if you want to convince me to turn my back on those I trust and love, you’ll have to build a fairly solid case before I’m going to make any adjustments to my views.
Why? It’s simple. Relationship.
My relationships construct a zone of solidity in my world. That’s not to say I’m closed minded in regard to them. It’s just that I’m much more guarded once I’m inside that zone.
This reality is not lost on modern society. Sociologists and psychologists tend to recognise and affirm its validity and even necessity. Philosophers and Academics tend to spend their lives wishing it weren’t so. But what about theologians?
One theologian argued from this position when he said to his protégé “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.”1
Paul appealed to Timothy based partially on relationships. The action he defended was to “continue.” Don’t change. Why? Because this is a category of ideas that is “firmly believed.” This firmness of belief is the result, Paul argues, of the relationships through which these things were learned.
What relationships are these? Well, I suppose Paul and Barnabas, his mother and grandmother, the elders in the church there, etc. But ultimately, all of these linked directly back to a relationship with one person—Jesus Christ. And this is where we’ve been headed.
The open minded Christian
I’m open minded. I’m honest with myself. And I love the truth more than any position I hold. But if you begin to question the core, fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ,2 you are in the zone.
I will consider your views. I will consider them carefully. After all, I could have a mistaken understanding of the message of God’s Word. But I will consider them with a level of reserve. Why? Because there is a personal relationship in the picture here. There is loyalty.
This throws a spanner in the epistemological works. The rationalists have never quite known what to do with it. The calm discussion about ideas is completely upended by the the personification of those ideas in the person of Jesus Christ.
We walk by faith
Loyalty may skew my objectivity, but there is a word for that—faith. Not an irrational, blind faith. Rather, a rational faith that gives sight to blind eyes. A faith in a historical, real, living person.
In our quest for objectivity and academic integrity, let us not forget the person of Christianity. It is this person who makes Christianity what it is. Without this person, we are lost. But with him, we not only have the joy of friendship with Jesus Christ, but we also have a living defence of the faith.
1 2 Timothy 3:14, ESV, emphasis added. The word translated “whom” is plural.
2 Note here that I’m not referring to cultural applications (eg. dress, music, homeschooling, etc.) or interpretational disputations (eg. the means of preservation, the exact extent of the atonement, the method of inspiration, etc.) but rather to the core, fundamentals of Jesus’ doctrine (i.e. inspiration, justification by faith, vicarious atonement, etc.).