Open Bibles—Open Minds

Open Bibles—Open Minds September 19, 2020

Something I found growing up in the fundamentalist-evangelical world, was that having a closed mind was almost championed as a good thing. The more one knew about Scripture and the less one knew about “secular” literature, science, movies, music, popular culture, and philosophy, the more “spiritual” one was considered to be. Ignorance of things outside the Bible was often worn as a badge of honor.

Looking back, I think, how very sad. Also, how very contrary to the Christian faith and narrative. An open Bible should lead to an open mind. An open Bible should lead to an ever expanding and growing realization that we know very little.  As we learn about the deep things of God and creation, the more curious we should become. After all, creation/existence is a big thing. The moment we think we know all we need to know, about anything, we reveal a disturbing lack of curiosity and a fairly shallow mentality.

I’m amazed at the people who because of their supposed Bible knowledge, tell us they don’t need to really delve deeply into other areas like science, political science, philosophy, social science, or all the other areas of knowledge. Holding up their Bible, they boldly claim all they need to know is contained in its pages. They then to go on to pontificate about subjects they have very little knowledge of (admittedly, proudly), beyond popular opinion, sheer prejudice, or stereotypes. They become the guy at the end of the bar blathering on about his latest  conspiracy theory, which he’s “researched” deeply on the internet. Got it.

They view experts and academics with suspicion; and also news stories that don’t confirm or support what they already believe (which explains many of the anti-maskers). They are sure the fact they have memorized large portions of Scripture qualifies them to summarily dismiss people who have spent much of their lives studying, writing, publishing, and speaking in areas where they are widely recognized as experts or scholars. But what are years of learning at the highest levels, recognized learning, when one can just memorize portions of the Bible or follow some guy on the internet?

I’m stating nothing new or novel. Historian Mark Noll pointed this out back in 1995 with his book, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” It was supposed to be a wake-up call and yet, here we are. It is 2020 and it may be worse than it was in 1995. We have supposed intelligent evangelicals calling widely recognized facts, “fake news.” Fake? No, it’s just news they don’t like—news that doesn’t support the world they’ve constructed in their closed universe.  Or we have appeals to the “common sense” of conventional “wisdom,” in whatever area.

Here is a good example:

“Think about it. Why have Americans been able to do more to help people in need around the world than any other country in history? It’s because of free enterprise, freedom, ingenuity, entrepreneurism and wealth. A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.”

To the contrary, we read:

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” (Luke 21)

So much for, “common sense.” Falwell, Jr. probably believes because of his upbringing and history, that he knows the Bible well. But statements like his (and recent events?) prove the opposite. Somewhere along the line his supposed Bible “knowledge” became a closed room, a dead end, something much smaller than the wide expanse of creation and what creation can tell us. Or it became secular understandings with a religious veneer, but simply assumed to be true, even “biblical.”

Closed quarters, where all one can see is walls, and is familiar with everything in the room, leads to the illusion this is all there is, that we “know” it all. It becomes a very small world. And yet, a look out the window, if any still remain, reveals such not to be true at all. To wish to remain in ignorance, as even a virtue, is shameful. It’s certainly not the sign of a mature Christian.

Truly knowing the Bible, which really means knowing its author, should always lead to an open mind, a mind that recognizes how little it really knows. It should lead to a mind that realizes all of existence (including the poor) has something to teach us (Psalm 19).  Further, such knowledge will often come from sources and places well outside our culture, ethnic group, religious tradition, education level, historical time frame, or familiar worldview.

In Daniel we read:

“As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom…” (Daniel 1:17)

Notice this is something God gave, and it was in “all” literature and wisdom, not just in what these young men were used to, already knew, or brought up with.

As Christians, we believe all truth is God’s truth. But not everything we believe, or think, or were taught, or interpreted, or heard somewhere once from our favorite preacher is true.  Too often what we think is “common sense” is nonsense we just assume is true. A closed and uncurious mind is nothing to be proud of.

Open Bibles should lead to open minds, not the opposite.

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