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I would like to tell you how I think. And I think it would be wise to pay attention because a lot of people think like me.
I think it is good to be open-minded. For instance, when two people have different memories about what happened, as my wife and I often do, I have learned that it is good to be open-minded – because sometimes my memory does not serve me correctly. When another person is offended by something I say, I feel an inner impulse to defend myself, but it is far better to be open-minded. It is good to be open-minded about all sorts of things: food, culture, music, beauty, even history (what we were taught might not be true).
But is it not obvious that in certain circumstances open-mindedness is bad? Think about it. Do we want little children to be open-minded when a stranger in a car pulls up to offer them candy and a ride home? Is it good for teenagers to be open-minded when their peers offer them heroin? And is it not bad if a person is open-minded when someone is trying to convince them to join ISIS or the KKK? We should all be able to agree that sometimes open-mindedness is dangerous and foolish.
So, I would suggest that as a society the location of our disagreement is actually not whether we are for open-mindedness or against it. The disagreement is over what we are open-minded about and what we are not open-minded about.
We all have convictions we are not open-minded about, convictions we indeed do not want to be open-minded about. For instance, it is not good to be open-minded if someone wants to persuade us that it is a good thing to get pleasure from another person’s pain.
I grew up in a self-consciously open-minded environment, so I understand the concern about being entrenched in harmful, old-fashioned ideas. I could not agree more that it can be deadly to be set in your ways, to believe something just because you have always believed it, or just because your parents believed it. Some convictions are just plain wrong, even if people have built their lives on that conviction or based their whole identity on that conviction. Obvious examples of this kind of conviction are racial superiority, chauvinism and the convictions which are rampant in mafia families (and I don’t mean criminal convictions).
Perhaps partly as a result of this, I once had a seemingly unshakable conviction that no God exists. I saw belief in God as a destructive force, not a constructive one. Fortunately, God did not respect my opinion on the matter and did not wait for me to become open-minded. Without invitation, He crashed into my life and introduced Himself to me. Since December 6, 1970, His reality has been as fixed in me as the existence of the world around me. But this God does not only exist, He speaks. And so I began a life-long journey in God’s book.
Open-mindedness is very important in studying the Bible. You have to be willing to set aside your pre-conceived notions. You have to be willing to listen to things you don’t want to hear. You have to be open to new understandings and interpretations, and to seeing things you have never seen before. You have to be willing to disregard what the world around you thinks. You have to be willing to disregard your own preferences and what seems good to you. You have to be completely open-minded to God speaking in His word. But this open-mindedness which I seek to practice excludes another kind of open-mindedness. It excludes being open-minded to the possibility that God is not who the Bible says He is. It excludes being open-minded to the possibility that the Bible is not God’s word. It excludes being open-minded to the possibility that the Bible is wrong.
Some disagree with my convictions. I understand that; I once did myself. We will just have to agree to disagree. And I know it is inevitable that some are going to think my unwillingness to be open-minded about these things is mindless adherence to destructive, old-fashioned ideas – though for me these are radical, new ideas I didn’t grow up with. I don’t mind that – because but for the grace of God that would be me. Jesus said that most people will follow the wide and easy path which leads to death, not the narrow and difficult path which leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14).
All I ask of those who come to this conclusion about me (and others like me) is that they admit that they also have things which they are just as unwilling to be open-minded about. Folks can laugh at me for believing in the Bible’s God; they can snarl at me for adhering to the Bible’s morality instead of accepting modern morality. But if so, let them be honest enough to admit that they are close-minded toward the claims of the Bible. It is hypocritical to ridicule us for being dogmatic when they are just as dogmatic about what they believe. No one can be open-minded about everything. We each act according to how we see things. Folks can think I am blind. I may think they are blind. People may think I am not open-minded. That’s OK. I probably would think the same thing about them.