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Engage exists to provide perspective on culture through the eyes of a Biblical worldview, showing how that worldview intersects with culture and engages it.

We are a team of 20-somethings brought together by a common faith in Jesus Christ and employment in our parent organization American Family Association.

Open-minded About Being Open-minded

12/02/2015
Skyler Gleue
Financial Representative

Many modern day secular professors do not just disagree with Christianity, they are hostile toward it and toward students who claim to be followers of Christ. Because of that, when I started my first university sociology class, I was prepared to defend my values. I was trying to uncover my professor’s worldview but I soon found my answer when we got our first assignment. We were told to read and develop an opinion of an article telling us to have an “open mind.” I composed my opinion and found I was the only person to hold it.

 The article was based on a book by Shunryu Suzuki called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind advocating a Zen Buddhist teaching of having an open mind. Suzuki was quoted saying, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.” The idea expressed in the article was to let go of your present beliefs and biases and be accepting of other beliefs. The author criticized Christianity for being outside of sociological thinking by including a quote insisting Christians were closed-minded because of how we view the world, and because of what we are “taught in Sunday school” we “should stay away from sociology” because he claimed we “like to avoid shocking discoveries.” In his view, Christians were incapable of being open-minded.

The further into class discussions we went, I could not help but think, “In what way does he mean that?” Being open-minded—or having the “beginner’s mind”, as Suzuki calls it—can mean different things to different people. For some, they might understand it just to mean considering other’s views, for others it might mean to test or try other’s views, and for others it might mean to actually accept other’s views (sometimes on the basis of little or no evidence). But the article seemed to advocate this last meaning.

Some people argue that you should always have an open mind, while others strongly insist you should develop a philosophy and stick to it. But having an extreme sense of being open-minded is a fallacy. As B. Hearn pointed out, “Extreme open-mindedness is merely empty-mindedness.” If you never accept anything on the basis of being open-minded, at least in the sense of the article’s definition, you will never be able to accept anything period.

Not to mention it is seemingly difficult to always go into things with an open mind in the way the article advocated. In fact, deciding to go into things with the open mind prescribe by the article is to have a “closed mind” because you have already made a narrow choice to be open to new ideas and suggestions and closed to things you have already settled for yourself. The article author himself (and those who share the same view) are narrow minded to be only open-minded. Therefore, no one can truly go into any situation with a complete open mind.

However, contrary to the article’s definition, one can be open-minded in terms of not discrediting others because of their difference in views, and accepting their views if we find them plausible. But once we find something we agree with, hear enough of, or see the facts for, we become less open-minded. As Christians, we need to be careful of what we accept as truth. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to “test all things” and “hold on to what is good.” The context of this is prophecy, which includes teaching. This would suggest you need to have an open mind to at least consider how another teaching fits into God's Word. Therefore we can listen with an open mind and compare what is being taught with our experience of reality and knowledge of God's Word. If it passes our testing as “good,” then we can incorporate it into our thinking.

As followers of Christ, we should be open to testing and respecting other opinions we may disagree with or even want to learn more about. However, if these do not prove trustworthy, we can push them aside as not credible. But in the sense of our college article’s definition of accepting opinions or theories as truth on the basis of little or no evidence, we should be cautious and understand the fallacy in this view. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” For us, the solid something we shut our minds on is the truth of the Bible.

 

 

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