The Importance of Being Open-minded

(An article for the July 1994 Deep Cove Crier)
In our culture, the very mention of spirituality may cause people to quickly change the subject to discussing something safer like sports or gardening.  Some of you reading this article may be feeling like clicking on another WEB page, because the word ‘spirituality’ makes you feel uncomfortable.  In this age of TV channel changers, many of us are well-skilled at switching things off.  Canadians, in general, are such polite people that it is not always easy to notice when we are being close-minded.  Sometimes we hide our close-mindedness behind the polite phrase: "No thank you...not interested".  What I’ve been struck recently is that God is deeply interested in all people, even those who have no interest in God.  God cares for those who don’t care about God.  God loves those who wish that God didn’t exist.  God is open-minded towards those who are close-minded to Him.  When Jesus died on the cross, he died especially for those who want nothing to do with him.  If you are still reading this far in the article, you must be a very open-minded person.

I once heard an interesting definition of a fanatic: someone who won’t change their mind and won’t change the subject.  William Lyon Phelps once said: "The human mind should be like a good hotel: open the year round."  "Only fools and dead people don’t change their minds, said John II Patterson.  "Fools won’t.  Dead people can’t."  Most people in our culture see themselves as open-minded and willing to listen.  Few would describe themselves as closed-minded bigots.  Most of us, however, could probably think of someone who comes across as a closed-minded person.  It seems that closed-mindedness is like bad breath.  Even your best friends won’t tell you that you’ve got it.

Instant Experts
In my visiting people over the years, I’ve noticed that everyone is an expert on the bible and about who Jesus really is.  It is amazing the number of people with very fixed views of the bible and Jesus who haven’t opened a bible since Sunday School days or have never opened the bible at all.  I have met hundreds of people who tell me with great conviction that the bible is full of errors and contradictions.  I love to chat with people, so I gently ask them to show an example.  In most cases, these same people are unable to point to any specifics.

An open-minded person is someone who is willing to sit down and find out for themselves whether the bible is full of holes.  Perhaps you yourself believe that the bible is full of inaccuracies.  Are you open-minded enough to check out the source documents by opening the bible and finding out for yourself whether or not it is true?  Perhaps you believe that Jesus was just a nice moral teacher, no more, no less.  Are you open-minded enough to open up the bible and find out for yourself who Jesus really was?  Perhaps you believe that the church is full of hypocrites.  Are you open-minded enough to come and find out for yourself whether that perception is really true?

Life Beyond God
A little while back, I was invited to speak to a philosophy class at Capilano College about my spiritual journey with Jesus and its relationship to philosophy of religion.  I found the class willing to listen and dialogue about spirituality, but largely ignorant of the documents and material that have formed the spiritual journey of the western world.  One student spoke up and said that he believed that in this scientific age, we had outgrown the need for God, religion, or the bible.  This student commented that we had so outgrown the bible that we didn’t even need to read it to find out if it had any relevance.  Most interestingly, the class largely disagreed with this student, saying that he needed to be more open-minded.  By the end of the class, this same student came up to me and sincerely thanked me for coming.  He concluded by saying: "I want to learn more."  The bible says that only God is able to make us more open-minded.  We cannot just ‘pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.’  Pascal, the famous mathematician, said that ‘human knowledge must be understood to be believed, but divine knowledge must be believed to be understood.’  That is why the bible will always remain a closed book to the closed-minded.  Luke 24:45 tells us that Jesus ‘opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures.’  Only those who admit their closed-mindedness are fully able to receive the gift of open-mindedness.  I pray that God will grant to each of us the gift of open minds, open hearts, open ears, and open eyes.

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church, North Vancouver

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