Bible believers are famous for being all kinds of things–open-minded is typically not one of them. Considering this controversial topic, I thought I’d take a crack at addressing a simple question: does Christianity encourage its followers to be open-minded?
This question can’t truly be answered until we understand what it means to be open-minded. Like most things in our day, we tend to define words based on what we want them to mean.
I’ve been accused of being closed-minded plenty of times. I’ve come to expect it as the standard response whenever I disagree with something. But in those moments, I try to throw the penalty flag and explain that disagreeing with something isn’t really a fair definition of being closed-minded. It rarely goes over well. To disagree with a position these days only means I didn’t consider the new idea with an open mind. I’m being hard-headed and intolerant. Because if I only listened more carefully, I would see that the person speaking doesn’t just have the right to speak, but is also speaking rightfully.
Our God-given rights apparently now include the right to be right. Maybe this is partly why our culture has spun off into this weird state of confusion.
If you think I’m overreacting, consider Oxford Dictionary’s Word of 2016: “post-truth.” We no longer have the luxury of claiming something to be simply and completely true, because that implies other things are untrue. Tolerance now requires full acceptance and anything less is bigoted and hateful.
Open-mindedness has submitted to this confused feelings-over-fact shift in thinking and now means to not just be open to all things, but to remain open to all things. We must never close our minds on any concrete reality lest we be considered intolerant. Never mind that the word “tolerance” has existed for many years and has never, until now, apparently, called for anyone to surrender their own beliefs or convictions.
As much as we’ve tried to make open-mindedness into its own worldview, synonymous with total acceptance, that’s not where its roots lie. Functionally, open-mindedness is an important part of the decision-making process. When a new idea comes along, open-mindedness is what allows leaders to consider new possibilities that might make better sense than what they’ve previously done. The most successful leaders are successful because of their willingness to truly consider something new. But they are also known for their strength in the next stage of the process: closing their minds back again, AKA making their decision. Ironically it’s the bad leadership that refuses to make up their mind, or worse, thinking it’s admirable not to.
When we detach open-mindedness from the decision-making process, we’ve officially hijacked the word and made it into something entirely different. Open-mindedness for the sake of open-mindedness is illogical and unhelpful. In a world like that, no one knows anything, especially what they believe regarding their source and purpose. Conclusions lose power and confusion takes over with this version of open-mindedness, because permission to pursue any universal truth our hearts yearn for has been revoked under the guise of “freedom.”
And so, back to our question: does Christianity encourage an open mind? Understanding that open-mindedness is for the purpose of finding truth, I would actually say the Christian faith gives encouragement to be more open-minded than any other faith, including agnosticism and atheism.
I consider it a very natural process to not just study but truly consider other religions outside of Christianity. My goal is truth, and I am willing to call myself something other than “Christian” in order to have it. And so yes, I’ve read the Qur’an and openly considered the arguments of Muslim evangelists and apologists. I’ve opened my mind and looked at both Buddhism and Hinduism, but I did all of this with the intention of making a decision with a real and reliable conclusion. Knowing I have a source, I want to know what is true regarding that source. That means that I must be open-minded, but that I cannot remain open-minded once I have gathered the necessary information.
Because truth brings freedom. That’s straight from Jesus. It’s identified by honest, free-thinking questions, which have reasonable and credible answers. I had the confidence of knowing that universal truth wasn’t going anywhere based on something I wanted to think or believe. Truth simply is, and I wanted to find it and then submit to it.
Each of the religions in the world claim to contain truth– they claim exclusivity as the one correct way. The idea that any of them don’t is merely a product of modern post-truth propaganda.
Over and over throughout my search for truth, I was amazed by how commonly other religions withhold from their followers the freedom to consider other beliefs. To me, that was a huge red flag, especially since I believe truth is clearly evident if we can allow ourselves to be genuinely open-minded and take ourselves and our presuppositions out of the center of our universe. Truth requires humility.
Sadly, just because Christianity encourages a confident open-mindedness and a willingness to truly consider other beliefs in order to see how reliable Jesus is doesn’t mean Christians are great at it. We forget that it’s not a crime to think and ask questions, and that we need not worry what the answers might be if we are more concerned with what is real and true than what our religious title is. I wish I could crack open their brains to insert the amazing historical credibility of who Jesus of Nazareth really was (and is). They’re really missing out because it changes the way you talk with people when you aren’t afraid of information.
Other Christians are just really really bad at loving their neighbor. Then again, culture has conveniently added “agree with” to “love.” To love without agreeing is really uncomfortable on both sides– especially for the person who doesn’t find their version of truth rooted in a historically reliable revelation from their Creator.
Equally sad to Christians not being confident in what they believe is that many people have labeled some of the most open-minded Christians as bigots simply because they don’t agree with what they believe. For someone who lives by self-focused truths, a Christian who listens but then points out the illogical flaw to that self-focused truth represents the biggest threat they could encounter. They are all but terrorists. Many Christians really have considered whether the Bible is wrong or whether we need to “update” our ideas of love, but because we haven’t changed to agree with the tolerance-is-acceptance movement, we are wrongfully labeled as closed-minded. In the spirit of open-mindedness, we’ve done (and continue) the research that others refuse to do on their own views, or ours.
Maybe this is just the way it is now. After all, Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2005 was “podcast.” In 2013, it was “selfie.” Entire industries have since been formed around each of those newly acceptable things. Maybe “post-truth” is also here to stay, and Christians should just get used to being called closed-minded. One could argue we aren’t the ones in control of persuasion into belief in the first place, nor are we promised to measure our truth by how we are accepted by other people.