Scripture calls us to love God with all our mind. Christian intellectual practices seek to disciple the mind and are directed at seeking the truth about God, the world, and ourselves. This is about more than believing the right things. It is about how our thinking (even our theological thinking) is shaped by love of truth or love of self, pride or humility, patience or haste.
Tanya’s teacher introduced a controversial issue by showing video clips of people holding incompatible views. One speaker argued that faithfulness to the Bible demanded supporting a particular position in the debate. Another appealed to Scripture too, but in defense of an entirely different position. Tanya was expecting her teacher to lead a debate or explain which view was supposed to be right. She was tempted herself to settle for letting everyone think whatever they thought. The question the teacher asked after the clips surprised her. The teacher asked the class to discuss what legitimate fears might be behind the position of each speaker, and what each person loved so dearly that it gave rise to this fear. She explained that we can show love of neighbor by working to understand where others are coming from, even when we don’t share their views. Students discussed how differences often arise out of loves and fears, not just opinions, and how those concerns need to be heard. What Tanya ended up taking away from the discussion was not a quick right answer to the initial debate, but a resolution to learn how to listen well before judging. She decided that when she came across strongly held views on controversial topics, she would begin by asking herself what fears and loves might be coming to expression in those views. She might still disagree, but she hoped to be able to hear others better and understand how different views arose.
Joe began to realize that when he got involved in online discussions, he was easily tempted into ways of arguing that were not really grounded in respect for truth. He found himself overstating his positions to make them sound more convincing, confidently quoting as fact things that he remembered reading somewhere but had not really checked up on, and restating his opponents’ views in slightly distorted ways to make it easier to make them seem foolish or untrustworthy. This made it harder for him to backtrack graciously when it became clear he was actually wrong about something. Sometimes it gave him a brief thrill of victory as he pushed his point home, but it also left him with the growing realization that he was not quite being honest, and that the debating was becoming more about promoting himself than seeking truth. He decided to start trying to slow himself down a little. He resolved that when he felt the need to leap into an argument, he would do the online equivalent of holding his tongue while he checked over the wisdom of what he was saying. He also decided that if he was going to bring information into the argument first, he would check it first and see if it was from a generally reliable source. This felt frustrating at first as it interrupted the rhythm of his arguments and he missed opportunities to jump in. But he found himself learning things and found that others began to take him a little more seriously. He decided that he wanted to continue to work at being a trustworthy discussion partner.