Monday, October 1, 2018

Berean Baptists and Open Mindedness

Growing up, one of the things my good Baptist mother drilled into my head was that I needed to be able to back up whatever I believed with scripture. She also taught me that I was to respect other people's beliefs if they could show me from scripture why they believed what they believed, even if it was different. It was one of the things I really loved about being Baptist. Then I went to a Baptist seminary and discovered that not all Baptists actually practice such open-mindedness. In fact many of the people I encountered were not open-minded at all. Oh, they were open in terms of the behaviors they accepted. But their definition of "open-minded" became very closed if your examination of the evidence led you to a different conclusion than theirs and you stood by your conclusion.

In Acts 17:11, we have a great definition of what it means to be open-minded. Luke records, "And the people of Berea were more open- minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth." (NLT). To Luke, the author of Acts, being open-minded meant that a person was willing to look at an idea and evaluate the support for that idea. Open-mindedness was not a blind acceptance of another person's opinion as valid, nor did making a firm statement of opinion negate one's open-mindedness.

Being open-minded does not mean that you have to check your own opinions at the door. Being open-minded means that you are willing to look at the evidence before you make your decision, not that you have to agree that everyone's interpretation of the evidence is valid. For example, agreeing that two plus two equals six because your friend thinks it does is not being open-minded; being willing to check his math is being open-minded. But checking his math and then adding, "but I guess you have your own valid system of addition," is just copping out.

Believe it or not, you are not closed-minded for having an opinion and believing it is right. And you are not closed-minded if you strongly disagree with someone who views the evidence differently than you do. You are closed-minded if you refuse to evaluate an opinion (yours or theirs) on the basis of the evidence. Be like the Bereans. Be willing to look at the evidence; don't just blindly accept what people say.

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