Tuesday, January 16, 2007


When the need for open-mindedness is mentioned, some Christians get very nervous, thinking it means that it requires the acceptance of any and all ideas that come along. However, this is not open-mindedness. Here's a description of open-mindedness from William Hare (2006):
Open-mindedness involves a readiness to give due consideration to relevant evidence and argument, especially when factors present in the situation tempt one to resist such consideration, with a view to increasing our awareness, understanding and appreciation, avoiding error, and reaching true and defensible conclusions. It means being critically receptive to alternative possibilities and new ideas, resisting inflexible and dogmatic attitudes, and sincerely trying to avoid whatever might suppress or distort our reflections. Open-mindedness is relevant whatever views we presently hold in the sense that we remain committed to reconsidering them in the light of new questions, doubts, and findings; and it also involves maintaining a certain outlook throughout the entire process of inquiry, whereby we remain willing to accept whatever view proves in the end to have the strongest evidential and reasoned support... To be willing to take relevant evidence and argument into account when reaching our beliefs, even if the conclusion runs counter to what we might wish to be the case or contradicts what we presently believe, is the very attitude implicit in the Socratic ideal of following the argument where it leads. We are to 'follow the argument' by refusing to rest content with our present assumptions, however certain they may appear, if further consideration seems warranted; and also by accepting whatever findings result from such inquiry and reflection even if those results are quite unwelcome.
Open-mindedness must be one of the most difficult traits to develop as a thinker because the potential exists for having to change our point of view. This is sometimes extremely traumatic, particularly when we have had an opinion or belief central to our whole existence for so many years. But unless we develop open-mindedness, we can never progress in our understanding. For Christians, who want to ensure that their understanding of God is as accurate as possible, open-mindedness allows us to acknowledge the possibility that we could be wrong about some things, that we have new things to learn, things we need to unlearn. If we are to grow in faith, open-mindedness, as described above, is essential. Otherwise we will become "frozen" where we are, dogmatic in our beliefs, and tempted to believe that we have arrived at the absolute final truth. Open-mindedness is the antidote we need for intellectual arrogance. Open-mindedness intellectual humility - a genuine acknowledgment that there is much we do not know, much to learn, and that, because of our human limitations and biases, what we do know could be wrong or imperfect. Reference Hare, W 2006, 'Why Open-Mindedness Matters', Think, no. 13, pp. 7-15.

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