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A Plea for Intellectual Humility

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-hands-clasped-prayer-around-holy-bible-focus-image31705898By Jesse Jost

There is a universal human condition known as “naïve realism.” It is the tendency to believe that what we perceive is reality. Our brain prides itself on its ability to see things clearly. Our sight is reliable, isn’t it? Our ability to observe and make sense of what we perceive is remarkable. But life is far more complex than we can comprehend. There is way too much going on for our minds to be able to take it all in. We miss details – in fact, it is impossible to not miss them.

In the center of your eye there is a blind spot that cannot receive information. We are walking around with a hole in our vision but we never know it because the brain says, “No problem, I’ll just guess at what should fill in that blank.” The brain then makes up information to complete the picture. It does an amazing job of guessing correctly most of the time, and we get along fine, until someone asks us to get something for them from the cupboard!

What our brain does with our physical blind spot is exactly what it does with our metaphorical blind spots. We have huge knowledge gaps about the world around us, but the brain makes up information to complete the picture and we smugly think we see it all. Naïve realism. Not a big deal, right? It’s a system that seems to be working well. You’ve probably heard it said that the devil is in the details. I would like to argue that the devil is in the details that get missed. Our faulty perception is the devil’s playground. I believe our enemy is very eager to help fill in the blind spots with erroneous information that is designed to deceive and destroy the body of Christ. Continue reading…

  • Jamie

    Speaking the Truth in love….very important. Truth being the prominent object, love the vehicle. My one question would be, if in doctrinal issues other than the gospel, we are to see ourselves as fallible, and be open to the idea that our friend, with whom we may disagree, may be correct…. to be consistent, shouldn’t we also use that same principle in our understanding of the gospel itself? ” Perhaps our atheist friend is correct? Maybe I am wrong and need to change my opinion?” LOTS of good thoughts in your blog that we can all benefit from, but I am confused at how you differentiate our ability to discern some Truth from other Truth. (i.e. – we can wholly trust our view of what the gospel is, but distrust our understanding of say…Grace and Works, male and female roles, end times, etc., etc.) Shouldn’t our fallibility drive us to 2 Tim 2:15..study, study, study, accurately handling the Word of Truth. And speak the truth in love as accurately as we know how. Not to be ‘right’, but simple because God has graciously given us His Truth. Lots of it. And yes, another believer may have more Scriptural knowledge than we do, which should be humbly considered. Polemics used to be a core seminary subject, but has been routed out by the PC police. Just don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Jesse Jost

    Jamie, thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I have been wrestling with this issue since I posted this and I have written a postscript to clarify my position. God bless!

  • jamie

    Great postscript. You are a good thinker and writer. I look forward to reading your blog.

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