Monday, February 04, 2008

Closed Minds And Arrogant Hearts

Christians (especially American Evangelical Christians) are often said to be closed-minded and arrogant. We are closed-minded because we refuse to accept everyone's views equally, and subsequently we are arrogant because we have the nerve to say (often quite publicly) that we are right and everyone who disagrees with us is wrong.

What I find interesting is what happens when you turn these accusations back on the accusers. The first one is easy. Let's use the secular atheist (naturalist) as an example. The atheist is just as closed-minded as the Christian (in the way that the atheist has decided to define "closed-mindedness") because the atheist refuses to accept the Christian's views on an equal plane with his own. How could he, when their views are so radically opposed? This illustrates the bankruptcy of a pluralistic relativism, and people are usually quick to point this out in an argument.

What doesn't seem to get as much attention is the charge of arrogance. Christians are called arrogant because of their belief that they alone have the truth. But consider this: while the Christian may claim to have the complete truth, he does not claim that no one else has parts of the truth. Indeed, all of the world religions, even the strangest ones, contain some glimmer of the truth, even if it is only the acknowledgment of the existence of the supernatural. On the other hand, the secular atheist views religious belief as, at best, a necessary stage of evolution, or at worst, the root cause of all the evils mankind faces. The secular atheist sees history as the story of mankind's rise out of silly superstition into enlightenment--where "enlightenment" means "becoming atheists." Most importantly, they are committed to the belief that the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived, at every time and every place before now, have been completely and utterly wrong about all of the most fundamental and important questions of existence. Only now, as we finally crawl out of the dark age of belief in a god, are we beginning to get the answers right.

If that isn't arrogance, I'm not sure what would qualify.

(And, of course, in Christianity there is an added element of humility, in that we are forced to constantly acknowledge our inadequacy as mere finite beings and rely on God's strength rather than our own. Sadly, for many who call themselves Christians, this humility doesn't seem to show).

On both points, closed-mindedness and arrogance, C. S. Lewis (as usual) put it best:

If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.

Oh, the irony.

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