- Britton Carter
Willing to Learn
I don’t know everything.
I said it.
I don’t like the sound of it.
But I said it.
My ignorance should not surprise me; I’m an imperfect human being, which means I ultimately know imperfectly. But far too often I operate with an underserved confidence in my knowledge, firmly entrenched in my beliefs. When I hear arguments against my views, I barricade my mind from the onslaught of ideas and pummel my opponent with a barrage of rebuttals. I welcome with open arms the evidence and data that support my beliefs, and I vehemently reject the information that seems to contradict them.
And it’s not just me. I’ve seen you debate politics, religion, sports opinions, scientific interpretations, and other current events. We are all guilty of arguing as if we are perfectly disseminating knowledge to a world that needs to know what we know. We’re closed-minded. Defensive. Combative. Parroting the same five talking points and one-liners we just know will win the argument.
This closed-minded approach to conversations—and to life—is unhelpful for all public discourse, and it has no place in the Christian walk. As imperfect human beings, our lives are imperfectly aligned to truth—to the reality of who God is and what he created. We know incompletely. We see as if looking in a dimly lit mirror. Still, we point foolishly to the silhouettes and claim to see clearly the reflected image.
Part of conforming into the image of Jesus means reshaping our views. While we should hold our ideas with conviction, not weakly shifting from belief to belief like a bag tossing in the wind, we need to know that our views require tweaking—that we don’t know everything. Debate like your counterpart might just have something to teach you. Engage differing ideas like they might just be right. A willingness to learn requires humility, but the end result can be a richer, more vibrant understanding of who God is and what it looks like to follow Jesus.
But a quick word of caution: You don’t get to decide what’s true. Reality does not bend to your rationality. The fabric of reality is grounded in the God who existed before creation, and that God revealed himself in Scripture. Therefore, we must weigh our ideas against the truth God disclosed in the Bible. We must compare incoming arguments against God’s Word. When we think we’ve discovered some new truth—a plausible refutation of something we used to believe—we must run to Scripture to see if that idea seems to match truth as God has revealed it.
Armed with the Word of God, we should embark on a life of learning. When we take a walk on a sunny day, the sun warming our skin, gravel crunching under our shoes, birds chirping in trees, leaves rustling with every wind gust, we must let that experience influence our view of reality. When we encounter new ideas while reading, we should retrieve any available truth from the content. When we feel the sting of loss and the pain of heartbreak, we should allow those moments to illuminate aspects of reality to which we were previously oblivious. When we engage in debates and conversations, we should argue firmly for our beliefs while leaving open the opportunity to change our minds. As we weigh ideas against the teaching of God’s Word, changing our minds and coming to know reality in slightly different ways each day through our thoughts and experiences, we continue the process of looking more like Jesus.
We don’t know everything. And that’s okay. Let’s work together to understand who God is and what it means to follow him a little bit more each day. Let’s be willing to learn.