The danger of embracing ignorance

word-balloons

Today’s a big day in Ontario, the province where I live: Election Day. June 12th is the day when Ontarians have the opportunity to make their voices heard and… vote for the member of provincial parliament in their riding who will represent them in the legislative assembly and the leader of the party with the most seats becomes Premier. Yes, it is as convoluted as it sounds.

While no one’s entirely certain who will come out on top this time around, there’s one thing that’s almost a sure bet: there’s a good chance this year we’ll see a record low voter turnout. Just like last time. After all, even the best of the parties we have to choose from is pretty unsavory, and it’s unpleasant to have to choose the best of the worst at the ballot box, y’know?

But I’m not sure that’s the reason most people decide not to vote. Actually, I’m concerned far too many choose to remain ignorant about things that really matter. (And like it or not, politics really does matter.)

But this kind of embrace of ignorance goes by another name: foolishness.

Years ago, during another election season, my wife asked one of her coworkers—one who was extremely well educated—if he was going to be voting that evening. His response? “Nah, it doesn’t really matter. They’re all bad anyway.” Incidentally, he also once argued with me that nothing really existed, including himself.

Foolishness.

Slightly beyond politics, there’s the ongoing myth of overpopulation, one which continues to hold sway in popular culture, even as we see nations sink into economic disaster due to under-population.

“I can’t believe you have three children—don’t you know we have a population problem?”

“Actually, the entire population of the world could fit in Texas with about 1000 sq. ft. between each person.”

Foolishness.

And then there’s the recent rise of the “trigger warning”—the idea that you might need to label blogs, articles, and, shockingly, classic books because they have content that might be offensive to modern sensibilities.

“I had no idea this book had this word in it! How can they put it on the curriculum?!?”

“It’s Huckleberry Finn.”

Foolishness.

There’s a kind of ignorance that comes with a lack of knowledge. When we simply don’t know something, that doesn’t make us fools. It just makes us ignorant. It’s a situation we can change and should want to gladly. But when we embrace ignorance, when we latch on to nonsensical ideas and perpetuate them, when we fail to engage with literature and the arts, when we neglect rights and privileges because politicians are “bad…” I can’t help but wonder how much the words of Ecclesiastes apply to us:

“Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool” (Ecclesiastes 10:3).

 

Don’t Study Theology

How often do we study theology for the sake of studying theology?

Carl Trueman’s provocatively titled article, Minority Report: The Importance of Not Studying Theology, addresses that very issue. Trueman writes,

The greatest temptation of a theology student is to assume that what they are studying is the most important thing in the world. Now, I need to be uncharacteristically nuanced at this point: there is a sense, a very deep and true sense, in which theology is the most important thing in the world. It is, after all, reflection upon what God has chosen to reveal to his creatures; and it thus involves the very meaning of existence. In this sense, there is nothing more important than doing theology.

But this is not the whole story. One of the great problems with the study of theology is how quickly it can become the study of theology, rather than the study of theology, that becomes the point. We are all no doubt familiar with the secular mindset which repudiates any notion of certainty in thought; and one of the reasons for this, I suspect, is that intellectual inquiry is rather like trying to get a date with the attractive girl across the road with whom you have secretly fallen in love: the thrill comes more from the chase and the sense of anticipation than it does from actually finding the answer or eliciting agreement to go to the movies.

This is a great temptation for me. I’m a very “booky” person. I genuinely enjoy studying complicated ideas. I like reading a lot (as is obvious from much of the content of this blog).

But I’ve found that I have to constantly be asking myself two questions:

  1. Does what I’m reading help me grow in my knowledge of and love for Christ?
  2. Am I actually growing wiser because I’m applying what I’m reading or am I merely accumulating information?

Reading Trueman’s article reminded me just how important it is for me to be constantly asking these questions. [Read more...]

A Question of Choice

This question was posed in Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something, and, because it’s been stuck in my head for a couple of weeks now, I thought I’d ask you:

Imagine if someone came to you tonight and said, “I’ll pay off all your bills, I’ll pay off your mortgage. I’ll load up your Roth IRA. I’ll give you money for vacations. I’ll give you 20,000 square feet to live in, and any care you like, or I can make you wise.” What would you say to that person?

Leave your thoughts in the comments thread.