The Importance of An Open Mind

One of the most important virtues, in a genuine search for truth, is open-mindedness.  The Free Dictionary defines open-mindedness as, “Receptive to new and different ideas or the opinions of others.”  Apart from this value, we will only listen to and learn from those who confirm our existing beliefs.

Everyone can benefit from being open-minded, if we are truly sincere and curious about understanding the world better.  For instance, when I studied at Oxford, I had the opportunity to specify the subject of a few classes.  Taking advantage of the opportunity, I asked for an atheist professor to teach me a class called “The Best Atheistic Arguments Against Christianity.”  Out of respect, he was hesitant at first, not wanting to brow-beat me into giving up a cherished belief system.  But when he saw that I genuinely wanted to learn from him and dialogue with the toughest objections to the Christian faith, he agreed to teach the class.  It was a wonderful experience.  I still deeply enjoy and appreciate conversations with others who are willing to honestly and graciously discuss the reasons for and against different worldviews.

At the same time, there are a number of people who are, for some reason or another, profoundly unwilling to think about the reasons for other perspectives.  In fact, we’re all like this, at least in some areas of our lives!  Within the Christian community, there are some who say that philosophy is “a tool of Satan” and other nonsense like that.  Within the atheist community, there are those who steadfastly refuse to read even a single short book on the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.  To me, taking a few hours to thoughtfully consider the central claim of the world’s largest religion seems like a minimum starting point of responsible intellectual engagement.  More examples of narrow-mindedness, from any community, can easily be multiplied.

In sum, we can all grow to be more open-minded.  What one step could you take today to broaden your intellectual horizons?