Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I know nothing!

This past Saturday morning I spent some time down at UGM with some friends that do a monthly service project there, and we were enjoying some brunch afterward. I was having a bit of a theological discussion with a couple of the guys at the table, and another guy across the table made a comment about how "You know everything!" (meaning me). He didn't say it in a mean spirited way. In fact, I think he meant it as a genuine compliment, but it got me to thinking about how *little* I really know. Then I got worried that other people might actually believe I know something when I don't. Or, even worse, I might think I actually do know something when I don't and steer someone in the wrong direction. Jesus called people like this "blind guides." That started me thinking about what I know and don't know. I'll be the first to admit, I know far less than it appears on the surface, and that is an integrity issue that bugs me.

When I was a kid I liked the show "Hogan's Heroes." It was about some very smart POWs in a German prison camp who basically chose to stay in the POW camp of the naive Col. Klink so they could run counter intelligence activities. One of my favorite characters was the pudgy Sergeant Schultz whose famous line was "I know nothing – NOTHING!" I've been feeling a lot like Sergeant Shultz lately, and this got hammered into my mind further today when I read this on a web site:

If we honestly want to discover the truth, it's helpful to start with a clean slate by pretending that we don't know anything about the topic that we are studying. This will help us look beyond our preconceived biases and "filters." It's important to be as prayerful, honest, thorough, and objective as possible, and it's important to be willing to believe whichever view has the greatest weight of evidence in Scripture.

One of my best friends has been telling me this for a couple of years. This "second witness" really hit it home for me. I come to the Bible with a TON of preconceived ideas that have been absorbed from all over the place. I rarely have an original thought. I'm lazy that way. It is easier to let someone else do the thinking for me and then criticize their viewpoint by comparing it to other viewpoints and using compare/contrast techniques. Original thinking is hard work and slow. I find it much faster to build on the work of other people and synthesize their thinking into my own world view. I'm pretty fast and adept at this process, and I try to choose my source information carefully. This allows me to increase my knowledge base widely. However, it puts me at HUGE risk of being wrong if one of my sources is wrong or if I inaccurately interpret a correct source. I hate being wrong, but it now occurs to me that I've been letting the pride of having a wide breadth of knowledge outweigh my desire for Truth. Bad choice. Pride comes before the fall, and knowledge puffs up.

Another issue I've been under conviction about is that I read for information more than transformation. Being in the technology industry where change is always accelerating, I've learned how to process large amounts of information and filter down to what is important for the task at hand. For example, it is not unusual for me to process through more than 150 email messages in a day. This is a counter productive behavior when it comes to processing information for personal transformation. Somehow I need to figure out how to go deeper rather than casting such a wide net in our information rich but knowledge poor info-tainment culture.

If you have any ideas about how to do this, I'm listening...

No comments:

Post a Comment