Recently I finished Tom Nichols book, The Death of Expertise (you can read my review of the book here) and while reading I stumbled across the following:
These are dangerous times. Never have so many people had so much access to so much knowledge and yet have been so resistant to learn anything.
Those words caused a great pause as I reflected upon the current status of our society and the depth of those words. Unfortunately, they capture legitimate concerns in response to what we see taking place across the country with more and more frequency. Even more, his warning is well-taken: these are dangerous times. What are Christians to do with the truth of such a serious charge?
A Christian response comes with a Christian understanding. Therefore, there is an importance in understanding this cultural shift towards the unlearned. While not exhaustive, some of the reasoning for this current condition include the following:
- A Lack of Concentration: We are currently at a point in which people crave more stimulation and lack the ability to concentrate for any sustained periods of time. As a result, few people are willing to lend the attention necessary in order to read, learn, and understand the complexities of encounters in everyday society (whether it be politics, religion, or social issues).
- A Lack of Contention: Second, that inability to give attention when needed is further complicated by the fact that most will look for people and/or information that agrees with an already established viewpoint. Most people would rather continue in ignorance rather than have contention for the truth.
- A Lack of Contradiction: However, the desire to find people who agree is not sufficient. Instead it goes further to the point that people not only seek to avoid confrontation and contention, but they seek people who will go as far as to affirm them.
Certainly, these characteristics don’t mean that someone is automatically wrong, however, these attributes assure that truth will never be found because they lack the initiative and confrontation that challenges a person to learn and seek out the truth.
It’s because of this modern condition that society now finds itself in a dangerous time. Such an apathy towards truth does the following:
- Creates Ignorance: It’s truly a case in which ignorance breeds more ignorance because people are content to be affirmed in their reasoning rather than compelled to know why they believe what they believe.
- Creates Irrationalization: Decisions, emotions, and beliefs are created upon unstable principles because people are willing to seek out and believe only what agrees with their own presuppositions. The result is a society that is capable of falling at any moment because it is it not grounded in something firm enough to handle the slightest bit of confrontation and contradiction.
- Creates Discord: Finally, despite wanting to avoid any contention, the reality is that it creates more because when the truth is brought forth, rather than recognize it people are likely to rebel against it.
Indeed then, these are dangerous times that bring a deep concern.
So how do Christians react? I’ll save that for tomorrow in part two.
Photo “Obscured View” courtesy of user Per Goshe and Flickr.