This article is based on a presentation made at the 2010 Ontario Christian School Teachers Association Convention. For an expanded version of this article, see “Teaching for Committed Openness,” in Cultivating Inquiry Across the Curriculum, ed. by Kim A. Winsor. Lexington, MA: Lexington Christian Academy, 2008, 159–85.
If possible, I would change the title of my first book, Teaching for Commitment (1993). I would choose instead the title of this present article, “Teaching for Committed Openness.” Not that I didn’t deal with the issue of critical openness in my book, but I think it would have been better to highlight both the concept of commitment and the concept of openness.
Some readers might object to the very idea of combining the notions of commitment and openness. Surely “committed openness” is an oxymoron, if ever there was one. I disagree. Indeed, I believe this combination describes what it means to be a healthy human being. It also describes the healthy Christian mind. I am convinced that this combination of committed openness describes what needs to be the goal of Christian education today.
The Bible calls us to be both committed and open-minded. We all know the first and greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Lk. 10:27). There is a propositional component to Christian commitment. Commitment includes conviction. Throughout the Scriptures, men and women with strong convictions are held up as ideals (2 Tim. 1:5; 4:7). Paul warns against being like infants tossed back and forth by the waves, blown here and there by every wind of teaching (Eph. 4:14). Instead, as Paul exhorts us repeatedly, we are to stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that have been passed on to us (2 Thess. 2:15; Titus 1:9).
The Bible also calls us to be open-minded. After contrasting those who understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven with those who don’t, Jesus says this about the latter group: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Matt. 13:13). And then Jesus turns to his disciples and says this: “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear” (v. 16). Paul gives us a depressing analysis of human nature: men and women suppress the truth because of their wickedness (Rom. 1:18). Elsewhere, Paul suggests that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). And God invites such people to open their minds and hearts to the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” (v. 6). This describes the way I am using open-mindedness in this article.
The scriptures also encourage us to do some critical thinking.