In this episode, Kurt talks with Dr. James Spiegel on the virtue of open-mindedness.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. Very nice to be with you here. Spring is in the air. It is oh so nice to have Spring finally arrive. It was a long, not super harsh, but long winter, and people are out and about jogging and beginning to work on their yards. Very nice. I need to clean out my car. Speaking of new cars, Chris, my family got a used minivan yesterday.
Kurt: Yes. So the microvan is going to be put up and sold.
Kurt: No. We got a Chrysler Pacifica.
Chris: I heard they’re pretty good.
Kurt: For some people who may not know, my family’s expecting child #3.
Chris: Yeah. That’s right.
Kurt: Yes. So we’re very excited. We were quite squeezed in what they call the microvan, the Mazda 5, and so we needed something with a bit more space and got something a little younger. Very excited about the purchase and thankfully it’s not new so it didn’t lose 15% of value as soon as we drove it off the lot, but no. We’re excited about that and the kids are as well. They’re already super-excited about the new minivan. For those that have been following our website and if you’re not, I want to encourage you to put your email address to subscribe on our website. On Monday I published a post announcing a future blog series that I will be doing sometime later this Summer, perhaps into the Autumn, writing on historiography and what we know about the Gospels. “How should we understand the Gospels” I’ll be calling that series and it will be engaging with material from New Testament scholars such as Mike Licona, Craig Blomberg, Dan Wallace, Craig Keener, and some recent criticism by Lydia McGrew, the wife of Tim McGrew, and some criticism that she has made against not just Licona specifically, but also against broadly speaking New Testament scholarship of evangelicals. You can look forward to that. I want to encourage you to subscribe to the website so you can get those posts as they begin rolling out sometime this Summer, and part of the reason why I’m pushing it further back, even though I’ve started a little bit of my research, is because I have to work on getting the rough draft of my dissertation completed. That’s the top priority. Inasmuch as I’m interested in multiple areas, I have certain priorities and duties to fulfill first. So yes, you can look forward to that. Chris. Were we able to get up the images for the World Vision event? If not…
Kurt: Okay. Great. I want to announce this. My church, Faith Covenant Church in Wheaton, Illinois is one of the host churches for the World Vision Global 6K for water. It’s a walk/run, a 6K on May 19 of this year. You might be asking, “I’ve heard of a 5K but why do a 6K?” Well, a child in a third world country may have to in many cases walk up to 6K per day Just to get clean water and so we, our church is hosting this walk/run and we want to encourage you to join us and if you don’t live in the Chicagoland area, I think you can go to the World Vision website and this is a worldwide event and find a local church that’s going to be hosting one of the 6K and if not, if you want to get involved, maybe consider having your church become a host setting for this event? May 19, the Global 6K for Water. Chris has the image up there. Okay. We’re moving along. On today’s program, we are talking about the virtue of open-mindedness. This is something that’s been on the mind of our guest for many a years. I’ve known him for maybe six years now possibly. Our guest today is Dr. James Spiegel. He’s the professor of philosophy and religion at Taylor University. He specializes in ethics, history of philosophy, aesthetics, and philosophy of religion. He and his wife live over around Taylor University. I know you did some move more recently, Jim. I’m not sure exactly which town you’re in there now, but thank you for coming on the program.
Jim: Thanks for having me, Kurt.
Kurt: Yeah. Before I forget too, let me plug your blog with your wife, Wisdomandfollyblog.com. A very nice website to get updates about you and the work that you’re doing and your wife writes there as well. Very nice co-opted blog site.
Jim: That’s right. A family that blogs together, well, argues together and mutually annoys one another with our mutual editing.
Kurt: That can be a very sanctifying experience I’m sure.
Kurt: And you have to extol open-mindedness I’m sure when you’re receiving criticism huh?
Jim: That’s nice. Good segue.
Kurt: I try. This is a topic that’s been on your mind for many years. You’ve had the opportunity as well to do further research and thinking on this with the Center for Christian Thought at Biola University, my alma mater, and that was maybe a year and a half or so ago?
Jim: Three and a half years ago.
Kurt: Gosh. Time flies doesn’t it? Three and a half years ago. Yeah. Wow. So this is something you’ve been thinking about for a long time. In order for us to take it step by step, let’s start with this question. How would you explain what open-mindedness is?
Jim: Right. Open-mindedness is a kind of intellectual virtue, a virtue being just any specific excellence that a person might have. We can even extend the concept to inanimate objects. We can talk about virtuous computers and clocks and shoes and so on. Normally we apply the term to human beings and we do so with regard to their moral qualities. We talk about moral virtues like patience, generosity, and mercy and so on, but there are also intellectual virtues. These are generally understood as intellectual traits, cognitive ability, which better equip us when it comes to the pursuit of truth and understanding. Open-mindedness I believe is one of those intellectual virtues and there are a number of different ways of conceiving openmindedness. I’m with William Hare and his view that open-mindedness is at least in paradigm cases, it’s a willingness to consider evidence that could potentially overturn one’s current view or belief. It’s a willingness to have one’s views challenged. That’s the view I favor. There are other views out there that see it more as a kind of indifference, like Peter Gardner and others who have defended that view. So Jason Baehr has a written a book on Virtue Epistemology where he offers a definition of open-mindedness that I think embraces or can capture the essence of both of those conceptions of openmindedness. He defines open-mindedness as a willingness to transcend one’s cognitive standpoint on an issue and it’s very general, but I think that’s right. The open-minded person is willing to transcend their own basic orientation on an issue and so you can understand open-mindedness in a kind of issue-specific way or we also apply the term more generally to a person and so if a person is open-minded, that means that they have this general tendency or predisposition to transcend their own cognitive standpoint when it comes to various conversations.
Kurt: So what you mean here isn’t so much that someone would say insincerely, “Oh. Well I’m willing to have my mind changed if I’m persuaded, but what’s suggested here is a genuine sincerity to evaluate, an approach, a model and perspective, and to possibly change what they think about it. Is that right?
Jim: That’s right. Anybody can pay lip service to any virtue, but the proof is in the pudding. If a person is impatient in discussion, they shut you down, they just refuse to listen and persevere through your presentation of new evidence and arguments, then you can’t really say they’re open-minded, but a person who is genuinely inquisitive, they prove it with what seem to be honest questions and reading diverse points of view or articles and books that present positions that are different from their own, that really proves a genuine open-mindedness.
Kurt: For some, this could be a very sort of academic exercise we’re talking about. Articles and philosophies, but really there’s a very practical experience here to being open-minded. You think how you relate to another human being, say your spouse or your friend. You might have to be open-minded about the things that they’re saying. If they say something you said was hurtful, right, you should be open-minded and say, “Okay. Maybe I did come across too harshly there” or something like that.
Jim: Yeah. It’s connected to other virtues, both moral and intellectual virtues. I do believe in something like the unity of the virtues, that’s a debate that’s been going on for centuries. There’s different ways to understand that, but I think that virtues tend to beget other virtues and you find them in clusters. If you know someone who’s very patient and generous, they’re probably also courageous and compassionate, maybe modest or they have other virtues that kind of naturally combine with other virtues and yeah, from an interpersonal standpoint, I think we observe that, that the virtues due tend to come in clusters as well as the vices. People who are dishonest and rude will probably also lack self-control and be cowards.
Kurt: Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that about the interconnectivity of the various virtues.
Jim: That’s right. Just pay attention. I’m sure as you make thing about the most virtuous and vicious people you know, there are whole clusters of virtues and vices in these peoples’ lives, but it certainly is not just an academic exercise and is something that’s very personal and even if we don’t have the terminology for it and we don’t readily apply these categories to people, intuitively, we are all there. We recognize these traits in people and we size people up. We all do moral judgment even if we like to quote out of context that one passage from Jesus where He says, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”
Kurt: I’m glad you said that’s out of context, because it really is.
Jim: Jesus endorses judging rightly.
Kurt: That’s right.
Jim: He even rebuked people for not judging rightly, and He was very judgmental, but not in the sense of condemnation, which is the bad kind of judgment.
Kurt: Or pre-judging. Yeah.
Jim: That’s right. Yeah. This kind of connects with open-mindedness. There are different ways to be foreclosed on issues and against certain people and not give them the benefit of the doubt. If you hear or see someone do something that’s questionable, are you immediately foreclosing against them with a negative judgment that they acted immorally, that’s a vice, or that’s a sin, or are you willing to gather more facts, consider evidence that could overturn your initial position or view on them? The open-minded person will do just that.
Kurt: So we’re talking about virtue, we’ve mentioned some vices. We’ve heard people use this term of virtue. What is a virtue and why ought people to be virtuous?
Jim: As I mentioned, a virtue is a specific moral excellence. What does that mean? Traditionally, virtues have been understood to have functional aims. These are character traits that enable a person to function well in various contexts so if you have the virtue of patience then you’re able to endure boredom, long waits without complaint. If you’re courageous, you’re able to demonstrate a certain willingness to do the right thing even when it’s dangerous or risky and so on. As a person who works, say, in communications or doing broadcasting or running a podcast, there are certain traits you have to have to do that well. You have to be a good communicator. You need to be able to listen well, but also able to come up with good questions or commentary on the fly and so those are virtues that are not necessarily moral but they enable you to fulfill your function as a host or a broadcaster…
Kurt: So if you think that I’m extolling those virtues, then I want to encourage you to become one of our patrons and chip in $10 a month.
Jim: And being a good podcast host doesn’t mean you’re a good marketer.
Jim: The virtues, at least the moral virtues, are trainable. They’re not learned by mere study. There are things you can learn, a lot of things you can learn and a lot of intellectual virtues you can develop just by studying and reading, but you can’t become a morally better person just by reading a biography of some great saint. You have to put the virtues into practice. You need to practice patience and generosity and you develop good moral habits. As Aristotle would say, eventually, hopefully, these harden into a firm and stable character.
Kurt: Right. You have to risk screwing up in order to extol the moral virtues. Nice. Provide some background for us on what got you interested in researching and thinking about open-mindedness.
Jim: Personally, I guess it really emerges from my general lifelong pursuit of wisdom, Proverbs 4:7 says pursue wisdom, knowledge, understanding, even if it costs you all you have, pursue these things. I’ve dedicated my life to that and really my work as a philosopher, my teaching at the college I’m employed by, all of that’s been an outworking of that general calling and pursuit of my life, and of course, we can talk more about this, open-mindedness as an intellectual virtue is essential to the pursuit of wisdom. More academically, I have interest in ethics, in epistemology and philosophy of religion and this whole matter of open-mindedness really is a topic where those three fields converge which makes it especially interesting to me.
Kurt: So if I may ask, has there been something in your life, either like or a relationship aspect or an intellectual issue where you’ve really had to wrestle with changing your mind. You thought there was some good arguments for some position and you found yourself, whether it was quickly or as a matter of evolving over time, you found yourself on the other side of some position.
JIm: Yeah. I’ve changed my mind on a few relatively important issues over the years. I think that’s always a good sign.
Kurt: Like the Beatles are not the best band ever. Right?
Jim: I think we’ve lost our connection here.
Jim: I’m pretty foreclosed on that, but moving on. The Beatles being the greatest band ever. Sorry.
Kurt: Sorry. I distracted you so much there. Gosh. I’m an awful host.
Jim: Oh yeah. Where have I changed?
Jim: The doctrine of hell would be one. I hold to as you might know a view hold as conditional immortalism, the idea that those who go to hell are eventually annihilated and my view on animal welfare issues and the dietary implications of that have been deeply impacted by….
Jim: Change of mind regarding factory farming and then there have been other issues I’ve written on, two in particular, where I’ve actually prayed that if I’m wrong that God will change my mind, and a couple of very important issues. One on sexuality. One on providence. When I was writing my book on providence that was published about ten or twelve years ago, I was dealing with the writings of the open theists, which I’m very critical of, that perspective. These are people I respect. There’s a lot of careful scholarship done by people from William Hasker and David Basinger to Clark Pinnock and John Sanders and so out of respect for them and just the pursuit of understanding, I prayed that God would change my mind if I’m wrong and that hasn’t happened. In fact, I’ve become more convinced in a high view of providence that at least someone, several views, at least one of the several views which affirms exhaustive divine foreknowledge is correct so that would leave one open still to the Augustinian view, simple divine foreknowledge or Molinism, any of those I consider to be legitimate options for the Orthodox Christian, but the other issue where there’s a lot more cultural pressure to conform to a heterodox position, maybe the word heretical’s appropriate, is on sexuality and whether one should be gay-affirming as in affirming homosexual coupling and all that and you know, it’s a major part of me that would like to be able to affirm that and since increasingly even in the church you find some people affirming that, I thought, “What if I’m wrong? Lord. Change my view.” As with the providence issue I’ve just become more convinced that what Christians have been consistently for 2,000 years and without exception among the leading ethicists and theologians, that sex is designed just for heterosexual marriages, one man, one woman. That has just become a more firm conviction.
Kurt: Okay. A lot of things here to cover. You’ve brought up a very good issue here of how you’ve had to wrestle with these difficult topics, some more than others. Some you might find there’s more peer-pressure, and it would just be so easy to change our mind, but nevertheless, sometimes we can stay firm. On last week’s program, we actually talked about the historical Jesus and primarily critiqued the Jesus mythicist arguments, that Jesus never existed. So, could it not be, when you talk about how you’ve been, these two issues you’ve more firmly planted your feet on what you call a high view of providence and the traditional view of marriage as being between a man and a woman, divinely designed. Are there times where being closed-minded, while you were sort of open-minded, you might have found yourself now a bit more closed-minded because you’ve already thought about things and you’re fairly convinced. Could it be that being closed-minded is a virtue in some situations?
Jim: Absolutely. I think there’s some obvious cases where being closed-minded is not just wise and good from a moral standpoint, but in fact, a sign of psychological health. If someone were to try to persuade me that Kurt Jaros is an alien, he’s one of these…
Kurt: They might be right actually.
Jim: I’m pretty foreclosed in favor of you being a genuine human being, or that my wife is actually some sort of lifelong criminal who’s been doing work for the mafia all these years. I’m foreclosed against that, among all other sorts of bizarre things.
Kurt: Sure. It can get a bit trickier when say ethical issues for what might strike us as bizarre. For others, they are not just entertaining as possibly being permissible, but in other situations might be praising. So for example, the philosopher, the ethicist, Peter Singer, thinks that infanticide is okay and that a herd of pigs is more valuable than a baby, a human baby. That strikes me as quite bizarre and I really really think he’s wrong.
Jim: Yeah. Good. There’s a whole spectrum of issues we could bring up. That’s not as bizarre as believing you’re an alien or my wife is a mafioso, but from a moral standpoint, given the Christian doctrine of sanctity of human life and so on, views I think it’s fair to be foreclosed against that or anything that militates against the fundamentals of the Christian ethic. This is assuming that we can also be foreclosed on say the authority of Scripture and the reality of God. I think all those things really, someone asked me at one of my debates the other night, what would it take to get you to change your view on the existence of God? I said, “At this point, I’m psychologically such that I really couldn’t and I think it’s psychological and not just the basic cosmological fact that the world needs a creator to explain its presence.”
Kurt: I was just talking to someone about this as well, about how my, I’m more open to changing my beliefs about Christianity as true than I am about theism because if one believes in the creator, the designer of the universe, the first cause, that this being would even be a necessary being, I mean, I’m very certain that that’s the case.
Jim: That was exactly the response I gave. I said, “Unless everything disappears all at once and nothing is left, I’m not going to give up my belief in God”, and of course, we wouldn’t be around for me to change my mind if all that happened anyway, but the deity of Christ and His exploits, all that’s dependent, our knowledge of that is dependent on certain historical reports, the Scriptures, their reliablity, and so on. There’s a different epistemic standing that those beliefs have, but now back to the question. When would it be appropriate to be closed-minded on certain issues? Say that are moral and theological. I think I’m entertaining these on potential criteria, at least they are relevant to, and that is that we might be entitled to foreclosure about certain theological beliefs when one there’s consensus among theological authorities down through the ages and especially if it’s uniform, like on the sexuality issue. There’s been far more debate, it’s incomparable, about the Trinity and divine incarnation, as central as those are, far more debate about that historically than this sexuality thing and then globally we have a relative global consensus among Christians around the world on that very issue. As people who live in the United States we might feel like because we’re ethnocentric, “Ah. The church disagrees about this.” Try finding Christian in South America and Africa and China that are on[NP2] this issue.
Kurt: Yeah. Good luck.
Jim: I think there’s culturally motivated and influenced condition here that explains a lot of that. Anyway, those are two things that at least need to be taken seriously when considering the appropriateness of foreclosure about theological beliefs, moral beliefs, the consensus down through the ages and global consensus currently.
Kurt: We could have good, even great reasons, for being close-minded, having a firm certainty about some belief that we have and there’s a criteria for that, but nevertheless, there are these issues where we should remain open-minded. So what are some benefits generally speaking to being open-minded?
Jim: Right. For one thing, an open-minded attitude or disposition helps us in the discovery of truth. It helps us to purge false beliefs. Those are two sides of the same coin, but open-mindedness is extremely valuable for that. The pursuit of wisdom, which I’ve mentioned earlier. It makes us more engaging and winsome. It makes you a more compelling person when you display a certain open-mindedness. It enhances our capacity for civil discourse which is so important these days. Finally, it helps us to abide by the golden rule. In fact, it might be a fulfillment of the golden rule when you think about it.
Kurt: If you’re presenting an argument you want someone to listen to your argument, so you should genuinely listen to their arguments.
Jim: That’s it.
Kurt: Nice. One of the indicators of a open-minded person to me is intellectual humility where they might think, even if they hold a belief, they’re open to being wrong. You can come across people, and especially in apologetics, where you’re dealing with apologists or you’re even just dealing with non-apologists, one has to discern whether someone’s really being open here. Intellectual humility really can be an indicator as to whether someone is open-minded or not.
Jim: That’s right. One of the articles I’ve published on this issue is on open-mindedness and intellectual humility and one scholar that I critique seems to confuse those two things. He wants to say that open-mindedness is kind of a disposition of humility or preparedness to recognize their own fallibility, but that’s intellectual humility. That’s more of a second order trait where open-mindedness does at least usually seem to be more issue-specific and then based on a person’s specific open-mindedness to this issue and that issue, it’s on the basis of that that we call them generally open-minded, but those two things are connected I think. You can’t really be open-minded in the classic sense unless there’s a basic intellectual humility there and a willingness to admit that you’re fallible.
Kurt: Nice. Jim. We’ve got to take a short break here. When we come back though, we’ll continue our conversation and for those listening in on the program, we’ve got a question for the mail bag coming up so stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor, you can go to our website, Veracityhill.com and click on the patron tab. You can see the different ways you can support us whether you’d like to have an advertisement played or if you just want to be one of those patrons of ours that chips in $5 or $10 a month to help this program continue going. On today’s program, we’re talking about the virtue of open-mindedness and our guest today is Dr. James Spiegel. He is professor of philosophy and religion at Taylor University. He specializes in ethics, history of philosophy, aesthetics, and philosophy of religion. He’s also the author of a number of different books, one of them The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads To Unbelief. Jim, before we continue our program, tell me just briefly what your book is about here. Of course, I’ve read it so I know what it’s already about, but explain to us if you will.
Jim: Right. It’s a response to the new atheism, but not the typical kind of apologist response where one counters with arguments and evidences for God which I’m fully convinced there are plenty, but really it’s developing and working out what seems to be the biblical account of atheism that’s the result of a certain kind of rebellion and suppression of the truth rather than a genuine lack of recognizing the evidence for God and so I kind of break that down and analyze different aspects of that willful resistance to the reality of God.
Kurt: Nice. Very good read and it’s quick. Nice and short. You can read it for folks that can crank stuff up in an afternoon even. Just a short book. Very nice read.
Jim: Going for brevity.
Jim: Which is a virtue in some contexts.
Kurt: In some contexts, yes. Before we get back into the discussion about open-mindedness, we’ve got a short segment here on the program we call Rapid Questions. Did I inform you about this segment beforehand?
Jim: No. Sounds intriguing.
Kurt: Alright. That’s the goal here. I do that to all of my guests that haven’t appeared by the way. Rapid Questions. You’ve got sixty seconds and these are just sort of goofy questions about you and your interests and really we need to get new questions because we’ve used these for so long now so we’ll have to do something to crowdfund new questions.
Jim: They’re new to me.
Kurt: They are. Yes. I will start the game clock and then I’ll read the first question so here we go.
Kurt: What is your clothing store of choice?
Jim: Kohl’s I guess.
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Jim: Taco Bell.
Kurt: What school did you go to?
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Jim: Usually Beatles.
Kurt: Where would you like to live?
Jim: Upland, Indiana.
Kurt: What’s your favorite sport?
Kurt: What kind of razor do you use?
Jim: Trac Two.
Kurt: What is your spouse’s favorite holiday?
Kurt: What’s your most hated sports franchise?
Jim: The Patriots of New England.
Kurt: Good. Have you ever planked?
Jim: Only in my dreams.
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Jim: Once a year maybe.
Kurt: Have you ever driven on the other side of the road?
Jim: That and off the road.
Kurt: What’s the one thing you’d be sure to keep with you if you’re stranded on an island?
Jim: Swiss army knife?
Kurt: Hokey Pokey, Electric Slide, or the Macarena?
Jim: Electric Slide.
Kurt: Nice. Thank you for playing that round of Rapid Questions. Okay, so baseball, favorite sport. Who’s your favorite team?
Jim: I’m kind of a promiscuous sports fan. My wife makes fun of me to that. I’m a Chicago Cubs, but born and raised Detroit Tigers and then I fell in love with the, there you go, fell in love with the Atlanta Braves in my 20’s and 30’s. Cubs, may they be 2016 World Series champions forever.
Kurt: That’s right. I’m a huge Chicago Cubs fan. People are wondering if it’s spring, why do you still have a winter hat? Jim. You and I have both been blessed with little hair on top of our heads.
Jim: It’s better hygiene. Fewer parasites on the scalp.
Kurt: Next time someone talks to me about that, I think I might raise that point. Saving money. Less shampoo needed. I usually give the economical reason, but fewer parasites. I like it. We are talking about on today’s program, the virtue of open-mindedness and in the first half of the program, Jim, you really laid out for us what open-mindedness is, what a virtue is and why we should consider becoming virtuous and some of the great benefits to having an open mind, but that there are some times, cases, where being closed-minded is really the proper thing to do and really there’s a set of criteria for when we should consider being closed-minded and likewise for when we should be open-minded. So how is it that being open-minded can allow us to discover our biases, to lead us to knowledge and wisdom?
Jim: Right. If open-mindedness really involves taking seriously alternative perspectives, welcoming new evidence that could overturn our beliefs, and trying to see things from another person’s point of view, then that will naturally enable us to overcome where our biases might otherwise preserve a certain false belief or mistake in orientation. Of course, it’s going to open up new avenues for wisdom and understanding. That just goes with that territory.
Kurt; We’ve got a question from one of our viewers right now. Michaela asks, “Would you say your definition of open-mindedness differs at all from the popular or common perception of what it means to be open-minded today?”
Jim: Good question. Depending on what she means by the popular view, she might have in mind, this kind of false view of tolerance where to be tolerant is to actually hold a certain dogmatic position on certain issues. If you’re politically correct or abiding by the prevailing cultural norms. In that case, my view, William Hare’s view, the view of Jason Baehr, Linda Zagzebski, or other virtue epistemologists would definitely go against that. We need to be willing to consider that whatever the current cultural trend is, even if 95% of people in our culture are going with it, that it just might be wrong. Part of open-mindedness is being willing to question presuppositions that often go unnoticed because they’re so commonly held. Really, in that sense, open-mindedness is just part of being a good Socratic thinker.
Kurt: I think that’s what she did mean, that sort of pseudo sense of tolerance of entertaining questionably ethical affairs, especially for Christians. We have certain expectations. It’s different for folks that may not be Christian. Good question, Michaela. Thank you for tuning in to today’s program. My next question for you Jim is this one. When we talk about open-mindedness, what place is there for teaching young children certain lessons as if we’re not making all available truths to be known? Here’s a good one. I think the Santa Claus, when you teach people about Santa Claus, you’re instilling in them, and hoping that it will bring about certain virtues in their own life, very practical virtues like good behavior, but what place is there for them to think about what is true of the world and how a parent might be playing coy with them, if that makes sense a little bit. Maybe I need to rephrase the question.
Jim: No. I have a lot of thoughts on that. I wrote a whole book on doing apologetics with your kids. It’s called, Gum, Geckos, and God, and there, and anybody who knows my life and me well will know that we’ve taken a very active approach in terms of training our kids to have certain intellectual values…
Kurt: Think a certain way. Have certain beliefs.
Jim: Yeah. Open-mindedness as well as a willingless to ask all sorts of questions and whenever we got questions from our kids regardless of how bizarre or early it might have seemed, we gave them straight answers…
Kurt: My wife is the same way on some topics. I’m a little bit more shy to just….
Jim: Particularly when you get to the question about where do babies come from if they’re only 4 or 5 years old. If they ask a sincere question, they deserve a sincere answer. As regards Santa Claus, what we did there is we told them there was a story about this jolly old elf, but it’s just a story. It’s an interesting cultural myth, but he’s not omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. That is to confuse Santa with God. After all, it was Jesus, not Santa, who came and atoned for our sins. I know this might bother some people, but we see that whole idea of participating in that lie to your kids as kind of potentially planning seeds of mistrust. “Wow. My parents systematically lied to me for five years there, so I why should I believe them on theology.” Right?
Kurt: Right. Yeah. That’s right. Fascinating. Very fascinating. Alright. You talked about civil discourse. You mentioned civil discourse as one of the benefits to open-mindedness and that’s one of the goals of our program here week after week is to bring on folks from different perspectives, different beliefs, and to talk about a variety of topics pertaining to a Christian worldview. Sometimes our guests are not believers. How, in your evaluation, do you think open-mindedness would help the civil discourse of our current nation and the inability of people to literally sit down and have a civil discussion on say, policy matters?
Jim: I think it would make a dramatic difference, even if just a quarter of the population suddenly displayed genuine open-mindedness in those contexts, those public forums, because we have so much division, rancor, harsh dogma, you just can’t have those sorts of attitudes and maintain that if you’re genuinely open-minded, so in many ways, I think it really would be the special sauce that could enable us to be a culture where there’s genuine civil disagreement and discussion that really is mutually respectful.
Kurt: Yeah. Also, I think it will help us understand where people are coming from and sometimes people just want someone to listen and that in and of itself can be helpful for our purposes in spreading the gospel and reaching people with the message and the love of Jesus, so Christians really should reflect and consider on how they could be more open-minded in order to reach and love their neighbors.
Jim: Yeah. Very good.
Kurt: Jim. Thank you so much for coming on today’s program. It’s been great to see you. I know it’s been a few years. We got lunch I think over at ETS/EPS back a few years back, maybe four years ago, so good to see you on the screen at the very least.
Jim: Indeed. Yeah. Thanks you guys and kudos for all you’re doing and congratulations on the new vehicle.
Kurt: Thank you so much. God bless you.
Jim: Yeah. You too.
Kurt: Alright. Bye-bye. That’s the virtue of open-mindedness and how it really can provide for us a way to have civil discourse with others and I hope that you will consider ways in which you might find yourself being more open-minded about something, either personally, intellectually, or with regard to your relationships with your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, can serve a great good. A great good. Now it’s time for the mail bag.
Kurt: This question comes from Leondro P. He writes in a long message. I’m just going to summarize and really, I’ll just take this one paragraph of his here. He’s got a number of great thoughtful questions, but I’ll just be dealing with one today. He writes, “Throughout Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus makes several prophecies about His second coming and from what I’ve read in these prophecies, particularly those in Matthew 16 and 24, it seems as if Jesus really meant or heavily implied that He would return to Earth in judgment to bring about the new Earth and the new Heavens within the apostles’ lifetime. It really seems as if Jesus implied He would return within the first century. This seems to be further supported by Paul and Peter’s writings amongst others that suggest that Jesus really will come in their lifetime.” He continues writing, “I need clarity and a definite answer, at least one backed by a solid amount of evidence. Did Jesus and the early church teach and believe that the second coming would happen in the first century within the lifetime of the apostles?” Again, Leondro, thank you so much for writing in to the program. Very good question. I know you’re looking for a solid answer. You write here, “Backed by a solid amount of evidence.”
How I would like to answer your question though is to question some of the assumptions or interpretations I think you’ve made about a number of the passages here in Matthew 16 and 24. There’s also a passage in Revelation where Jesus says, “Behold. I’m coming quickly.” First, let me talk about 16 here. From here you might be having in mind verse 27, Matthew 16:27. “For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels and then He will reward each person according to what they have done.” Matthew 24, there are numerous points here about the Son of Man coming and returning, but note here in verse 36 of Matthew 24, “but about that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” I think this verse really undercuts or in philosophy it serves as a defeater to the idea that Jesus taught or even implied that He was going to be returning within the first century. I’m not sure that we could say Jesus believed that because He says here, nor the Son, referring to Himself. Nor the Son knows when it will happen.
Now some scholars have suggested that the apostles believed Jesus would return in their lifetime and while it might be uncomfortable for some people to think about this, it is possible for the apostles to have false beliefs on some things. That’s not to say that the Scripture is not inspired. That’s not even to say that the Scripture is not inerrant, but that the apostles may have had false beliefs on some topics and perhaps, this was one of those topics. I think with regard to the teachings of Jesus, it certainly isn’t the case that He believed, taught, or I would argue even implied that He would return in the first century. He did not know when. With regard to the apostles, perhaps they did, but that’s okay. I think it’s okay for humans to have mistaken beliefs about things. I hope that answers your question. I know you’ve listened to other questions as well and I’d love for you to follow up with me and I think you for your background here that you’ve provided, so that would be my answer, that the apostles perhaps believed that, but what purpose might that serve? The fact of the matter is Jesus does teach about His second coming, the apostles do teach that it will come like a thief in the night. Even Jesus talks about being prepared. We should be ready and alert. We shouldn’t dilly-dally and I hope that can help you a little bit in your search for knowledge and again, if you’ve got a follow-up, feel free to get in touch with me.
If you would like to have your question or concern talked about and addressed on this program, feel free to write in to me, Kurt@Veracityhill.com. You can also go to our website Veracityhill.com and submit a question in that way. Leondro. Thank you again for writing in and I hope to hear from you again.
That does it for today’s program. I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the sponsorships that we have with Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. I am grateful for our technical producer Chris and to our guest today, Dr. Jim Spiegel, and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]1:35. Couldn’t understand