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26th February
2012
written by Jeffrey Long

“Some years ago, NASA released the first deep-space photographs of the beautiful cloud-swirled blue-green agate we call Earth. A reporter showed one of them to the late Samuel Shenton, then president of International Flat Earth Research Society. Shenton studied it for a moment and said, “It’s easy to see how such a picture could fool the untrained eye.”

Samuel Shenton, and his fellow members of the Flat Earth Society are a rather radical example of a problem we all have. Like them, our vision of our world is colored by what our eyes have been trained to see. When he looked at a picture of what was plainly a globe, he didn’t see the globe. He had trained his eyes to see the Earth as flat and thus wasn’t able to adjust his vision to a different reality.

My eyes were trained by two beliefs: deep trust in science and faith. The result has been that I don’t see things through one lens or the other. I tend to see through both. I will agree with some scientists regarding the origin of our species, while disagreeing with some people of faith on a literal six day creation of the Earth. But then I will disagree with some scientists about intelligent design and agree with the person of faith that God came before and created our universe.

But even still, my eyes are trained. I’ve dedicated a large part of my life to untrain them where necessary, by learning as much as I can, and not letting my biases get in the way of new ideas.

One purpose of this blog is to talk about that process of untraining my eyes.

Paul, one of the first teachers of the way of Jesus wrote this in a letter to a church in ancient Corinth. He said:

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part…”

NKJV 1Corinthians 13:9-12, 13

Paul was telling this fledgling church something that I always need to be reminded of: that my knowledge, whether about historic, scientific, political or spiritual matters, is limited. I only know parts of things. And sometimes those parts are pretty small. My vision is dim. I need the humility to listen to Stephen Hawking about the origin of the universe, and scholars like Robert Webber about the translation of the Greek New Testament of the Bible.

When we learn humility, it should lead us to being gracious to people who see things differently.

Unfortunately this is not always the case. A problem I’ve experienced is that when our eyes are trained on one view or another, we begin to suspect those whose eyes are trained differently. It’s one thing to see the Earth as flat. It’s another to question the spiritual integrity of someone who sees it as a globe. I once saw a video claiming that the earth was only 10,000 years old. While this is tomfoolery to me, I don’t feel the need to damn these people to hell. But the film took the time to brand a dissenting Christian scientist a heretic.

When creeds, hypothesis, doctrines, theories or moral laws come before graciousness, they inevitably lead to judgment. But when graciousness comes before knowledge, it informs that knowledge in a loving way.

So, the other purpose of this blog is to defend people’s integrity as Christians and thinkers, regardless of the training of their eyes, and not allow people to take the moral high ground against them. Because the whole point, Paul taught a sentence later is that while we know in part, what we do know is faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. Not knowledge.