Virtuous Ignorance

Being charged with being an ignoramus is no compliment. However, some ignorance is virtuous. One should cultivate being an ignoramus in a few areas.

First, curiosity is often a sin. For example, you do not need to see the person lying on the side of the road being attended to by first responders. It is none of your business. Use the golden rule: Would you want people staring at you if you were in that condition? You can look away, but be sure to pray.

Second, you should be ignorant about what is in the realm of others’ privacy. There is no need to know, so you should not know. “Thou shalt not covet anything of thy neighbor’s (that you don’t need to know).” One’s medical history should not be public knowledge. Only God can know everything virtuously since he is perfect.

Third, it is not virtuous to know or make known unflattering, but irrelevant, matters about others. That is gossip, a serious sin in the New Testament. Think of how much of American popular culture feeds on and starves without gossip. What dysfunctional, idiotic, or criminal things have this or that celebrity done now? You should not want to know. You may know too much. Try to forget in order to make more room for virtuous knowledge.

I give the Apostle Paul the last word: “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16:19). Amen.

19 thoughts on “Virtuous Ignorance

  1. Pingback: Virtuous Ignorance | Talmidimblogging

  2. While agreeing with your examples let me suggest a different way to frame the issue. We know that the greatest commandment is to love God, including loving Him with all our mind. It would seem then logical that those seeking to following this guidance should be using their mind more effectively and that there should be evidence that they do so. Engineers and scientist who love God with all their mind should have more patents and inventions. Artists should paint more or better paintings. We don’t seem to have any evidence that this is true of White American Evangelicals. Rather a strong case can be made that White American Evangelicals use their minds less than the secular culture around them. That is a troubling questions for another time. Perhaps the unifying theme in your examples is the misuse and waste of the mind. It is a waste of the mind to go deep into conspiracy theories and live in an imaginary world for which there is no objective evidence. There are productive things for any of us to be thinking about but each of your examples is a waste of our mind and curiosity. What is wasted is not used for positive purposes. So perhaps the conclusion should be to always be more curious but for positive purposes?

    • Stephen Berger, I think people might grossly under value the amount of time, attention and resources it takes to reach spiritual maturity. Working out one’s own faith along with spiritual battles with sin could take longer than we think.
      Sin is a spiritual disease and relapse may be possible due to the old sinful nature cf Matt 9. How long does it take to die to self? Is it the same for everyone or in God’s timing or dependent on fallible human understanding or on both?

      Conspiracy theories aren’t all wrong. The Mafia is a conspiracy. You have to put in the research to see if any of the conspiracies are valid. Besides there is always a spiritual struggle in this world and people have been told to expose evil. Exposing evil is proactive. Just because some people are over actively imagining the Book of Revelation or misconstruing doesn’t mean they are all wrong. We believers in Christ can only know “partly” as I CorInthians says.

      Early Christian leaders believed in the historicist view of Revelation showing the divine hand of providence and that some things like the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 would took place as Rev 9 said it would. You have to know history along with Revelation and be able to decode the symbology to see how accurate the historicist view is. Prophecy is best known with 20-20 hindsight not with making predictions about the future as really only God knows the future but we do know history likes to repeat itself. Christ came once and will come again. This time to set up His kingdom on earth.

      The preterist and futurist schools replaced the earlier historicist view of history because of Jesuit Ribera’s work to Counter the Reformation by causing Revelation to be read in the future when Revelation 1 said they “things are to happen soon”. Ribera influenced John Nelson Darby a few hundred years later.

      You can research various group founders too. The Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons, many of the American founding fathers were all freemasons and free masonry is incompatible with Christianity. Yet we find Masonic thinking behind the American and the French Revolutions all traceable back to Weishaupt. Even the KKK was founded by a 33rd degree Freemason called Albert Pike. Freemasonry is deistic and some trace it back to Babylon. They swear terrible oaths to maintain secrecy in contradiction to Christ’s directive on the Sermon on the Mount not to make oaths.

      You have to ferret out the true and the false in this world sometimes. Evil and counterfeits sometimes run side by side with the good in this world.

      • Susan, good points. I have periodically asked people with a history of guiding people in their spiritual development how long it typically takes. The answers tend to group around 2 years of weekly group study and weekly individual meeting with a leader/guide to get to the place where one is spiritually and doctrinally stable. Being stable is not mature. Maturity would take more time but becoming stable in ones habits and theology is an important point along the way.

        You can look at this question from a cost-to-the-church perspective. The answer that seems to be coming back from what churches do is that it is just too expensive to actually disciple people. It is far cheaper to just compliment them rather than do the hard work of discipling them.

        A number of measures seem to find that only about 20% of church attendees actually are maturing. One of those measures is what happens when a false teacher or anti-Christ comes along. Over and over we tend to find about 80% go running after the latest hot fad.

        Even more troubling is that if you ask people who appear to have reached a fair level of spiritual maturity where they found the best help only a few name their church. In my experience most will name a parachurch ministry that really helped them at an important time in their life. Others will name an individual who have the skills and invested a lot of time in them.

        I think your historic examples are useful. Ideally we would be using our critical thinking skills and spiritual disciplines to be loosening the control of our history and moving closer to the teachings of Christ. I don’t think we have any evidence that critical thinking is a well practices skill among our brethren. Some to be sure are very wise and insightful. It would be wonderful if their tribe would increase.

      • You’re probably right about the paramilitary church being the most effective, Stephen. You get a headstart in a church but a lot of churches jump around teaching biblical topics. I realized on my own most churches will baptize you and not teach you to put on the whole armor of God at the same time. To understand some key concepts you have to be interested to seek and meditate and apply to know. The people that don’t ever believe never seem to grasp there is a type of gradual initiation into the family of God. The more you pray, think, and do the more you know.
        By paramilitary I would take that to mean missionaries. I started seeking out the missionaries and their writings because those are the deeply convicted doers. Somebody who does always knows something more than someone who doesn’t.
        Like Andrew Murray. His essay called Absolute Surrender over on ccel dot org is a real eye opener.
        I was just reading today how most of the mainstream church has not preached the original Gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus did. Jesus sent his disciples out preaching it before his death and resurrection. I think it causes confusion in Bible interpretation because sometimes people think Kingdom of God always means heaven when sometimes it is talking about the Millenial Kingdom. I think a good part of the church is oblivious to the fact there are 2 resurrections. They just skip over the whole thousand year kingdom and the resurrections to go straight to heaven in their thoughtlives.

      • Susan,

        Let me clarify that I said parachurch not paramilitary church. By parachurch I mean organizations like the Navigators, CRU, Intervarsity, many Christian camps and others. These groups have a different structure and program to help people in their pilgrimage. There are paramilitary churches where people buy guns and talk about using violence to make the world safe for God. Those groups scare me.

        I do like what Bill Hull says in Jesus Christ Disciplemaker and the Disciplemaking Church. I have written about the 5 areas touched on in the 2 greatest commandments, Mark 12:30-31. I think in our growth we need work in all 5 areas, heart, soul, mind, strength and loving our neighbor.

        I do think you are on the right track in what you say about missionaries. I have benefited greatly from them and still do. I would go further and suggest that missionaries are also conduits to insights from believers in other cultures. I think our cultures set us up to have different insights to God’s truths and there is great benefit to diversity of background among believers. I once attended a church in New Delhi India with members from about 10 countries and who spoke about 20 different native languages. It was a rich environment filled with surprising and valuable insights. Our too often mono-cultural churches are far poorer by comparison.

        Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      • Stephen Berger, you may want to watch
        Protestant Historicism – The Key to Daniel and Revelation on YouTube. This is just a short intro video explaining why today’s futurism on the Book of Revelation is totally confusing. To quote a confused commenter on the video “I was raised in the future wrist churches and never understood why they couldn’t get their stories straight.” I experienced the same thing and why? Because of a Counter Reformation conspiracy I came upon while researching various religious topics a while back. Enjoy!

        Revelation 1
        King James Version
        1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must SHORTLY COME TO PASS; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

  3. Amen.

    John 7:17, NIV: “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”

    From bibleref.com:
    What does John 7:17 mean?

    The phrasing used here by Jesus is unmistakable; He literally says, “If any man is willing to do His (God’s) will, he shall know…” While Satan tempts man with limited knowledge based in disobedience (Genesis 3:5), we are meant to obtain true knowledge through obedience. Jesus essentially turns His era’s assumed relationship between knowledge and morality backwards. Ancient philosophers frequently held that morality was something produced by knowledge. Under that assumption, moral behavior and the ability to do “good” was based on whether or not a person understood moral and philosophical truths. Only those who could understand could obey, they thought. In other words, misunderstanding causes disobedience, per ancient philosophy.

    According to Christ, disobedience causes misunderstanding. Rather than knowledge of the truth leading to obedience, Jesus claims that whether or not a person is willing to obey God is what affects their ability to learn the truth!

    This general idea is echoed elsewhere in Scripture, both by Jesus and others (John 18:37; Romans 1:18–20; Hebrews 11:6). In fact, Jesus laid the groundwork for this idea when preaching in Capernaum, after feeding the thousands (John 6:29). The fact that Jesus was noted to be sinless (Hebrews 4:15), even by many of His own critics (John 8:46), demonstrates how a person’s spiritual life says a great deal about their knowledge (or ignorance) of God’s Word.

    Context Summary

    John 7:14–24 is a strong spiritual challenge issued by Jesus against the religious leaders of Jerusalem. Jesus makes the point that obedience is a necessary aspect of learning. The resistance of the Scribes and Pharisees is ultimately a matter of rebellion, not knowledge. In the same way, Jesus criticizes their hypocritical attitude towards His miracles. This concludes with a powerful statement about the need to use ”right judgment,” rather than shallow appearances. – end quote

    People think reason is more important than obedience but we’re like little children and can never know everything God knows so sometimes simple obedience is best. For example, you tell your 2 year old to stay out of the road and he obeys you out of love and respect. He may not know why but thankfully he just obeys.

    We don’t know why every time but we feel we have to control all explanations. We don’t. Only God is omniscient.

  4. Mr Berger’s comments: “Engineers and scientist who love God with all their mind should have more patents and inventions. Artists should paint more or better paintings. We don’t seem to have any evidence that this is true of White American Evangelicals. Rather a strong case can be made that White American Evangelicals use their minds less than the secular culture around them. That is a troubling questions for another time.”

    There is a curious disconnect here. On the one hand, Mr Berger seems to be affirming the White Protestant Work Ethic as the standard for Christian productivity. On the other, he is bashing White Protestant Christians for their presumed gullibility to conspiracies and mental laziness. Which is it? In any case, based on what I see of secular culture, there is zero evidence that it is more intellectually active than Christian culture, zero evidence of any intellectual superiority, and quite a lot of evidence that secular culture is based on the denial of evidence regarding a great many issues.

    • I need to think about whether I am affirming the White Protestant Work Ethic. That would be a mistake on my part. We are commanded to love God with all our strength. I need to think through how obeying that commandment is different from the White Protestant Work Ethic.

      As to zero evidence of intellectual superiority, based on my experience, I must disagree. I’ve been professionally involved in engineering and development of international standards for about 40 years. During that time I have worked with a lot of wonderful people from many backgrounds and countries. I started out believing that our tribe would be consistently superior. Sadly, I have not found our tribe to be superior but often to be inferior to others. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the point of comparison is intellectual quality, ethical behavior, work ethic or compassion for others.

      Perhaps what is being demonstrated is that I Cor. 1:26 is true. Not many of us are wise, powerful or noble. We might do well to carry ourselves with a bit more humility as we interact with those from different backgrounds and belief systems? Our witness might be more effective? Perhaps a little more humility would motivate each of us to be more diligent to pursuing Christ’s character being formed in us?

    • harmonicminer, I am convinced that unbelievers’ culture is based on the denial of evidence. Romans 1 and sin is the evidence.
      Sin is easily observable unless you have a motive not to recognize it or are self deceptive. You don’t need to subject sin to scientific standards to see it either.

      I read internet unbelievers all over the Net accusing Christians of being delusional blind to the fact that admitting to having sinned and to it’s existence in this world is realistic not delusional.

      If you’re a lazy skeptic with a hidden motive not to seek how are you ever going to get to the truth? Relationships require genuine appreciation, work, time and commitment. Which is self dedication. I suspect only genuine seeking unbelievers ever convert and that is because some of them actually stop being spiritually lazy and do get their own evidence or perhaps they switch to a better bias that helps them stop being so careless of their own souls and then start thinking along less confused lines. It’s strange to me they never realize their own confusion and inability tp distinguish true spirituality from false religion but want to communicate their own confusion to others. Some of them even try to dominate you by arguing and mocking. Mocking is a control tactic. A verbal weapon aimed at attacking another person’s self esteem. Can you imagine being a neuroscientist like Sam Harris and endorsing “conversational intolerance” as a reasonable form of social discourse. But he does. Quite a few unbelievers follow him, too. But mocking is just a sign of sin. A sin hardened heart would be lacking in empathy but might still want to win by any means it finds handy.
      Now there are some unbelievers not engaging in ad hominem regularly but it is a symptom of a hardened heart that you see alot with a lot of them. Though there are always exceptions to the norm or rule.

      • Susan, in response to your comments to harmonicminer I would offer a couple of comments.

        I have certainly encountered people like those you describe. I also find, as you say at the end, that it is dangerous to paint with too broad a brush. There are many reasons people are not believers in Christ. We never know with certainty what the Holy Spirit has been doing and is doing in their lives. Sometimes they are outwardly most hostile when the Holy Spirit is most active in drawing them. It does happen that at times our witness is the last step to their giving up the fight against faith.

        Whatever their situation or way they present themselves, we still are under obligation to obey our Lord, remembering His commands to love them and try to win them to receive grace and experience love.

      • Stephen Berger, No offense but what you wrote about being nice is pretty much standard for Christians. Why would you think I need the reminder just because telling the unvarnished truth might be more effective under certain circumstances.

        I think believers are up against a whole nother level of evil on the internet and short quip tendency on facebook by people is not addressing the problem. I see all the unbelievers acting out on the Facebook non-profit pages and on Christian teaching blogs and other social media sites all over the Net and I hope the Christians start to stop these people demanding evidence in their tracks and make them think by simply tell them the evidence is SIN and Romans 1. They actually are deluding themselves that they are on some type of high ground needing objective evidence and there is always the chance they will confuse someone not thinking things through for themselves.

        The net is not face to face personal evangelism. There is an extra meannness in anonymity. You can’t handle and help in depth personally every person in spiritual crisis you meet on the Net but you can make them think for a moment and explain to them they have misunderstood God, etc.

        Seriously, the Net with its’ comments pages makes people think there is a false parity between believers and unbelievers and as long as Christians don’t engage them they will never be corrected. It makes people think all opinions are equally valid but they are not. It reinforces and reveals rebellion.

        The bible is a book granting people spiritual knowledge about God. Some people are processing it and some people are not processing it at all. I am pointing that out to people now as a sign of sin because if you are arguing against the existence of the God of the Bible from eisegesis or attacks on God’s character learned from other people in rebellion to Him then you are actually attacking Christianity from a position of ignorance and why would anyone argue from a position of ignorance. They need bible tutoring and counseling more than they need arguments. All you did arguing with them is skirt the fact they have undealt with sin while they change the topic.

        All those people in rebellion are not a Christian’s intellectual equal on the scriptures so why don’t the people with a relationship, an anointing, an adoption into the family of God and an earnest deposit of the Spirit put their foot down and tell them that? Tell them sin is behind their eisegesis. Tell them to investigate the noetic effects of sin. Why would Christians continue to sustain personal attacks when an unbeliever can be taught to examine himself for sin if you are just willing to use the Sword of the Spirit as the offensive weapon it is and dent their self defense mechanisms and get them to actually look at the truth instead of letting them project their evil on to you. Don’t confuse pity with love. There is such a thing as tough love and when someone makes a personal attack on you it might be time to point out the critical evidence denying go on so the deception has a chance….a mere chance…to dispel for them. No this is not the norm but we are dealing sometimes with extremely hardened people on the Net. You have to gage how hardened by what they say. Christ didn’t mince words with the Pharisees. Some people cannot understand certain concepts unless you break things down to a third grade level and spell it out for them.

        I always naturally liked people. Whoever they were. You know what teaches people to start disliking groups of people? Other people’s words and actions and a discriminatory attitude learned from your in group. Though sometimes people have irrational fears like xenophobia. There are I am sure other things as well.

        I see a lot of Christians avoiding telling the truth these days and I wonder why. Is it from over obedience to certain verses or is it from weak faith or just not caring. I don’t know but an only 20 percent evangelical rate among a group of Christians is not very good.

        I hope a lot of people learn to say to that “Where is your evidence for Christianity question?”….instead of leaving these unbelievers hanging thinking they are right…”Hey…sin is the evidence! It is the whole reason God sent Jesus. Are you telling me you didn’t realistically examine it?”

        Put the burden on them for a change. I assure you there are tons of them parroting each other waiting to put the burden on you as a Christian. A burden they think you can’t handle oblivious to their own burden that Christ came to relieve them of.

        There is not one unethical thing about attempting to jar someone’s evil reality to start making them think on a better level. Don’t confuse emotion with the truth. Sure a little sugar makes the medicine go down but it’s not always possible to put sugar in every time or even necessary. Some people engage in the defense mechanism of over intellectualization to remove emotion.

        Have a great day.

      • Stephen Berger, you may want to take a look at
        5 Indicators of an Evil and Wicked Heart by The Association of Biblical Counselors on biblestudytools dot com.
        The Bible warns us saying, “But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord (Isaiah 26:10).

        You may not have witnessed the levels of depravity that I have. God’s counsel didn’t impact Cain.

        God bless!

      • Stephen Berger, people can’t experience God’s love if they have dedicated themselves to stonewalling Him out of existence while they project lies onto God and proselytize their unbelief to inoocent ears who may not be trained to discern good from evil. You can’t assume your loving nature will win someone who has passed a certain point. But what you do have is the truth. If someone is determined to project lies on to you and distort your attempts to reflect God’s loving image then the truth may be the only thing you have. I believe it’s the only thing that can get through the stone wall of a person who has rejected God. If a person rejects God’s love why would he be receptive to your’s. Most of them have already branded believers as “delusional” no matter that we act more socially acceptable than they do.

        We have probably done unbelievers a great disservice because out of too kind an attitude we let them engage in deception hoping some how our manner will win people over. Only in extreme cases it doesn’t. So just tell the absolute scriptural truth. It is there to remove the deception. While you’re wasting time not getting to the heart of the matter there is no telling how many people these stonewalling unbelievers are out there confusing and hurting. We all only have so much time and encounters with them. So tell them to read Romans 1 and tell them while they don’t have the spirit they can’t even interpret scripture. Then ask them why when they never understood God’s perspective they are arguing against God when they won’t even accept burden of proof to prove He doesn’t exist. Oh they have their false science substitutions but the fact remains that they cannot prove God doesn’t exist to everyone’s satisfaction.

        Seriously, Christians need to stop playing games with unbelievers and level with them. Without the spirit they are not a believer’s equal to reason about the scriptures. Is pointing that out going to bother them? Why yes it should and if you don’t use it to wake them up to their own deception they might never wake up. You can piddle around in science, etc all day with them and never make a dent in that armor of self deception they have cloaked around them.

        Sin is a spiritual disease. When you have a non-spiritual disease the doctor does not skirt the issue. He gives you the diagnose and your options as he sees is right. You can’t control the underlying sinful twistedness of another person but you can give him the truth. God gave us the truth to meditate on not for us to dole out as we see fit in a certain manner. Not everyone reasons identically or takes the same things to heart.

        Many unbelievers show by their words their twisted heart condition. They project it onto people, too. All you have is your shield of faith and your sword of truth to answer their false projectiles with. If you have the rest of the armor of God on then you can stand your ground but it is mainly the truth we answer them with. They already devalued the emotion to serve their own motives and to cast us in a bad light. Really all you can do sometimes is make someone think along a new line of thinking. Their old line is already failing them.

        You didn’t cause all that failure either. It was already there. But you can use the truth to catch their attention and save them. All you have to have is the nerve to speak it regardless of how they react. We never control reactions really and we should stop walking on eggshells around unbelievers. Walking on eggshells is what the saner people start to do around the less sane but more easily explosive people. If you’re not afraid then why act like it. The truth is brave.

        Have a blessed day.

  5. Stephen, you said: “I’ve been professionally involved in engineering and development of international standards for about 40 years. During that time I have worked with a lot of wonderful people from many backgrounds and countries. I started out believing that our tribe would be consistently superior. Sadly, I have not found our tribe to be superior but often to be inferior to others. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the point of comparison is intellectual quality, ethical behavior, work ethic or compassion for others.”

    I understand this is your experience. But beyond personal, specific experience, if you read widely you can’t escape the perception that huge swaths of “secular” culture are based on denying obvious facts, on everything from gender to whether human beings are primarily responsible for changes in climate, or whether they can realistically do anything about it even if they are. Or whether minimum wage laws actually produce benefit for most of the poor, as opposed to the lucky ones who keep their jobs. Or whether allow nuclear weapons to be developed by terrorist nations is a good idea…. and on and on.

    At the bottom, all of these things boil down to denying that there is such a thing as personal morality that involves right and wrong actions that affect specific individuals.

    The science deniers are not primarily on the Christian side, in America or elsewhere. I don’t deny that there ARE intellectually vapid Christians, just that the so called secular (really just a different religion) side of things is any better.

    The really interesting aspect of this to me is how the secular side denies obvious historical sources, including the New Testament, which looks better and better as time goes on as an historical source, yet is not accorded the same historical validity by secular society as far less historically valid sources, by the standards promulgated by professional historians.

    Science requires history, and history requires science. It’s no accident that when you start denying one of them, you’ll eventually start denying the other.

    That’s probably how so many distortions of history and historical interpretation have taken root in the secular side of the academy.

  6. Steve Berger, sorry for the typo. I knew what you meant when you said parachurch. CRU, etc are all missionary/evangelical in nature.
    I think it is the first time I ever used the term in a discussion. Probably why I made the typo.

    I meant parachurch, too. I have to proofread more.

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