Seeing with two eyes

Vision is a wonderfully complex thing. No one single person could ever exhaust studying every facet of how it works in a lifetime. After about two centuries of modern vision science there are still many mysteries to this day. Vision involves a complex interplay of anatomical and physiological factors. When a person is observing something close binocularly (i.e. with two eyes working together) something called stereopsis comes into play. Stereopsis gives fine detailed images. It works because both eyes are at different positions in the skull. This means each eye views objects at different angles to one another. The brain combines the slightly disparate images to form one image. This difference in perspective is what results in greater detail. Life is very similar in that regard. It is when we acknowledge more than one of way of looking at things, that we gain a fuller picture of how things really are.

Life is full of countless different perspectives and viewpoints. Obviously some are better than others and there are many that we do not agree with or are even valid. However, there is great merit in not quickly disregarding every view that does not perfectly align with yours. Looking at something from a different perspective often helps us to appreciate things we would never have noticed looking at it on our own. Sometimes things become apparent in fantastic new ways as if it was an optical illusion. Having been involved in Church all my life I have observed that there is often an unwillingness among Christians to even consider a different approach.

I was watching a debate between a Christian and atheist (who was a former Christian apologist) on the resurrection. Now the Christian had a beautiful and elegant opener, he was a trained lawyer after all. When the atheist followed he acknowledged he had a tough act to follow. Instead of going straight to the evidence for (or in his case against) the resurrection he took an approach I did not anticipate. He attacked Christian apologetics itself highlighting the problems. It was a very clever tactic. Discrediting the methodology and even philosophy behind a discipline would immediately put into question its results. It’s like discovering crucial evidence in a case was tampered with while in custody. He was trying to win the argument even before it really started. He was not just saying his personal opinion but quoting notable apologists recognizing these difficulties. Though ultimately I think his reasons themselves were deeply flawed it forced me to acknowledge Christian apologetics does have its flaws and limitations. I ended up learning from someone I deeply disagreed with. Sometimes it is not only a different perspective that edifies us but a counter perspective as well.

However in the Church or with the individual Christian we fear such differences. It is either seen as doubt or full blown rebellion. The very complex nature of life means we often need to consider alternative ways of looking at things. For instance when you look up a story in the news you often check different media houses outlooks on a single story. You do this to get a better picture of what is really going on since we all have limited viewpoints and inherent biases. Not only should we welcome people in our lives who offer different perspectives but also we must be willing to seek out such people and viewpoints. This is very important when we are dealing with people and things we very much agree with.

N.T. Wright is my favourite theologian and I listen to him a lot. One particular time he was talking about an issue very near and dear to me and I found myself in deep agreement with him. He made a certain point to further his argument and I decided to find out more on the subject. Through my own research I found he was mistaken. Now overall it did not hurt his argument but in that particular detail he was not right. Someone described Tom Wright as having the look and voice of Gandalf. He is an amazing orator and it is easy to just get lost in the flair of his rhetorical performance. (He admits himself that he sometimes get carried away with the rhetoric.) Now since the factual error was snuggled right in between something very true and agreeable it was very easy to go along with everything and not take a further look. Especially with Tom, and with other people, I am always wary that there could be a counter perspective. I spend good amount of time reading people who I disagree with on a certain topic. If not for anything they are better at seeing objections and challenges than you are when you support an idea. From there you can better see the limitations and/or problems with something and you are better equipped to deal with them.

In the free market of ideas, competition offers us the best options. G.K. Chesterton once said an open mind, like an open mouth, is meant to close on something solid. We cannot accept everything in the name of open mindedness. That is absolutely ridiculous. Unfortunately many people and even societies have bought into the lie that ideas are equal to the people who espouse them. Ideas like people are meant to interact and dialogue with one another but they are not all to be equally accepted. This confusion of ideology and personhood has resulted in people buying into very absurd notions in the name of “not judging.” As you can see there are two extremes. Not accepting any view point but your own which is known more popularly as arrogance. There is also accepting every viewpoint as equally valid which is also a popular form of silliness. We need to strike the balance of acknowledging more than one view but being equally willing to judge the merits of two or more competing ideas.

God designed the Church to be a very diverse place and if your church has only way of doing things or only tolerates certain kinds of people or personality types then there is a problem. The great analogy of the Church is the body. We need different parts to work together as whole to achieve a unified purpose. Especially in Church leadership you really do need that one guy who can openly and sincerely disagree with you all. In fact you need many of such guys who can at least act as your fact checkers. The majority vote never makes something right in itself. As we learn to recognise and differentiate between views, individually and as a group, we gain new opportunities for growth and maturity.

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