Worldly Wiseman–1 John 4:5

They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. –1 John 4:5

Dan wrote a persuasive paper earlier this semester. In it, he sought to prove that religion was evil and science was virtuous. To support his thesis, he arrayed a wide collection of examples, spread over centuries. He noted that Copernicus might have felt constrained not to publish his findings during his own lifetime. He assumed that the problems that Galileo had with the church were strictly of a theological nature rather than the political nonsense that made up at least half the disagreement. Finally, he cited the Scopes trial in which religion sort of played a role.

When I didn’t immediately fall all over myself in praise of his manifest brilliance, Dan grew a bit testy. (Okay, I’ll admit that my responses to him were probably more caustic than they should have been, but I knew he was a capable person and I wanted to challenge him to do better.) He shot back, defending his work, threatening to talk to my dean. After I offered to include the dean in our future email discussion, he simmered down.

My point, the point that he missed, was that persuasive papers were just that: persuasive. If the only person who agrees with you at the end of a persuasive piece is the person who agreed with you at the outset, then you are, by definition, not persuasive. His paper was laughably easy to dismiss. I will note that his ensuing research paper took much the same thought but presented it in a much more compelling manner. He received an A for a paper I really did not enjoy reading.

Why should I have been surprised that some like Dan thinks the evils of religion are so obvious that you needn’t work very hard to prove them? Why should I be surprised that people think immorality is acceptable? Why indeed?

John reminds us here that our minds do not work like those of non-believers. They hear and believe things that we cannot fathom. They view the world and speak of it from a vantage point we cannot share. Still, we act surprised when they arrive at conclusions that seem ludicrous to us. Indeed, we should not be surprised. What we should guard against most strongly is the temptation to take their worldview more seriously than it deserves.