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Knowing What We Don’t Know

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Yesterday a blog post came into my life from the founder of the web site “The Mad Papist.

As I listen to folks around me every day talk about economic theory, foreign policy, vaccinations, voting, and a million other things, it occurs to me most people suck at forming opinions about things.

They are not, however, to be blamed for sucking at forming opinions.

I am not writing to condemn the Average Joe for being wrong about taxes or the history of Islam. That is to be expected, after all, since he doesn’t have the knowledge or experience necessary to be right.

No, what I am writing to condemn is the fact that the Average Joe is willing to adopt these opinions in the first place. His error is not in being wrong, but in his pretense at knowledge that he does not have, which makes his wrongness inevitable from the start.

That is certainly put far more harshly than I am comfortable with, but he has a point.  See, I do think you, or I for that matter, have a right to our ignorant opinion; I just don’t think we have a right to have anyone listen to that ignorant opinion.  But in this day and age if I do not listen to you, even when you are being quite ignorant in what you are expressing, the common social convention deems it dismissive of you personally if I do not take what you say at face value.  We have become so prideful as individuals that we consider our utterances, no matter how ill-informed they may be, as a part of our personal value.  What the blogger calls “pretense of knowledge” is actually a different kind of pretense – it is the pretense that what we say is of value simply because we say it.

I honestly do not know what is worse, that we are so prideful or that in the midst of that pride we have such a deep-seated need for reassurance of our value.  That is an ugly, ugly combination.

I am constantly stunned at how scripture has an answer to almost every problem.  Consider but a single verse of Paul’s epistle to the Romans:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

There it is, in one sentence.  There is no need whatsoever for that ugly combination of pride and self-doubt.  There is no pride because we are all, I repeat all (see elsewhere in Romans), sinners.  There is nothing to be proud about.  There is no self-doubt because God loves us anyway.  Self-doubt in the face of God’s love is not really self-doubt at all, it is God-doubt.

Knowing that verse, it is OK when people walk away from my opinion because I did not do enough homework.  Yeah, I screwed up, but God still loves me.  More importantly, because God loves me it is even OK not to have an opinion on a subject, or to say “I have not read up on that enough to know.”

Once God loves me, which He does in spite of how wrong I am on any number of levels, do I really need acknowledgement or affirmation from anyone else?  If I do, I think I am looking in the wrong place.


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Friends and Allies of Rome