Curiouser and curiouser

It might take a couple of days to get the follow-up to my previous post written (uh-oh…). In the meantime, Chris E mentioned Ellis Potter, a former Zen Buddhist who became a Christian and is now a pastor. Via Google, I came across the following “thought experiment” devised by Ellis Potter when he was working at L’Abri:

Imagine asking ten non-Christians this question: “If you converted to Christianity today, do you think your life would be larger, fuller, richer, more attractive and creative, more involved with the people, circumstances, art, and culture around you? Or do you think your life would be smaller, narrower, more withdrawn, judgmental, and negative, less winsome and creative, less involved with the people, art, circumstances, and culture around you?”

I’ll leave you to ponder that one. Oh, and add this chaser: assuming that we can guess what the majority’s answer would be, would they be right? A related point: Thomas recently mentioned a seminary professor who would say, “Remain curious about that” (you’ll need to scroll right to the bottom of the page to see the linked post). I love that phrase. Not “Doubt everything” or “Be sceptical about everything”, but “Remain curious about that”. Alert readers will notice it is now the strapline for this blog. I find incuriosity very difficult to deal with. To cease “remaining curious about that” – whatever “that” may be – strikes me as a kind of death.

It seems to me that, if we can talk about a “fundamentalist” mindset, then this is not so much a matter of certainty as of a lack of curiosity; a sense that, since you already know what the answers are going to be, you don’t need to ask the questions. (This applies to both religious and non-religious fundamentalisms, of course: see, for example, Richard Dawkins’ rejection of theology as a “non-subject”.) Again, we might take Ellis Potter’s question and ask, “If you converted to Christianity today, do you think you would ‘remain curious’ to a greater or a lesser degree, and about a greater or a lesser number of things, than if you remained outside the faith?”

Edit: I’ve removed the references to Deborah 13 from this post. Having now read Deborah Drapper’s father’s gracious (in all senses of the word) response to Ruth Moss’s post, I think my characterisation of what was shown in the programme was unfair. Do read Ruth’s post, though, and Phil Walker’s as well.

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3 Responses to Curiouser and curiouser

  1. Rick Ritchie says:

    “Remain curious about that.”

    I’ll adopt that one as my own. I’ll find somewhere to salt it into my Bible class Sunday.

    Those associated with L’Abri tended to be good on such issues.

    I think it would be worth considering curiosity as a trait. I’ve done some reading on curiosity as an emotion. In animals, the more anxious ones tend to be the curious ones. They are driven by anxiety (not fright) to know the boundaries of what they’re dealing with. Too much anxiety and you are paralyzed. Too little and you are complacent. This works against both security AND improvement.

    When it comes to people, I think some shut down curiosity because the idea of finding they are wrong is too threatening. They are afraid of becoming upset.

  2. I love your blog! Great post, and of course love the Alice in Wonderland line curiouser and curiouser 🙂 I’m going to add you to my blogroll for The Fish Wars: A Christian Evolutionist Speaks. I’m writing a book on making peace between evolution & Christianity which addresses a lot of this stuff, on fundamentalism and stages of faith etc told thyrough my life story. It’s will be pubd by Beacon Press. 🙂 I’ll check back in!

  3. John H says:

    Wendee: thanks for the kind words, and I look forward to checking out your blog too.

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