- Anyone who disagrees with me must be disagreeing with God.
- I am able to determine who is a true Christian and who isn't.
- I am inclined to be arrogant and dogmatic about my beliefs in comparison with others.
- I am inclined to consider myself more spiritual than those who 'obviously' don't understand the Bible correctly.
- I will be unwilling to listen to any point of view that does not agree with my own.
I could go on... I think you get the idea. If I believe that my understanding is identical to God's understanding then I can speak on behalf of God. There is an important intellectual trait that needs to be developed by all of us who call ourselves Christians -- intellectual humility. Intellectual humility is
Having a consciousness of the limits of one's knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one's native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias, prejudice and limitations of one's viewpoint. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations, or lack of such foundations, of one's beliefs. (Anon)
Essential to developing this trait is a recognition that all reading of Scripture is an act of interpretation. Whenever we read the Bible, we do so from our own frame of reference which filters what we read. This is why so much work has been done by scholars in developing rules of interpretation (hermeneutics). For example, we need to understand the historical context of a passage of Scripture; who the passage was written to; what the intention of the writer was; what type of literature it is; and so on.
It is naive to believe that we can just come to the Bible (or anything we read) with a clean slate -- with no preconceptions or prejudices -- and just absorb the truth of the Bible with 100% accuracy. This naivety is what I saw during the discussion I described above. The sad thing is not so much the fact that a person has this point of view and may be missing out on the opportunity to grow in understanding; it is, rather, that operating from this position seems to lead to attitudes which are destructive and which hurt other people. Those who subscribe to this view seem very afraid that open discussion and consideration of perspectives other than our own will lead to the undermining of faith. From what I have observed, however, the 'fundamentalist' attitude described, if it manifests itself in the sort of behaviour we experienced, will do more to undermine and damage someone's faith than any honest examination of ideas will ever do.
Anon. Valuable Intellectual Traits. Retrieved 31 October, 2004, from http://www.criticalthinking.org/University/intraits.html
Boone, K. C. (1989). The Bible Tells Them So: The Discourse of Protestant Fundamentalism: State University of New York Press.
Help Me With Bible Study: http://www.helpmewithbiblestudy.org/index.html