Is Having an “Open Mind” Always a Virtue?

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Truth-Seekers vs. Open-Minded Cowards

By Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

The open mind is commendable when it is like a road that leads to a  city, but the open mind is condemnable when it is like an abyss.

Those who boast of their open-mindedness are invariably those who love to search for truth but not to find it; they love the chase but not the capture; they admire the footprints of truth, but not catching up with it. They go through life talking about “widening the horizons of truth” without ever seeing the sun. Truth brings with it grave responsibilities; that is why so many keep their hands open to welcome it but never close them to grasp it.

The real thinker who is willing to embrace a truth at all costs generally has a double price to pay—first, isolation from popular opinion. For example, anyone who arrives at the moral conclusion that divorce prepares the way for civilization’s breakdown must be prepared to be ostracized by the Herods and Salomes of this world.

Nonconformity with popular opinion can be expected to bring down opposition and ridicule upon the offender’s head.

Second, those who discover a truth must stand naked before the uplifted stroke of its duties or else take up the cross that it imposes.  Those two effects of embracing truth make many people fearful.  In their cowardice, they keep their minds “open” so they will never have to close on anything that would entail responsibility, duty, moral correction or altered behavior.

The “open mind” does not want truth for truth implies obligation, which predicates responsibility, and responsibility is the only thing the “open mind” is most eager to avoid.  Avoiding responsibility only results in the abdication of one’s free will to another, whether it be to an ideology or to a director. The only real solution is for those with “open minds” to grasp truth, even though it does involve a change in behavior, for ultimately it is only truth that can make them free.

— From Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Way to Inner Peace (New York: Alba House Publishers, 1994), 154–156.

 

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The Nature of Faith

     “Faith” is a word that everyone seems to like.  I hear people say that they’re not religious, but that they do have faith, which makes me wonder…Faith in whom? In what?  It’s kind of like the word “love.”  We like to throw it around because it’s positive and non-threatening.  Yet often we have no idea what it actually means, as if its some abstract, feel-good notion, but faith which has no object is no faith at all.  

     Nor is faith mere ascription to a certain belief system.  I am certain that a person could intellectually comprehend the message of the Bible, grasp the most complex and difficult theological truths and still be without saving faith.  Scripture tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” -Hebrews 11:1  It then goes on to describe the heroes of the faith who endured great trials because of their faith.  Thus, faith implies more than belief in the truth of something.  It is an investment in the truth of those beliefs, often an investment of our very lives.  It is a trust that the promise of what is to come is of greater value than anything which now is.  

     Nor is our faith of our own working.  I cannot make myself have faith and “my faith” is not about me though I can try to make it that way.  Jesus Christ Himself is “the author and perfecter of our faith.” -Hebrews 12:2 When I was yet dead in my sin and unable to to see the supreme worth and beauty of Christ, He opened my eyes and and allowed me to comprehend the truth of the Gospel, the source of my salvation.  The seed of my faith has been planted by the Sovereign hands of God. He has rooted it in the truth of the Gospel and will continue to make it grow.  

     And grow it does, but it does not grow aimlessly.  My faith is not a mere assent to some kind of abstract set of beliefs.  My faith is in someone.  Just as a plant grows towards the sun and the sky which give it life, faith grows towards the Person which can sustain it.  Christ Himself is the object of my faith and He lives within me.  

     Consider how wondrous that really is.  If we struggle with faith in this present life, it can feel as if we are sending our hope out into some distant sphere without assurance of a return.  Yet we must remember that our faith has an object and that object is a Person who now dwells within us.  If I struggle, if I founder, I need not go far for the rejuvenation of my faith.  For the One in whom I put my faith is near, ready to commune and tend the plant which He Himself has caused to grow..  

     And yet, though Christ is near and with us, our faith is not yet fulfilled or it would not be faith.  Faith is aimed toward something.  It has a goal and that goal is not heaven or freedom from suffering.  Those things will come and they will be glorious, but no the goal is Christ Himself.    Paul often speaks of the “good fight” of faith and obtaining the “prize” and in Philippians 3, he tells us what the prize is.  Paul says, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.” -Philippians 3:7-9  Jesus Christ was the goal which Paul pressed on toward, the prize which he strained to win, the treasure for which he considered all else rubbish.  

     This is the nature of our faith.  We first believed because He made us to believe.  He “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” -Ephesians 2:5  We continue to believe now “because we know whom we have believed, and are convinced that he is able to guard what we have entrusted to him for that day.”  -2 Timothy 1:12  And we believe with faith that that day will come for “having believed, we were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.” -Ephesians 1:13-14

     Thus we find that God is at the beginning, the middle, and the end of it all.  Jesus Christ is the Author, the Object, and the Goal of our faith.  “In the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” -Romans 1:17  And so we shall for we have been justified by faith in Christ, we live by faith in Christ, and one glorious day our faith in Christ will become sight and we shall see Him whom we have believed and so gain the prize, the treasure of surpassing worth which we have run to obtain.  

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