“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.” Leo Tolstoy
I clearly remember one small group night at my house when we discussed some sporting event involving a coin toss. I made some comment, based on what I now know as the gambler’s fallacy, that the other guys in our group immediately pushed back on. And me, being the humble and soft spoken gentlemen that I am, proceeded to argue further and further on my point.
Still eager to prove myself right, I immediate hit the web after our group left to research and find proof of my argument. And that’s when I learned how dead wrong I was. Luckily, I wasn’t the first person to use the gambler’s fallacy as a way of thinking, but I had to determine how to proceed from that point on. I wrote the guys an apology email and waved the white flag.
This quote from Tolstoy perfectly illustrates the uncomfortable reality that many of us who teach deal with. I love learning truth and communicating it to others, but a natural product of that is that sometimes I change my mind on something that I had previously believed, and previously taught on, into a new way of thinking of it. This hasn’t been on anything huge like Jesus or the Biblical view of salvation, but there are a handful of passages I can think of that if I were to teach on them today it would look radically different than when I’ve taught on them in the past.
What’s the solution to this problem? The solution is to realize that all of us are on a journey of trying to make sense of life, of God, and of ourselves. We can feign different confidence levels, but in reality we are all giving it our best guess based on what we’ve seen and experienced. This means that we should also assume that this discomfort that comes with learning new truth should be a very normal and essential part of us to continuing to grow and develop.
I would even go so far as to say that if you don’t find yourself dealing with this issue, you’re probably not growing.
If you cannot allow yourself to truly accept, or even consider, a new truth just because of how you have thought about it in the past, it really comes down to an issue of pride. I for one pray that we would create a culture where there is room for us to teach truth as we understand it, allow ourselves to change ideas and understandings, and allow for healthy disagreement… especially among believers. We can be the conduit for each other to make sense of what God is calling us to and teaching us in the process.