Editorial Note. - Speaking of closed minds, whose mind is "closed will usually depend much upon the viewpoint of the accuser." At present the rationalistic educational hegemony and its followers in America hurl the accusation against Christian believers and their knowledge of spiritual things. This educational cult has invented what it terms an open-minded technique to the starved mercies of which it subjects undergraduates in institutions of learning. The less we say about the ethical quality of this technique the better may be our chance to maintain repute for poise and patience in the use of written words. Pastor Kazee in this article in his own way takes the open mind of the Bible-discrediting educational pundits out for an airing. Would that it could result in helping them to more adequate outlooks! But, more important still, it may result in opening the minds of more of God's people, especially ministers, to the subtlety of highly placed powers that now work to betray Bible faith in America. - Victor I. Masters, Western Recorder.
Consider the Closed Mind
By Buell Kazee, 1939
TO BE definitely committed to anything these days is in the minds of the worldly-wise the mark of prejudice, narrowness and "moss-backery." The chief characteristic of the world's "wise" men has become "open-mindedness."
There is a sense in which an open mind is a good thing. I do not mean to say that all men who are definitely committed to some things necessarily err in having the open mind in this sense. But I am convinced that many minds are too open and too uncommitted in the field of spiritual truth for the good of their own souls, and their witness before others is that of blind guides.
I can best say what I want by illustration. Years ago the Editor of the Western Recorder and Brother M. M. McFarland made a Baptist fellowship visit up in the Big Sandy Valley and it became my pleasure to be their guide in their movements among the big hills. At Elkhorn City I suggested that they see the famous "Breaks" of the Cumberlands at the Virginia-Kentucky boundary, which are through a canyon of great natural beauty. I knew the way up through the canyon, for I had been there before. There was no question in their minds as to the certainty of my guidance, and so, they committed the matter to me with full assurance.
WHEN we reached the first ravine that leads into the main canyon, suppose I had said: "Now, I have never been here before. I don't know exactly which way to go. I have a well defined theory about the matter, however, and an open mind. As your guide I ask the same open-mindedness in you. Together we will do a bit of exploring (of course I would secretly know I was the big-noise and could use my 'open-minded' front to lead these visitors-for-the-first time up the hollow I had already picked out, thus practicing deceit in order to propagate my 'truth'). We will first go up this ravine on the right. If it turns out that this is not the way to the place where we want to go, we will come back and try another."
Disappointment would have registered on the faces of my friends. They might have asked, "Is there any danger of getting lost in this country?" To which I would have replied, "Yes, I suppose so. I have never been to this place where you wish to go. I am therefore a better guide, not warped by prejudice."
By this time my friends would have wondered if I had lost my mind, and would have wanted a new guide. The difference in the case of the "open-minded" professor is that he is a theorist by profession, dealing with things he does not have to live by nor to bring to the test of actuality, often (especially in the field of revealed faith) with issues to which he is blind and deaf.
"But," I might have insisted, "you men have not open minds. Be ashamed of your narrow prejudice. Behold in me an open-minded guide, though I am too modest to boast, of course. You must be willing to investigate. I am an expert guide. My expertness is in never knowing the way for sure. It would be narrow and bigotted to know the way without trying out other ways all the while - or rather trying to lead others to do so, while my trap is baited and sprung for them."
As it was, however, I did know the way. The first time I went up there I was shown by my guide that the railroad track marked the right way and to follow it would guarantee safe direction. My guide had known the way. He would not have paraded his fitness to show me on the basis of his own ignorance, either real or pretended for effect.
Now I did not have to know all the wrong ways in that country to know the right one. There are those who boast of their learning; of seeking truth, of being constantly on the path of research and willing to follow truth to whatever terminal. I am in sympathy with all honest search for truth. There is no advantage in ignorance, as to truth, though there is in being ignorant of experience in evil-doing. In things spiritual there ought to be the keenest search for knowledge and understanding.
And some must explore the unexplored reaches before others can follow. But this philosophy, applied to spiritual things, leads many astray because of their failure to apply it wisely. Its subtlety and false assumptions commends it to those who would betray truth while posing as its last-resort saviours.
Suppose the Editor on this journey had said to me: "Kazee, why not take this road over here? I like its looks. Surely it will wind around to the place." I would have replied, "No!"
Suppose he had said: "But you have a closed mind, man. A wise guide should have an open mind. Should you not be willing to investigate with an open mind" [Quoth the anti-Christ teacher: "Will you come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly."]?
I would have replied, "No, we haven't time now to explore. It is dangerous to go just anywhere at random in these mountains. I might have some sympathy for your plea, if I didn't know better."
THOSE last words are the key to my theme. The central reason I haven't an open mind to all fair-seeming philosophies and theories is that I know better. But someone will say, "How do you know better? You have not read the books I have read. You do not have degrees of any note from higher institutions of learning. You are not 'recognized' as a scholar, and it seems that your utter conceit is evident. Ought not these big and wealthy institutions know more about God and His revelation than you? They have more apparatus for sitting in judgment on Him. And your 'best' religious leaders in large number bow before the 'findings' of their highly-degreed teacher products."
I reply that the spiritual mind - that is, God's Holy Spirit within me, imparts to me a discernment by which I can tell what is in accord with God and what is not. By a walk with God, both in His Word and in the experience of reading, meditation, prayer, study, sorrow, joy, preaching and personal work, I find the marks of God along the way. Jesus has gone up the Great Canyon and has laid the track which marks our way. I do not have to know all the ways of error to see this way. I must know only the marks of God. Whatever does not accord with my intimate knowledge of Him and His way certainly should not occupy much of my time.
It may be pleasant to explore many of the ravines that lie in the region of God's great canyon of Glory, but one should never try that until one knows the Main Road. The trouble with nearly all the tutored guides of the "open mind" who ask me to follow their courses of investigation is that they do not know the Main Road. And the reason I don't get excited about their detailed research work on small ravines, and their speculation about regions which, according to their deductions should be there, but which they cannot prove really are, is that I have seen the Main Canyon.
I was talking with a man of the world-mind some time ago on this subject. He said that the ministry (especially my type) was marked with the "closed mind," and therefore it was our prejudice that kept us from investigating the works of the learned.
I told him I appreciated the honest efforts of those who try to throw more light on any phase of learning, but that I always wanted to know if a man had been up the Main Line before I took off with him into some deep forest of detailed research. I said something like this: "You men of the world's learning will write a book and set forth attractive theories and conclusions. If I do not read the book eagerly, and admit that I have been in the dark on the subject all my life, you conclude that I am prejudiced and narrow; that I have a closed mind, or that I am too 'dumb' to appreciate anything intellectual. And because I haven't read all the books you have, and can't quote all the authorities you can, you think I have been asleep all these years and haven't enough appreciation to get excited about what you have done.
"But the fact is, in about one paragraph of your book, I, who have the discerning Spirit of God to enlighten me with a kind of wisdom you never experienced, can at once see that you never have been up the Great Canyon, and that your open-minded uncertainty guarantees me nothing. Then what is the use of my wading through that volume when I know what is in it and can't use it because I know better than what it says. You have done some hard work, with infinite detail, and you think you have something to offer me. But immediately I see you aren't headed the right way. Your deductions are childish to me because I know better.
"It isn't that I don't appreciate your effort. It is that I saw all that years ago and saw it wouldn't do. One sweep of a mind enlightened by God's Spirit can discern the childishness of your ramblings and uncertainties. You will spend most, or maybe all, of your life finding out that your utterance is not smart. But I saw that a long time ago because I tested your utterance in the wisdom of God."
The fact that a man has experience with God is no reason to quit studying. It is the one great reason to keep on studying. But a man who has seen the great vistas of God's glory with the eyes of faith cannot get excited about the vision of a man who never saw beyond the horizon of this world.
Furthermore, it is impossible to tell a man of the world mind why you are not amazed at his "astounding theories and discoveries." There are many things I can't tell my boys until they have grown in experience. And I never will be able to explain why I have certain attitudes about certain things until they are saved and have the mind of God. All men of the world mind are just like boys in their failure to understand spiritual things, no matter how many degrees of learning they have or how many books they have written.
I admit that my position, considered merely from the standpoint of the worldly mind, may seem to be one of "cock-sureness" and conceit. But those who know me will assure you that that is not my spirit. My closed-mind attitude is just on some things. There are some particulars in which I do not open my mind, because I know better. I have sought the way of the Lord and have found it. I have walked therein long enough to see some of the glories of the Great Canyon. I know the marks of God along the pathway of righteousness, and when I find something that doesn't coincide with that line I have a closed mind to it.
I am sure some will regard me narrow. But that does not overcome my determination not to travel with a man who doesn't know where he is going, especially if the silly fellow is the slave of a self-mesmerism that leads him to boast that he does not know, and as a lifted up pundit of wisdom to impose his stupid folly as high learning on American youth.
Brother, if you have anything to offer for my edification I will appreciate it. Only I beg you to let me see in your offering the marks of God which have been given me through experience with the Guide that never falters.
If you aren't traveling that way, or haven't been up the Main Canyon, I prefer not to travel with you very far into the field of speculation. For I know you aren't coming out at the right place. If I hadnt been up the main line myself, I might have more consideration for your speculation. But I have.
So, in some things, you can put mt down as a "closed mind." As I say, I don't have to open my mind to all the wrong ways when I know I have found the right way. And I feel that if a man doesn't know something definitely about the way of life before he dies, no matter how much the world lauds him for his open-minded wisdom, God will pronounce him a fool.
As to whether your scorn of minds closed to things you do not know, never having complied with conditions of knowledge in this field (see John 7:17), shall become dominant in America, under God depends on a somewhat else that is foolishness (1 Corinthians 2:14) to you - whether there shall be enough of the closed mind in the lives of Christian believers to philosophies that are desperately close-minded to my kind of close-mindedness. Meantime rationalists and the many thousands of their "evangelists" in tax-supported-school professorships are not above betraying the principle of religious liberty by thrusting their closed-minded propaganda down the throats of unsuspecting American youth. And they appear to be stubbornly close-minded against ceasing their anti-Christ propaganda so plainly but unfairly dispensed.
[Western Recorder, November 23, 1939, pp. 3, 16; it is the Kentucky Baptist State paper. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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