Here’s the introduction to my latest article featured in the April issue of Redbud Post, my writers guild monthly publication. It’s one of my favorites ever, I hope it resonates with you.
As ambassadors of hope and healing in a broken world, curiosity can serve Christians well. Since we’ll never arrive at a full knowledge of God’s divine attributes and plans, curiosity serves to illuminate our faith journeys with previously uncomprehended truth. The new perspective it provides transforms our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors into a more restored version of who we’re meant to be. But if curiosity is so important to our learning, our work, and even healing, why does it seem believers are reluctant to embrace curiosity as an essential part of our lives?
History shows religious and cultural thinking has at times treated question askers as doubters, skeptics, or heretics—think Galileo, Servetus, or Étienne Le Court for instance. Ian Leslie, author of Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, reflects on past views of curiosity:
“Our oldest stories about curiosity are warnings: Adam and Eve and the apple of knowledge, Icarus and the Sun, Pandora’s Box. Early Christian theologians railed against curiosity: Saint Augustine claimed that ‘God fashioned hell for the inquisitive.’ Even humanist philosopher Erasmus suggested that curiosity was greed by a different name. For most of Western history, it has been regarded as at best a distraction, at worst a poison, corrosive to the soul and to society.”
But the framework for godly curiosity is pursuing the unknown to uncover truth. I agree with Barnabas Piper’s suggestion in The Curious Christian, “Our knee jerk reaction as humans is to label all unfamiliar things as ‘bad’ or at least to be skeptical. Godly curiosity balances realistic understanding of the world’s sinfulness with a passionate desire to see and find truth, so new things become exciting and full of possibility yet without naiveté or ignorance.”
We begin life as curious children, but often by adulthood we exchange that curiosity for shallow certitude or blasé apathy, which leads to living in fear and stagnation. Unless we’re intentional, we stop critically thinking and accept consensus views held by our tribes. This is especially true in the religious realm. Holding on to “My correct thinking with a tightly held fist,” according to Peter Enns, “hinders the life of faith because we are simply acting on a deep unnamed human fear of losing the sense of familiarity and predicatilby that our thoughts about God give us.”
So what would it look like to embrace curiosity? We’d prioritize observation before action, listening before speaking, and allow our biases to be challenged by new perspective. Our small world and our small God, would grow bigger as we transform.
1. Curiosity and Conviction
Knowledge of sin alone doesn’t change us, it’s the work of the Spirit in our consciousness—but we’re still to be active participants in our spiritual growth. By yielding our thoughts and actions to the Spirit with inquisitiveness, we take the first step of change: a willingness to be transformed. In what areas do I need to let go of control? Show me my unrepented sin. What false gods are consuming my energy? Where are my blind spots? When we submit to God with the desire to understand how we fall short of his holiness, the Spirit illuminates our darkness.
Last year Beth Moore penned “A Letter to My Brothers,” calling Christian men to oppose misogyny and dismissiveness toward women in the church. Gospel Coalition pastor Thabiti Anyabwile’s response showed his conviction: “I hope, with God’s help, to grow in sanctification, especially with regards to any sexism, misogyny, chauvinism, and the like that has used biblical teaching as a cover for its growth.”
The holy curiosity that contributed to his transformative conviction is evident. How have I hurt this woman? Where have I used the biblical teaching to advance misogyny? What do I need to change in my relationship to Christian women?