Idiot Test Number Two

My first Idiot Test was prompted by my observation of people who have much insight into the issues impacting them, but who will not do anything about it. They can articulate their circumstances and the factors creating the problems quite well. They are well researched, well informed, able to clearly articulate details and well equipped to move into action. But they don’t move into action. They simply keep repeating what they know and what they believe should be done.

This is the idiocy of thinking that thumping the table, understanding the problem and being able to convince others is equal to making a real difference.

This kind of idiocy is often prompted by fear of failure, fear of reprisal, protection of their current lifestyle, fear of having to pay a price to make a difference and so on.

The Bible makes an interesting observation about people who know God. It says that those people are not empty dreamers and vain talkers, but people who make a difference and actually “do” something.

“….. but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Daniel 11:32

Another Type of Idiot

The first idiot is the one who knows enough to do something and who retreats into raving and speaking out, but refuses to move into taking decisive action to make a difference. This person is acquiescent and has given up their right to really make a difference.

But there are other types of idiots. These are those who speak with confidence on various subjects, but who do not really have the goods at all. They have empty opinion, as opposed to the informed position of the previous category.

These other idiots are full of empty opinion and vain imagination. These are the ones who are quick to speak, but slow to learn. They have an opinion about many things, but have done no real research on many of the things they speak up about.

Some Telling Questions

Test yourself with these questions.

Do you find that you have many opinions about many different things?

In a group discussion are you likely to speak up and express your thoughts as much as most others?

Do you tend to speak with authority about things most of the time?

Do you often leave discussions with the warm glow of having contributed to others?

Are you most often the teacher in your communications?

Do you feel that your perspective needs to be contributed or people might miss out on something good?

Do you have an ability to come up with insights on topics you’ve never thought about before?

If you answered “Yes” to half or more of those questions you are in danger of being an idiot!

More Questions

Do you often leave a discussion with new appreciation for the subject being discussed?

Do you make yourself the student in most discussions, rather than the teacher?

Do you decline to answer a question or discuss a topic if you do not have the fuller picture on which to base your answers?

Do you decline to offer your opinion because you know it is only an opinion, and thus of little value to those listening?

Do you admit your lack of competence to answer, committing yourself to engage in research and come back with your documented findings?

Do you find that hearing one explanation does not satisfy you until you have done your own research to find out more?

Do you suspect that there is always more to the story than others seem to believe?

If you answered “Yes” to half or more of those questions you are unlikely to be an idiot.

Quest for the Truth

Students of specialised subjects spend years coming to understand their topic. In their earlier years they will be fooled by appearances and assumptions. In time they will know some of the pitfalls in their topic area and understand the on-going arguments among the experts.

Court cases will sometimes run for months, with hundreds of witnesses, thousands of pieces of evidence, top level legal representation, and yet juries can take many days or weeks to come up with a conclusion.

Some fields of study have involved thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars in search of the best solution to a problem. But even then, the world’s best brains can be diametrically opposed in interpreting the data, conceiving a working concept, and prescribing a path forward.

So, in the light of the amazing difficulty in coming to a sure and certain finding, how is it that some people can come up with instant opinions about things they know nothing about? They cannot truly be the world’s best brain. They are most likely simply another idiot!

Being a Researcher

So, to make sure you are not an idiot you probably need to be a researcher. The ancient example of this mindset is found in Job.

“I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.” Job 29:16

Note the word “search” in our word “research”. Research is the process of “searching out” the truth. It is not jumping to a quick conclusion. It is not finding the first good idea. It is not just trying to impress people with your apparent intelligence. It is a commitment to finding the truth, for the benefit of others, with a diligence that protects them from any mistakes you might otherwise have made.

Research will likely involve hearing from various sides of an argument, and that may mean more than two sides. It will likely involve learning new concepts, developing your vocabulary, stretching your mind, getting out of your comfort zone, changing your preconceived ideas, and, above all, being teachable.

Research Questions

Here are some more questions about the issue of research.

List three issues which you have researched in the past month, where you carefully reviewed the arguments presented by three competing perspectives on the topic, as offered by supporters of those perspectives.

List three issues which you have changed your opinion on in the light of new material offered to you in the past month.

List three cases in the last month where you declined to offer your opinion because your opinion was not sufficiently backed up by research and understanding.

List three cases in the past month where you went back to original source documents to find out if claims made by others are true.

List three new topics which you have added to your areas of exploration in the past month.

List three forums or mentors who you engaged in investigative discussion in the past month to extend and test your understanding of issues. What were the issues under discussion in those cases?

If those challenges seem a little tough, let me go easy on you. Let’s extend the time-frame out to the past year, not the past month. Surely you’ll get a longer list that way.

But if you find that you cannot write such lists, even going back over the past year, then you need to recognise what that says about who and what you are.

You the Child

Now some of you will not be researchers, but you’ll rely on the opinion of someone who you trust. That’s not a bad thing to do. When we enter into new fields of learning we do well to be guided by a mentor or tutor who leads us through the new territory and explains things we don’t understand.

This is particularly valuable when people first come to faith in Christ. They will be greatly benefited by going to a Bible-believing church where clear Bible teaching is given and the support groups and discipling processes are clearly functioning.

However, you need to recognise that in such situations you become a “child”. You are like a child relying on “daddy” to explain the world to you. That has its place, but it is a temporary state, which we are meant to progress past.

Remember the writer of the Book of Hebrews rebuking the Christians because they were still like little children needing to be spoon-fed baby food.

” … you ought to be teachers, but you need people to teach you the first principles again … and you need milk, and not strong meat. Everyone who uses milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a baby. But strong meat belongs to them that are grown up, who have used their senses and built them up to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

Your challenge is to “put away childish things” as Paul did (1Corinthians 13:11) and stop being spoon-fed. You are now supposed to dig into God’s word and the issues around you, to find the truth and to live by it.

Idiots and Opinions

If you are an idiot you are living in the land of opinion. You are either living on the strength of your own opinions, or you are swallowing the opinions of those around you.

If you are a child, needing the opinions of others to anchor you, then quickly grow past that. Check out what you are being told by your mentors and confirm that it is sound and true.

And remember in all of this, that the greatest source of truth is the Bible. If you are tempted to come to a conclusion that is contrary to faith in God and Jesus Christ or which contradicts what the Bible teaches, then you have been deluded somewhere along the way. Be careful to check your sources and to come to a place of assurance in God’s truth which will set you free.

And, may you be set free from the idiocy of our age!

God is the Substance

A world without God is an oxymoron. It is God who gives substance to all things. This is especially so in reference to things we readily recognise as moral in character.

Imagine a World Without God

John Lennon tried to conceive of a world without God. I suspect that he really wanted a world without consequences, such as heaven and hell. That was the focus of his Imagine song. So let’s take Johnny’s suggestion and do what he asks. Let’s ‘imagine’ a world where God does not exist. Then let’s see what happens to everything else.

Imagine Truth Without God

Let’s assume there is no God. Someone comes along and tells you something that they assert is the ‘truth’. What do they mean? Are they telling you the truth or not? By what empirical reference point can you test the validity and veracity of what they say?

They assert something to be true. Is it true in a universal sense, or only true in their perception? Is it a fact that has been tested or is it only assumed to be true? Are they lying?

To address those questions we need to answer the question, “Where does truth come from?” Is truth a matter of human perception? “I saw something so I know it to be true.” But did you see clearly? Many a witness has been shown to be unreliable in their assertion that “I saw it with my own eyes!”

If God does not exist then we only have human perception to rely on, and that’s unreliable! Human resourced truth can only be relative to the perceptions of the humans involved. It has not more reliable anchor point. Truth then ceases to be truth and becomes opinion or belief.

Imagine Justice Without God

In a world without God what is the measure of justice? Is it “the common good”? That could be terribly unjust to those who sit outside the social mean. Is it what some leader thinks is good? That is so open to abuse that it is frightening. Tyrants love to determine justice on that basis.

And just what is ‘justice’ in a world where there is no external reference point? If you believe you have been treated unjustly how do you appeal against it? You are reduced to popular public opinion. If you have more money or talent or skill than others they just might turn against you and decide it is ‘just’ for you to work, achieve and earn on behalf of all of them. But that would seem quite unjust, wouldn’t it?

If someone is seeking revenge for their loss are they likely to stop when exact justice has been achieved, or are they likely to act in spite, bitterness, retaliation or the like?

Justice falls apart unless there is an external moral reference point. And that’s what God provides for us, quite apart from His reality and power and love made available to us.

Imagine Morality Without God

If there is no God then who or what determines what is moral or not. There are millions of people ready to justify their immoral behaviour, even in a world where God and His Word are clearly presented. Imagine what a free-for-all it would be if God was not there at all!

What makes something moral? Is it because it doesn’t hurt someone? God tells us of secret attitudes and thoughts which He deems to be immoral (such as lust), even though no-one gets hurt. Is it because all those who participate do so of their own will? God shows that many actions are evil, even if the whole nation votes in favour of them. The inhabitants of Sodom all agreed on their behaviour, but God did not.

If God’s moral reference was removed people would do evil, justify their actions, promote evil among others and even aim to subvert the morals of others. There are many tools already in use today to subvert people’s morals, offending their sensibilities and arousing their lusts, so they will succumb to immoral behaviour. God is the only hope we have for maintaining morality.

My Old Mate (‘Buddy’ in US speak)

I once had connection to a chap who turned out to be a talented rip-off merchant. He often bragged about his various exploits and the way he took advantage of other people. True to character he did the same to me.

After several appeals for proper recompense my old mate was quite clearly intent on taking advantage of me and many others. Taking him to court would have been a vexing issue, as he was well acquainted with the courts and had many connections to assist him to use the courts to his advantage. The matter was not of sufficient consequence to warrant the dubious process of legal action. That’s what he hoped would be the case with each of his victims.

My wife, Susan, found herself quite aroused by this man’s actions. She made it a matter of prayer and then told me that she was concerned for the man. She wondered whether we should even call on him to warn him. She came to realise just how severe God’s judgement, justice and moral standards would be when applied to this clever rogue. His ability to play human instrumentalities would do him no good at all when God decided to look into his case.

Existence Without God

Many people, like my old mate, imagine a world without God. They make up their own truth, twist justice to suit themselves and work by their own morality. But God is not amused, nor is He required to sit back and watch.

Existence without God is a misnomer. There is no existence outside of God. And there is no morality apart from His. There is no truth outside of Jesus Christ, because He is truth. There is no justice outside of God’s judgements. We will all eventually face the judgement seat of Christ.

It is better to be judged in the here and now, so we can repent and attain God’s forgiveness, than to live this life as if God did not exist. Once we pass from this life without repenting we face an existence without God. That’s not some clever place of human freedom. It is an eternal torment of physical pain and mental regret.

I Wish You Judgement

Those who hate you may wish you every success in life, so you will pass into eternity with unresolved judgement resting on your head. Those who love you will warn you and pray that you face God’s dealings in this life, to alert you to what is to come. Once forewarned you are empowered to do something about it, through repentance and God’s forgiveness.

In the spirit of that observation, let me tell you that I wish you judgement. May it be the blessing of your eternal existence.

Disqualified Man

The lecturer stood to the podium and cleared his throat. Within moments he began his tirade, railing against all manner of things which he disdained. He was highly educated, enviably intelligent, eminently successful, supremely qualified, unanimously endorsed and ever so arrogant in that pre-eminent place.

One of the students turned to a friend and began discussing some trifling matter external to the whole proceedings. The student persisted in his disruption and spoke louder by the minute until many were distracted, including the speaker.

Finally the lecturer stopped his rant and called to the distracter, in an angry and contemptuous tone, demanding, “Do you know who I am?”

The student stood to his feet, paused and then spoke clearly for all to hear. “Yes sir. You are a jerk!”

Taken aback, the lecturer bore into this foolish lad with biting sarcasm. “And what makes you so sure you’re not the jerk?”

The young man explained. “Sir, you are a rationalist, are you not?” The lecturer nodded his agreement. “And you don’t believe in anything more significant than man.” “Of course not!” came the reply.

“So you place your trust in the abilities of the human mind?” The lecturer paused for a moment then gave a nod. “Then sir,” the young man continued, “I contend that you are a Jerk!”

“That’s outrageous!” the lecturer responded. “Certainly not.” The young man hastily replied. “I am human and I have as much right to an opinion as any other. In my opinion, sir, you are a Jerk!”

“Then get out of my lecture!” The lecturer demanded. “No sir, I choose not to do so”, was the reply. “I demand that you go!” “But sir, you have no more right to speak than any other. You have already admitted so.” The lecturer struggled to see how anything he had said gave any significance to this upstart.

The young man continued. “Sir, you have assured me that there is no greater authority in the universe than humans. So there is no morality or dignity apart from what men choose to give each other. I choose to give you none whatsoever. You are thirty years older than the rest of us, so you are out of touch. You were educated before many of the advances we take for granted, so you were taught things we wouldn’t teach today. Mankind and human society have evolved beyond the things that made you what you are. So I say, you are a Jerk!”

The lecturer scanned the room then tried to continue his presentation. Once he had finished his first sentence the student also began addressing the group. Both voices resounded in competition until the lecturer realised he was getting nowhere.

The young man continued. “Here is a man who has denied his own dignity. By enshrining the mind of man he has debased himself to being nothing more than one animal contending with others. He has no right to any moral authority. He has no right to assert his opinion over another. His whole life is of no substance and no consequence. Once he is dead he will soon be forgotten. His opinions will be outdated and his science displaced by later insights. He has thrown his whole life in the trashcan in the vain belief that it will ennoble him. Therefore I say, without equivocation, that he is a Jerk!”

The lecturer watched on, bemused, as the young man abducted his whole class. “Here is a noble being, graced with intellect, experience, insight and abundant personal resources, yet who cannot recognise the dignity of who he is. Instead of acknowledging that God has graced him and given him privilege and significance, he has denied the very existence of God and thus relegated himself to the status of just one more rat on the rubbish heap.”

“Sir, I contend that you are much more than you think. You are worth far more dignity than I have shown you today. I have withstood you now, not because I despise you, but because I want better things for you. I want you to enjoy the amazing wonder of God’s design and purpose in your life. But you insist on being a jerk. You insist on pretending that you have no value at all, except what you can demand from others who have no particular value at all.”

“Sir, I am about to sit. I do so because I want to hear your lecture. I want to be enriched by you. I want to be ennobled by you. But if you deny your own nobility you deny me the richness of the grace God wants to give me through you. Sir, please acknowledge God’s goodness in you. And please continue with your lecture.”

The young man, still standing, began to applaud the lecturer. As he did so he sat down. Everyone applauded, and it seemed they were applauding the lecturer, yet surely they must have been applauding the speech they had just heard.

When the din subsided the lecturer tried to speak. He was not exactly sure what to do next. He finally cleared his throat and said, “I think we have all heard enough today.” With that he turned to gather his papers.

The young man sprang to his feet and began applauding vigorously again. In moments the whole student body rose to its feet, some hooting and hollering while others simply clapped and smiled.

This story continues in a later post – “Disqualified Still?”

Click the link to go directly to the continuation: DISQUALIFIED STILL?