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!
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.
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!