Being open-minded is an important trait for Christians to cultivate. However, it can be challenging to balance open-mindedness with standing firm in our biblical convictions. What guidance does the Bible offer on this topic? Quite a bit, actually. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore numerous biblical principles concerning open-mindedness and evaluate what Scripture teaches about finding the right balance.
As Christians, we are called to renewal and transformation of the mind (Romans 12:2). An open, teachable spirit is essential for growing in Christlikeness. However, we are also exhorted to hold fast to sound doctrine and guard against deception (Titus 1:9, Ephesians 4:14).
So how do we strike the right balance? How can we be appropriately open-minded without compromising God’s truth? There are a few key principles we can extract from Scripture:
- Open-mindedness should be grounded in humility, not arrogance. We should maintain awareness of our limited perspective.
- Our minds should be open towards God and revelation from the Holy Spirit, not just new ideas from human sources.
- We must filter new ideas through the lens of Scripture, rather than passively accepting everything we hear.
- There are boundaries to open-mindedness – we must reject ideas clearly contradictory to biblical teaching.
- Appropriate open-mindedness involves listening, asking questions and seeking to understand – not necessarily endorsing all views.
In the rest of this post, we will unpack each of these principles more thoroughly by examining relevant biblical passages. My hope is that this comprehensive overview will provide wisdom and guidance on cultivating godly open-mindedness.
The Role of Humility
Humility is foundational to biblical open-mindedness. Scripture consistently connects openness to learning with humility and willingness to admit limitations in perspective. Without humility, our minds will not be truly open. We see this principle in the following passages:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3)
Here Paul urges humility as an antidote to exaggerated self-perception. Only when we are willing to acknowledge that our knowledge and insight are partial can we become truly open to learning more. An arrogantly “know-it-all” attitude shuts our minds off from growth.
Proverbs speaks repeatedly about how pride leads to closed-mindedness while humility enables us to receive correction and listen to wisdom:
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2)
He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. (Proverbs 15:31-32)
Humility does not come naturally – we must intentionally cultivate it. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Am I more interested in airing my own opinions or listening and learning from others?
- Am I willing to admit when I lack knowledge on a particular issue?
- Do I respond defensively or with care and introspection when others correct me or challenge my perspectives?
A humble heart recognizes its limitations and is teachable. This humility then enables true open-mindedness grounded in God’s truth.
Openness to God and the Holy Spirit
While we must beware of blindly accepting ideas simply because they are new, Scripture calls us to nurture an openness to revelation from the Holy Spirit:
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)
As this passage indicates, part of open-mindedness is creating space for the Spirit to grant us new insight and understanding. We see this modeled through Peter in Acts 10. Though Peter initially stuck to strict Jewish dietary laws, he humbly accepted correction through supernatural visions and realized these old ways of thinking needed adjustment:
The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends…While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:23-24, 44-47)
Peter’s mind was open to new understanding guided by the Spirit, even though it contradicted previous ways of thinking. As this example illustrates, being open-minded sometimes means recognizing that our current perspectives may be incomplete or flawed. As we stay humble and receptive to the Spirit’s voice, like Peter, our eyes can be opened to greater truths.
Evaluating Ideas through Scripture
While we want to remain open to God’s revelation, Scripture also makes it clear we must filter all ideas and perspectives through the lens of biblical truth. God’s Word is the ultimate standard of what is true and right:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The Bereans modeled this kind of biblically-grounded open-mindedness in their response to Paul’s teaching:
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
Rather than accept or reject Paul’s teaching prima facie, they listened with open minds, then evaluated it against Scripture. This allowed them to receive edifying teaching while still exercising biblical discernment.
As we encounter ideas that may stretch or challenge our thinking, we should follow the Berean example. We ought to examine innovations through the lens of God’s Word, ready to reject anything clearly contrary to Scripture, while cautiously embracing new perspectives that align with biblical truth.
Boundaries to Open-Mindedness
Though Scripture calls us to humility and openness to learning, it also provides clear boundaries against being “open-minded” to the point of compromising God’s explicit truths. We must reject perspectives clearly contradictory to biblical teaching:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Passages like these establish doctrinal guardrails. No matter how much a new idea resonates with us or the culture, if it conflicts with the fundamentals of biblical faith – the divinity of Christ, the existence of absolute truth, salvation through Christ alone – we have no liberty to embrace it. On such core theological issues, Scripture calls for unmovable conviction, not open-mindedness.
This means open-mindedness has responsible boundaries. There are certain questions like the resurrection of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture and the sinfulness of humanity where Scripture has spoken definitively. At such points we must plant our feet and not give ground, no matter how alluring certain intellectual fashions of the day may be.
Of course, figuring out exactly where to draw these lines can involve some wisdom and discernment. Not all theological issues are of equal importance, and people of good faith can sometimes disagree on secondary matters. But biblical red lines do exist, even if defining them precisely requires humility and debate. We must seek to be as open-minded as Scripture – but no more. There are times when we must reject an idea as contradicting God’s Word, however open-minded we may try to be.
Cultivating Understanding without Endorsement
At times discussing open-mindedness can take on an implied sense of full acceptance and endorsement. However, when evaluating ideas biblically, appropriate open-mindedness will often land somewhere short of complete approval, while still seeking understanding.
Scripture provides guidelines for engaging respectfully with beliefs we may ultimately reject. For example, Peter writes:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
Likewise, Paul writes:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6 ESV)
Passages like these present a model where we listen and seek to understand ideas graciously, even if we do not endorse them. This type of humble, respectful dialogue allows us to learn where there are points of common ground, as well as gently share biblical truth when appropriate.
Cultivating this kind of open-minded understanding without necessarily condoning every diverse viewpoint is an art. It requires maintaining clear convictions while showing grace and patience toward those who believe differently. As God gives us wisdom and insight, we can grow in graciously listening and communicating in a way that honors Christ.
Moving Forward with Godly Open-Mindedness
In looking at principles from across Scripture, we have seen that godly open-mindedness involves:
- Grounding ourselves in humility rather than arrogance.
- Opening our minds to revelation from the Holy Spirit.
- Evaluating new ideas in light of Scripture.
- Establishing boundaries against ideas contradicting biblical teaching.
- Listening and seeking to understand diverse views respectfully, which is not the same as blindly endorsing every perspective.
Bringing this type of biblical balance into how we approach new ideas takes continual practice. I know I still have much to learn in this area. But my hope and prayer is that cultivating this kind of thoughtful, humble, Spirit-guided open-mindedness will allow us to grow in wisdom and become more effective witnesses for Christ.
Though we live in changing times, God’s truth is constant. If we are grounded in His Word while also maintaining teachable hearts, we can learn to “test everything” and “hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We must guard against being either resistant to any new idea or gullibly open to every wind of doctrine. As we stay humble and Spirit-led, God will guide us on this journey. What a privilege it is to live in His truth, walk in His grace and help others encounter the gospel.
Does this overview on biblical open-mindedness align with your understanding? Which of these principles do you find most helpful or challenging? I welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comments below. May God bless you as you seek to grow in open-mindedness grounded in His truth.