DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I Wonder

Written by: on October 24, 2018

“I wonder…” Those words shared by Dr. Jason Clark was meant to convey a particular posture in how we study and learn. I forget exactly the context in which it was shared, but it was one of his talks meant to encourage our cohort to hold our ideas, thoughts and learnings loosely. The memory still holds me captivated to that moment when I heard it afresh in the context of higher learning. These words evoke a kind of child-like playfulness, a naiveté, an invitation to imagine something else. For me, it gently invites me to a space in my mind where I just slow down in my thinking; to pause and reflect on my thoughts. 

There was a time in my life when I tried to place ideas in sort of a binary form. Every idea in my mind went through a filter: either true or false; valid or invalid, warranted or unwarranted, etc.. My project was simply not to have gray areas in my thinking. There was simply no time and space for this. I had assumed that for anyone to be considered a good and clear thinker, he or she would have considered and settled the big ideas in philosophy and theology, i.e., nature of time, determinism vs. freewill, calvinism vs. arminianism, etc.. After all, theology was the “queen of the sciences” and once ruled the many domains of human knowledge. If there was anything important to be known, it was in these disciplines. My academic training, I’m afraid encouraged this attitude, but in the end served as a corrective.

Thank goodness I have sobered up. I no longer think this way. Besides, it was tiring and in the end intellectually dishonest. There were just too many occasions when I exclaimed “Wow! I once held this belief X so passionately and now know it to be false” that I had to stop and reevaluate how I had to come to know anything. My ego can only withstand enough of these before realizing I am in not omniscient. Pride has a way of hiding the obvious. I did not know it at the time, but I was getting introduced to intellectual humility, the virtue Richard Paul and Linda Elder write about in their chapter on Essential Intellectual Traits.1 It became clear. I realized that if I could be wrong on something I had previously not doubted, no beliefs of mine were impervious to further scrutiny. 

Did I succumb to wrong impressions about humility; the twisted notion that to be humble requires being a doormat? By God’s grace, no. Like I said earlier, I felt freer. Philip Dow in his book Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development writes “intellectually humble people value truth over their egos’ need to be right, they are freed up to admit the limits of their own knowledge.”2 As an amateur Christian apologist it is easy to feel inadequate when I cannot give adequate answers to seekers’ questions. While it is no excuse to neglect doing the hard work of study, it is liberating to admit I do not know certain things, but I can always find out. 

A prideful person does not listen to advice because of the predetermination that he or she is right. Scripture supports intellectual humility in ways we might have overlooked. Consider Proverbs 12:15 “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” Abraham Lincoln is arguably one of the best presidents in American history; famous for saving the Union, but not many know about his humility. One historian tells of a story about an occasion when Lincoln gave a direct order to Edwin Stanton that was disobeyed. Despite their differences, which was not a secret, one would have expected some deference on Stanton’s part since this was after the Civil War. Lincoln could have easily dismissed him for insubordination but instead decided to meet with him to listen to what others in Lincoln’s cabinet considered an insult. He said, “that is no insult, it an expression of opinion; and what troubles me most about it is that Stanton said it and Stanton is usually right.”3

When I think about Lincoln’s example of humility I am brought to new heights because with the Holy Spirit’s help we can be like him. And yet at the same time I am brought to new lows  because there are not enough men and women today who come close to this. The reflective ministry practitioner in me asks the following: Do I exhibit the kind of intellectual humility in my research that I do not hesitate to ask for advice from my faculty advisor? Am I willing to go where truth leads and expose prejudices for what they are? Am I willing to listen to differing opinions with a predisposition to change my mind? I wonder.


1 Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools (Dillon Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009), Loc. 165, Kindle.

2 Phil Dow, Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 72.

3 “Lincolns Assassination Mystery or Stantons Secret …,” , accessed October 25, 2018, http://www.civilwarbummer.com/lincolns-assassination-mystery-or-stantons-secret-agents/.

About the Author

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Harry Edwards

Harry is married to Minerva and has the privilege of raising two young men. He is the founder and director of Apologetics.com, Inc., an organization dedicated to defending the truth claims of Christianity on the internet, radio and other related activities. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Education and a Masters of Arts degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University where he currently works full time as the Associate Director of the graduate programs in Christian Apologetics and Science & Religion. Harry is currently pursuing a DMin (Leadership & Global Perspectives) from George Fox University. He is an active member at Ocean View Baptist Church where he leads an adult Bible study and plays the drums for the praise and worship band. In his spare time, Harry enjoys doing things with his family, i.e., tennis, camping/backpacking, flying RC planes and mentoring others to realize their full potential in the service of our Lord.

7 responses to “I Wonder”

  1. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Once again Harry, erudite, personal and thoughtful. I remember F. F. Bruce being berated in the early 90’s when he came out in favour of women in church leadership and ordination. He was hounded for some time with statements that he had abandoned the truth of scripture and tradition within the Open Bretheren church. In response to the claims, Bruce offered that he maintained a strong conviction regarding the authority of Scripture, but when it came to the authors of tradition and interpretation he was more circumspect – he went instead where the evidence pointed. I think that made him intellectually humble. He was prepared for ridicule in search of truth. Humility isn’t being a doormat because someone else chooses it for us. Humility is being a doormat precisely because we had the power to choose to be so. Sometimes it’s powerfully admitting, “we don’t know”. So, Harry, what does it feel like to know that on certain topics, despite all the critical thinking in the world, we may not know some things with the clarity we hope?

  2. As always Digby, great question. First of all, I love that you nuanced my doormat metaphor into something even better. I’m reminded of our Lord laying his life willingly and not that he was forced or had no choice in the matter.

    Here’s another conundrum: Are we willing to be humble even when the result is a negative one towards us or someone else gets the credit? And I’m saying that no soul ever finds out, ever. Now that’s tough. I remember at one time long ago when I was participating in mental gymnastics that I had proposed a theory that there are no such things as altruistic acts — that all acts are ultimately self-serving. Sometimes I wonder why I even spend any time thinking about these things. Hahahaha!

    To your question, I’m reminded of J.I. Packer when he was asked about his opinions on whether or not determinism is true. This is one of those questions I’m keenly interested in. His response was fair and humble. He said this is one of those things we won’t know until we get to heaven. Or perhaps not.

    Like I said, I’m ok to say “I don’t know” and then I’ll follow it up with “let me find out” and then, as Elder pointed out, there are three possible outcomes to that: Yes, No or Maybe.

  3. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Yes, yes, yes. Lets have a conversation about determinism – one of my all time favourite subjects. Advanced warning, I am currently a soft-determinist; not sure about tomorrow… 🙂

  4. Hahaha. We’d end up just high fiving each other since I’m ok with soft determinism as well. Found something in common.

  5. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Harry, I appreciate your honesty about your past dualism in thinking, leaving no room for gray areas. I believe you have described how many of us were trained to think.

    Lincoln is one of my all time favorite leaders to learn from especially his humility. Humility in regard to intellect is very interesting on the subject of critical thinking. My reflections this week have included wondering if our openness to the critiques of others’ and ourselves is actually the best process for growing in humility. Great post!

  6. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Harry,
    I loved out how you teased out intellectual humility in your own experience and posit this essential trait going forward. It is particularly vulnerable of ministry leaders to recognize and confess their parting ways with previously deeply held beliefs and constructs. I commend you on your honesty, your integrity, and your willingness to wonder, to be willing to change as you learn from the other’s perspective. Great writing. Blessings, H

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