In the opening chapter of Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Opportunity, D’Souza and Renner reflect on an ancient doctor in training, Vesalius, who thought it odd that contemporary doctors were utilizing archaic knowledge as the ultimate truth. Despite the obvious upgrades in knowledge, Vesalius found it nearly impossible to contradict the authority of a renowned imperial doctor, Galen. To do so, according to Vesalius, was “almost as if I were secretly to doubt the immortality of the soul.”
The experience of Vesalius in relation to Galen’s knowledge and how it was utilized by contemporary doctors brought me back to my undergraduate learning and the institution where it occurred. As one who didn’t grow up committed to Jesus or interested in the church, it was a deep irony that I applied to and was admitted into a private, conservative, evangelical institution in the Midwest. At best, I figured that I would have a relatively moral experience on a beautiful campus where I’d be able to explore the Christian tradition alongside outstanding people. What I soon discovered is that the institution was not a space for academic and spiritual exploration but, rather, a space of academic arrogance that perpetuated a narrow and rigid worldview and focused its energy on religious indoctrination.
Certainty was among the highest values at this institution. Those in positions of authority believed that they were the enlightened ones whose role it was not to teach their students how to think, but what to think. One very popular, local fundamentalist evangelical preacher dominated the theology and spirituality of the campus. While he had little to no direct interaction with the university, the lion-share of the school’s professors attended this preacher’s church and seemed to hang on his every word. Next to the Scriptures, he was the inspired source of authority. To question or contradict this particular preacher’s teaching was “to doubt the immortality of the soul.”
To no one’s surprise, I consistently questioned this preacher’s teaching. I rebelled against the idea that my education and formation would be found in unquestioningly ingesting a particular person’s take on a given topic. My brain and body are not a hard drive designed to upload the latest or most certain knowledge. Instead, I understand myself as a pilgrim who is shaped by the Spirit as I interact with literature, human beings, and experiences.
I find it remarkable that in an institution that tried its hardest to teach me what to think, I learned how to think. Turns out, my undergrad was exactly the kind of incubator that I needed in order to become a life-long learner who is ever in pursuit of a Jesus-centered, spacious theology that fleshes itself out in a cross-shaped kind of way. Just like Peter on the roof of the tanner’s home in Acts 10, I am not only open to, but eager for the ongoing formation of my theology that further refines a practice of life that is marked by generosity, interdependence, wonder, and sacrifice.
This idea of holding loosely to “certainty” also shapes the way that I seek to influence. While I am a passionate person who holds some deep convictions, I don’t understand my role as an influencer to be one of convincing or converting. Rather, I ever want to become the kind of leader that awakens imaginations to new restorative possibilities.
 D’Souza & Renner, pg. 38.