Jul 22nd, 2010 · Categories: Christianity, Culture · No Comments

Forgiveness by any other name is still liberating

One reason that I don’t understand why some Christians fear open-ended scientific investigation is that there is only one source of truth – God.  Every path that leads in the direction of truth leads in the direction of God.  Any open-minded researcher who does not contort his particular path to point in a philosophically preferred direction will inch closer to that one source, even if that source is itself supernatural and therefore beyond the reach of science.

So I would expect (and have seen countless times) that observations in the secular world often confirm truths revealed in the Bible.  Paul Graham is a computer scientist/entrepreneur who has provided examples – very likely unintended – in his essay “The Top Idea in Your Mind".  He says of forgiveness (“it doesn’t deserve space in my head”),

Turning the other cheek turns out to have selfish advantages. Someone who does you an injury hurts you twice: first by the injury itself, and second by taking up your time afterward thinking about it. If you learn to ignore injuries you can at least avoid the second half. I’ve found I can to some extent avoid thinking about nasty things people have done to me by telling myself: this doesn’t deserve space in my head. I’m always delighted to find I’ve forgotten the details of disputes, because that means I hadn’t been thinking about them.

As both an entrepreneur and professional problem-solver, Graham appreciates the utility of free-floating thought – “what you think about when you take a shower in the morning”.  These thoughts are driven by our “top idea”, i.e. the most pressing or interesting problem we are confronting.  His experience matches my own exactly, so I assume it’s fairly common (although the setting may differ).  As he observes,

You can’t directly control where your thoughts drift. If you’re controlling them, they’re not drifting. But you can control them indirectly, by controlling what situations you let yourself get into. That has been the lesson for me: be careful what you let become critical to you. Try to get yourself into situations where the most urgent problems are ones you want think about.

Graham points to money and disputes as especially destructive “top ideas” – a short list that ought to resonate loudly with Christians.  Money and disputes (relationships and forgiveness) are important topics in the Bible generally and in Jesus’ teaching in particular.  Graham’s observations provide practical guidance to Christians:  Don’t focus on money and attend to our relationships; this will make room for a better “top idea”.  Pursue God’s will for our lives and let him pick the problem that our drifting thoughts will attend to.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 at 3:35 pm and is filed under Christianity, Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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