Are Brain Barriers Necessary?

What does it mean to have an open mind?

OTTO H. CHRISTENSEN, Ph.D.

We are frequently con­fronted with the exhor­tation to have an open mind. To not have it is generally to put one­self in a position of ridicule. However, this open-mind philosophy, even with its meritorious element, is too fre­quently orientated in the direction of conformity. Anything averse to this is often considered stubbornness. The question then arises, If one would be true to convictions of truth, should one always maintain an open mind; should an open mind be subject to excep­tions; or can one be open to advanced light and still have a closed mind? Let us address ourselves to this problem by first consider­ing the nature of the mind and the laws governing our mental processes.

There Should Be Balance

Our mind as well as our body was made in the image of God. Even though our mind is finite and God's is infinite, yet in the divine plan our mind was made to function in the human sphere exactly as God's mind functions in His sphere. It has been given us to use as we will. We may submit it to the Master Mind or we may submit it to Satan's control. God does not control it without our consent. Our will determines this, yet our mind has been made to work under certain laws. We de­termine which direction these laws shall lead us by our will, with which God does not interfere. But to habituate these laws to serve in the right direction and the full­est service for development of the mind there should be balance in the use of the various faculties, lest these very laws be abused and lead to the very opposite of our intentions. Without this balance, one fac­ulty will be developed and the other not, and there will be unbalanced judgment as a result, so that the thing we have special­ized in, to the possible neglect of other fields, will assume undue importance to us and prevent drawing right conclusions.

Care Needed in Development

Like every other member of our body, the mind if unused, will become weak and useless. It must be exercised as well as disciplined, so that it in turn may rightly rule the body. There is perhaps no limit to which it may be exercised provided the body is equally exercised and taxed. Be­cause this is an intricate machine capable of being influenced toward good or evil, trickery or honesty, self-enlightenment or self-deceit, depending upon whose voice we are determined to heed, great care is needed in its development. Satan has been experimenting with its properties for cen­turies. He has been implanting in the minds of men that faith is a sign of weak­ness and doubt is a sign of strength. "Many a man who delights to quibble, to criticize, seeking for something to question in the word of God, thinks that he is thereby giv­ing evidence of independence of thought, and mental acuteness. He supposes that he is sitting in judgment on the Bible, when in truth he is judging himself. He makes it manifest that he is incapable of appreciat­ing truths that originate in heaven, and that compass eternity."' Thus, many "have taken their position on the side of unbelief, as though it were a virtue and the sign of a great mind to doubt, when it is the sign of a mind too weak and narrow to perceive God in His created works."

Our Minds Can Become Blinded

There are so-called revelations of wisdom set forth as deeper truth or new light that often flow from the imagination of con­ceited and deceived minds. The saddest and most seductive element in it is that when we are thus deceived we ourselves do not know it. Only a higher power can open our minds to understand. "He only who created the mind and ordained its laws can perfectly understand its needs or direct its development." 3 Our minds may become blinded to ourselves. Says the Scripture, "But their minds were blinded" (2 Cor. 3:14), also "In whom the god of this world bath blinded the minds of them which be­lieve not" (2 Cor. 4:4). Warning against the subtlety of it, Paul says, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3). The messenger of the Lord tells us that "if questioners and doubters continue to follow the great de­ceiver, the impressions and convictions of God's Spirit will grow less and less, the promptings of Satan more frequent, until the mind will fully submit to his control."'

Thus we must recognize that there is real danger. Unless our minds are sub­mitted constantly to the Mastermind of God we will be subject to the most delu­sive and insidious workings of another mas­termind who beguiled even our first par­ents who had so recently been created in the image of God. Hence, we need to be aware of what is an open mind and what is a closed mind.

The Law of the Mind

As stated before, the mind functions in harmony with the laws with which we were created. Paul, in Romans 7:23, speaks about the law of the mind. Before advanc­ing further into the topic, let us see what some of these laws are. One of them Paul makes clear in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, that is, if we reject the truth of God our minds become unable to see truth and we become receptive to falsehood. This is fur­ther confirmed in the book Child Guidance, "It is an important law of the mind—one which should not be overlooked—that when a desired object is so firmly denied as to remove all hope, the mind will soon cease to long for it, and will be occupied in other pursuits. But as long as there is any hope of gaining the desired object, an effort will be made to obtain it." 6Thus one rejects truth at the peril of his soul. (See John 12:35, 40.)

Another law of the mind is that we com­prehend and accept that which we love or desire. (See John 3:19-21.) "It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature, that by beholding, we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence."

For where your treasure is there will your heart be also. The antithesis to this is that hate blinds our eyes. John says, "But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, . . . and knoweth not whither he goeth, be­cause that darkness hath blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:11).

What Is an Open Mind?

Third, we become in character what we think. "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). "It is a law of the human mind that by beholding we become changed."'

One often hears the expression that we should have an open mind, and many state­ments might be quoted from the Spirit of Prophecy to support this. It is equally true, although it may sound paradoxical, that we should also have a closed mind. Some might raise their eyebrows to this and say, "Narrow-minded." But both Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy support may be given for this statement, even though it might be considered narrow-minded by some. This may seem strange. But what is an open mind? Open to what? and to how much of what? Are we to have an open mind to every philosophy, good, bad, or indifferent, and thus be as the whale that swallows everything his open mouth envelops? Or are we to screen? The question answers it­self. It would seem self-evident that screen­ing must be necessary if we would keep the truth of God pure in our minds and not be subjected to every hypothesis of "science falsely so called." Those who are swept off their feet by the waves of temptation, imag­ine, as did Eve, that they are becoming wonderfully wise, outgrowing their previ­ous ignorance and narrow conscientious­ness, but like her, they will find them­selves sadly deceived. We are told that John the Baptist "closed his mind to the mass of tradition taught by the teachers of the Jew­ish nation, opening it to the wisdom 'which cometh down from above.' "8 In speaking of Christ's wise reserve in not entering into a discussion regarding the divine mystery of the essence of God, Ellen G. White says, "He did this that He might close the door where human conjectures should not be encouraged." a Thus we can observe that there are subjects and philosophies on which we should have a closed mind.

Danger of Deception

What these shall be will perhaps always be mooted among men. Thus, it is evident that man needs something objective, some­thing outside of himself, to be his safe guide. One man with a certain background will feel that this particular topic is safe on which we should have an open mind. Another will feel he is immune to the de­ceptions of still another philosophy, hav­ing been steeped in it in his training, so that now through acquaintance and par­tial acceptance, to say the least, it no longer seems a danger. However, in view of the working of the mind according to certain laws, man needs something outside of himself to direct his thinking and warn him of dangers. Will each one of us be humble enough to realize this and our own per­sonal danger from the warnings given, even without seeing it? This is a part of salvation by faith. And this objective stand­ard and guide is the Word of God. When this Word has spoken plainly do we still need an open mind to that which contra­dicts it? The Jewish nation is an example in point. The people of this nation were given every advantage, but they remained fruitless. The people gradually forsook the fountains and hewed them out cisterns. Gradually they absorbed the traditions built up by man and the philosophies of the nations around them until they com­pletely lost their way and failed to recog­nize the One who in truth was their De­liverer. "The fetters which the nation had for centuries been forging, the people of Christ's day were fastening upon them­selves." 10

Today we have come to a time of crisis. We are in an age of conformity when the whole world is talking ecumenism under the united leadership of the Catholic and Protestant world. We have been warned of the dangers ahead. Will we accept the warning? "A day of great intellectual dark­ness has been shown to be favorable to the success of the papacy. It will yet be demonstrated that a day of great intel­lectual light is equally favorable for its suc­cess. . . . In this generation there are many whose eyes become dazzled by the glare of human speculations, 'science falsely so called;' they discern not the net, and walk into it as readily as if blindfolded. . . . But when . . . men exalt their own theories above the word of God, then intelligence can accomplish greater harm than igno­rance. Thus the false science of the present day, which undermines faith in the Bible, will prove as successful in preparing the way for the acceptance of the papacy, with its pleasing forms, as did the withholding of knowledge in opening the way for its aggrandizement in the Dark Ages." es "

Danger of Rejecting True Evidence

Lovingly God has warned us of our pres­ent-day dangers. For centuries He warned and counseled Israel, until at last He wept over the city of Jerusalem. Will we re­spond to His loving counsel and take His word as our guide? How He longs to keep us from falling into Satan's snares! Many are wandering today in the enticing laby­rinths of philosophy, thinking by this they are discovering additional facets of the truth. They search for reasons and evi­dences that they will never find, based purely on man's subjective logic, while they reject the evidence which God has so gra­ciously given. God's truth is in His Word. Yet, "God will never remove every occasion for doubt. He gives sufficient evidence on which to base faith, and if this is not ac­cepted, the mind is left in darkness." God has given us His Word proven through the ages in the experiences of men. God designed that it should be searched as the true source of science, above all human theory. "Those who leave the word of God, and seek to account for His created works upon scientific principles, are drifting, without chart or compass, upon an un­known ocean. The greatest minds, if not guided by the word of God in their re­search, become bewildered in their at­tempts to trace the relations of science and revelation. Because the Creator and His works are so far beyond their compre­hension that they are unable to explain them by natural laws, they regard Bible history as unreliable." "

Satan will have many deceptions for the last days to deceive, if possible, "the very elect." Surely, none of us is aware of the turn which these will take. If we knew every turn, they would not be so deceptive. How we need to pray every day, especially those who go into higher schools of learn­ing, that God will keep us from the un­seen and indiscernible delusions, and that He will give us such wisdom that, by a thorough knowledge of, and faith in the simplicity of His Word, we may be able to discern that which will undermine our faith in God's wonderful message of truth for today.

Dare We Criticize God's Word?

Our great temptation ahead will be to surrender to conformity and liberality, be­cause "by the cry, Liberality, men are blinded to the devices of their adversary, while he is all the time working steadily for the accomplishment of his object.'

The Word, which is to be our objective standard, is too often subjected to human evaluation. In doing this, man sets himself up as a judge of God. If God's Word can be challenged and criticized, then we have no sound, objective guide outside of ourselves. Then the Word is no more sure than the man who evaluates it. Thus, perhaps un­intentionally, truth is undermined and the God of nature is restricted by His own laws. We are warned against this very thing: "Men take it upon themselves to rein up the word of God before a finite tribunal, and sentence is pronounced upon the in­spiration of God according to finite meas­urement, and the truth of God is made to appear as a thing uncertain before the rec­ords of science." IS If man is able to judge the Word of God, then either it is not truly the Word of God or the man who does this assumes he is greater than God. Then who will be our judge in the last day?

At the last public meeting in which Ellen G. White spoke before her death, her last words and act before she sat down was to raise up the Bible in her hand and say, "Brethren and sisters, I commend unto you this Book." '° If this is undermined we have no rudder and we will be cast upon a sea of human speculation with no land in sight. We must keep an open mind to God's expanding truth as spiritual light shines upon it. But, while our mind is open to in­creased light on the truth we know, let us keep also a closed mind to the sophistries, philosophies, and speculations of men who know not the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness.

Are We Giving the Danger Signal?

We will be assailed by every form of evil, flattery, bribes, inducements, promises of future exaltation, and world fame. If we do not yield we will be considered unschol­arly and nonintellectual. To this test comes the challenge: "What are God's servants doing to raise the barrier of a 'Thus saith the Lord' against this evil? The enemy's agents are working unceasingly to prevail against the truth. Where are the faithful guardians of the Lord's flocks? Where are His watchmen? Are they standing on the high tower, giving the danger signal, or are they allowing the peril to pass un­heeded?" "

We will be tested as Pilate was. He "longed to deliver Jesus. But he saw that he could not do this, and yet retain his own position and honor." " just so, many will know and want to do right but will lack the courage to resist the error. Conscience will point in one direction, but self-interest, conformity, and honor from men will point in another. But if and when we compro­mise with error, we shall soon be swept off our feet into the quicksands of human rea­soning and doubt. While we should keep our minds open and do deep research to discover truth and to find further light on and confirmation of truth, we need to keep our minds closed to the sophistries and tra­ditions of men. Error can never be proved right no matter how much research we do. The Word of God will stand though the heavens fall. Otherwise we would be lost in a sea of despair without a rudder. "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold won­drous things out of thy law" (Ps. 119:18). May God keep us from the failures and pitfalls of the past centuries and help us not to forget our past beginnings. "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us . . . in our past history." 16


Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

OTTO H. CHRISTENSEN, Ph.D.

April 1965

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

"These are Great Days!"

Would you want to live in any other age?

Honest with God

A look at the new book of John A.T. Robinson

Broken to be Given

Why is the feeding of the 5000 the only miracle recorded by all four gospels?

Are Adventists Fundamentalists?

A look at the history of Fundamentalism and its relation to Adventism.

Compassion Can We Get It Back?

Turn off the TV, set aside the distractions, and read this article thoughtfully and thoroughly.

The Twentieth Century Book of Acts

How Lay Team Workers Started a Chain Reaction

The Five-Day Plan in Southeast Asia

Will the Five-Day Plan work in Asia?

Let's Eat

Is it worthwhile to be a vegetarian?

No Reason for Disloyalty

Our loyalty to God.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - SermonView - WideSkyscraper (160x600)