I’m coming to believe that human thought goes through three phases on individual and societal levels. Humans begin in intellectual childhood. They believe the things they’ve been told. They are limited by rules and driven by fear. Some societies and individuals remain in childhood. Often they do this because those entrusted to lead them seek only to exploit them. Whether it’s a communist government or a denominational board, codependent leadership must jealously defend the naiveté (pronounced “orthodoxy”) of their constituents.
Beyond childhood, humans can develop into adolescence. Those in this stage break out into individual thought and personal gratification. They rely on peers and mistrust established authority. They rabidly question assumptions and delight to liberate “children” from them. While more aware than children, intellectual adolescents have their own blind spots especially to the limits of their own perspective. For minds to progress they must go through some form of adolescence. Sadly, some people remain in adolescence indefinitely. One example would be Richard Dawkins and his sympathizers.
Should a person somehow find the humility to continue learning past adolescence, he or she will move on into intellectual adulthood. At this level, a person has faced struggles and had the rough edges knocked off. More than once, he or she has had to admit that much of what they were told while in childhood was in fact true though misunderstood or misinterpreted. Intellectual adults have discovered a world outside their own minds where others’ ideas and needs disallow the luxury afforded to the critic.
My prayer for all of us is that our minds can grow up. After all, Jesus told us to love God with our minds as well.