Fear of Discovery
Hungarian Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgi once said, “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.” He is absolutely right; sometimes, discoveries are made not because someone looked where others haven’t, but when someone looked at something many people before them have seen, but looked at it differently. Of course, many discoveries are made because someone has looked where others have not, but many things will never be discovered simply because individuals have no interest in finding something new or different.
Along those lines, historian Daniel J. Boorstin once said, “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.” He, too, is right; many people think they know it all [or at least ‘enough’], so they don’t ever put forth the effort required to discover there is something they do not know, that they don’t know as much as they think they do, or — worse — that what they do know is incorrect. The wise writer, in fact, tells us, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Prov. 12:15), and “fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). It is when we think we know it all, or at least more than what we actually do, that we have no interest in learning, and no interest in discovering that we were wrong, or lacking knowledge.
And if I may add one more quote on discovery before we get to the heart of this article, this from Nobel Prize-winning author André Gide: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Right, again! In spiritual matters, I have seen this quite often, with many individuals explicitly stating they have no desire to study the Bible. Why are so few interested in Bible study — even among a great majority of those who profess to be believers? Could it be because many do not have the courage to study, knowing that they might discover they have been wrong all along? Could it be that many might discover that they are not really ‘good’ people, after all? Could it be that many might find that, instead of being ‘saved’ as they thought, they were still in their sins?
Let us acknowledge this fact about discoveries: What you may find is not new, for it has been there all along. It will be there, even if you never find it. It does not cease to exist simply because you never find it. An object, a fact, a person, or a thing does not depend on your discovery of it to exist. Refusing to put forth the effort to discover something or someone does not negate the fact that someone or something does, indeed, exist. In spiritual matters, this is of utmost importance!
Consider this scenario: You are driving along a mountain road at night — a road you have never driven before. In a sense, every corner is a new discovery because you have never seen it before, never driven it before, never experienced the feel of the road and its various bumps and turns. As with many mountain roads, there are warning signs of dangerous curves or falling rocks or blind curves. But what if you purposefully ignored all the signs, turning your eyes away from them before they were within reading distance? And what if one of those signs warned of a bridge out up ahead? Would your refusal to even acknowledge the warning and thus, ignore the fact of the bridge being out change reality? Would the bridge still be there if you didn’t look at the sign?
We would all readily admit that our lack of knowledge would not change the facts of the matter; if the bridge was out, it wouldn’t matter if we knew that or not! The only thing that would change is the amount of danger we place ourselves in should we refuse to acknowledge the facts! Whether our ignorance was an oversight [we just didn’t see the sign] or purposeful [we didn’t want to look at the sign, or we ignored its warning], the facts of the bridge being out is the same, and the end result could be tragic.
Now, how much more so when we are talking about spiritual matters and the facts regarding God’s very existence, His plan for our salvation, our true spiritual condition, and the realities of a final Judgment and an eternal heaven and hell? Ignoring the truth on any of these matters will not change the truth on each of these matters.
I may choose to say, “There is no God” (Psa. 14:1), but it does not change the fact “He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). I may choose to believe, “You will not require an account” (Psa. 10:13), but that does not change the fact “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). I might have been told, and believe, that God “is too loving to send anyone to hell,” but that does not change the fact “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire” (Matt. 13:41), and the fact many “will go away into everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46).
I may choose to believe I am a ‘good person’ and without need of a Savior or that it is not necessary to obey the will of Jesus Christ, but this does not change the fact “There is none who does good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:12) and “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23); it doesn’t change the fact God will punish “those who do not know God, and…those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8). I may choose to accept the popular line that all one has to do to be saved is “pray the sinner’s prayer” and “accept Jesus into your heart,” but that does not change the fact Jesus said, after sending the apostles out into the world to preach the gospel message to all, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:15, 16); it does not change the fact that Peter told the audience, the very first time that gospel message was preached, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). I may choose to believe that, once saved, I can never forfeit my reward in heaven, no matter how ungodly a life I may live, but it won’t change the fact disciples are warned to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (Heb. 10:23) and that for those believers who turn back to the world, “the latter end is worse for them than the beginning,” and, “it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Pet. 2:20, 21).
On any of these issues, and for many more, our refusal to discover what the Bible actually teaches will not and does not change the fact of the matter on each truth in the written word of God, the Bible. It is there, if you choose to ignore it; it is there, if you choose to disbelieve it; it is there, even if you pretend it doesn’t say what it actually says. And, friends and brethren — pay close attention — those words will judge you and me in the last day (cf. John 12:47, 48) whether we believe and accept them or not.
For your soul’s sake, put forth the effort to discover the truth; have the courage to discover the truth; Be honest and humble enough to admit it if your discovery reveals you were wrong. — Steven Harper