Church & Culture
Want To Go Deeper And Wider? Underline New Stuff
I can’t gain new understanding of anything – even of the ideas I already agree with – if all I do is keep reinforcing old facts.

Are you an underliner? I am. Unless I’m reading for pleasure, it’s almost impossible for me to pick up a book unless I have something to underline or highlight it with.

When people read books, they tend to underline or highlight the sentences they agree with. Give me a set of books someone has underlined and I can probably find out more about them than they’d be willing to reveal voluntarily.

When people read books, they tend to underline or highlight the sentences they agree with.

We do the same when we’re online. We like, share and comment on blogs, Tweets and Facebook posts that affirm what we already agree with. Or we use the online equivalent of crossing words out by writing an angry comment or blocking people we disagree with.

Either way, we’re enforcing our current beliefs by applauding what we like and deleting what we don’t.

This is a natural tendency. We all like what we like, after all. But when every opinion is subject to either being underlined or deleted (literally or figuratively) it results in a very small mind, heart and world. The echo chamber gets louder, arguments become more frequent, and open-ended conversations all but disappear.

Underline New Ideas

What would happen if, instead of only underlining familiar ideas that we already agree with, we underlined ideas that are new, different, even challenging to us? Instead of limiting our vision and our understanding we could deepen and widen it.

No, this doesn’t lead to changing what we believe about vital facts. Instead, it’s likely to expand our understanding and appreciation of essential truths.

At the very least, it helps us become more curious and less cynical. As Carey Nieuwhof points out, “Curiosity is the antidote for cynicism.” (Didn’t See It Coming, pg 28)

Underline Uncomfortable Scriptures

This is true in our reading of scripture as well. We tend to underline the ideas we’ve already become familiar with.

What if we decided to underline the ideas that stand out in a new way? The concepts that are uncomfortable? The statements that make us think about God and his Word differently than what we’re used to?

If the thought of paying closer attention to the uncomfortable passages in the Bible worries us, then we’re not concerned about going off the rails into heresy (these are ideas from the Bible, after all), we’re worried about our own comfort. We’re not willing to learn something that might challenge our preconceptions.

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

September 10, 2018 at 1:00 AM

Join in the conversation about this post on Facebook.

Recent Posts
Include results from Christianity Today

Read More from Karl

Follow Christianity Today

Free Newsletters

More Newsletters ...