“Who Knows Only His Own Generation Remains Always a Child.”

This very interesting and relevant quote by Dr. George Norlin, former president of the University of Colorado, is inscribed over the west entrance of the University’s library where I spent hundreds of hours deep in the library stacks studying late into the night. I have learned to navigate the depths of that library in the dark and with my eyes closed.  But when it came to learning and understanding truth, my eyes were then, as they are now, wide open.  Learners ask questions and challenge assumptions. Learners have a desire to understand alternative perspectives and become knowledgeable with both sides or perspectives of ideas and so called facts. One must understand another’s perspective to have a civil conversation let alone formidable debate.   Why do so many college students today simply reciting the boring one-sided opinions and lectures their professors pedantically preach to them? What ever happened to critical thinking, epistemology and disciplined inquiry?  What about the merits of considering alternative perspectives while seeking the truth?  What is truth and how do we know what we know?

Recently, astronaut Scott Kelly posted a Tweet paraphrasing Winston Churchill. Below is the entire quote in context;

“In War: Resolution,
In Defeat: Defiance,
In Victory: Magnanimity
In Peace: Good Will.”

Kelly was attacked by some who considered the quote offensive.  So, Kelly back peddles and apologizes. He says something to the effect, “I need to get educated”.  Which brings me to the topic of this blog post, truth, grace and learning how to learn.   While I find nothing offensive with this quote, I am actually inspired by it, I am trying to understand how it might be offensive to some people? That’s an honest question. You see, I believe, words matter. However, there’s no question the truth can bite.  That is perhaps one reason why we some people hide behind the safety of “political correctness” and postmodern relativism. It allows one to be wrong and still be right.  We are experiencing a division in perception of reality. Fortunately, truth and grace are interconnected, you can’t have one without the other.  What Kelly was responding to is a pressure to conform narrative, not truth and grace.  The political correct narrative, I believe, is part of the social constructivist agenda to rewrite history, not correct it nor to seek the truth. “Who knows only his own generation remaining always a child.”

If we lose the truth about our history, we lose our liberty. It is happening now at universities across America. Political correctness has crushed the spirit of truth and free speech.  This is why the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was so important to the Founders, it was first and foremost.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Why do so many people think history needs revision?  Perhaps it is because, for hundreds of years, churches and universities were the center of the community.  These were the places people gathered, church steeples marked the city centers. This is where people interacted with each other, learned from each other, shared stories and exchanged ideas, knowledge, goods and services in free markets. The city center or, market square were the very places truth and grace intersected as expressed through the First Amendment.  This idea, no longer fits with the current spirit of the time (zeitgeist).   These days many people see religion as the source of legalism, bigotry and scientific ignorance. However, many more people, like me and perhaps you too, believe that faith in God expressly and implicitly guarantees individual liberty, justice and love. It is the very bases for human rights, democracy and American justice system; Jefferson referenced the Jewish and Christian God who made us free–“self evident”, he proclaimed as reflected in the Declaration of Independence. The Founders regarded religion as the duty of the independent and free individual to seek. The constitution assure this as an inalienable right and not a privilege to be tolerated. There’s a big difference.

Learning requires we enter a place I call the “epistemic gap”.  This is a place between the known and unknown, the natural and supernatural.  Stepping into the epistemic gap takes courage because it is more about learning than knowing. Cultivating a learning spirit requires humility.  Part of this “epistemic” journey involves understanding self in relation with God and His creations.  Thank God, we don’t all think alike.  This is a gift, not a curse.

Grace and truth’s perfect union can be cultivated in a community of diverse experiences and worldviews.  Truth and grace are integral and cannot be truly understood or experienced as an either/or concept.  Truth without grace breeds self-righteousness and legalism. Grace without truth breeds deception and moral compromise. The key to true intellectual and spiritual growth is to integrate these two qualities into life and learn how to learn all over again.

This is an honest question; how is the above quote offensive?  What are your thoughts?

4 comments

  1. John,
    This post has so much truth to it! I believe that the day we decide to stop learning is the day we decide to no longer grow and contribute to our society or area of influence. Jesus tells his followers in the gospels to be light and salt to the world. Light brings vision and salt enhances flavor. With this dominate world view that we are currently living in it does make it scary to speak truth. But still, it is the truth spoken in love that brings about the freedom people are desiring. I like your comment about how diversity through being intentional with community is what brings about unity. Today, that is the true motive behind the voices we are hearing in the influential places such as universities. People want to feel like they belong, like they are not alone. I think valuing diversity is the beginning of seeing the politically correct spirit of our age less influential to young mold-able minds in colleges. I think if we can courageously share our opinions with love as believers, from a place of belonging, people will start to see the true desire of their soul is to be heard, seen, valued and that Christians are actually a safe place for open discussion of differing opinions. This will require Christians to be courageous. Jesus never spoke down or rejected anyone who was searching for truth, we must also learn to live this way and include people who have different views and mind sets as us. I believe learning about one another is a way these walls of political correctness can be removed. Thanks for this thought provoking post!

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  2. A lot of great stuff here! People who are unwilling to open their mind and seek alternative perspectives come across more insecure than confident, in my opinion. Especially as it relates to Christian doctrine. We are afraid of our beliefs being challenged because it means that our view of God may have to change. I hope to remain confident in my faith but willing to listen and understand new ways to understand Truth. Thank you for the encouragement.

    Best,
    Brady Young

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  3. Great Blog! I had to dig into a few more sources to brush up on a few things I didn’t know.

    My intentions are not to questions you, but rather to give myself something to think about.

    You referenced what you call the “epistemic gap” as being the know and the unknown, the natural and the supernatural. I had to research. If the “gap” was, in fact, more of the known vs the unknown, truth and grace are subjective. People have always believed their own version of the truth and claim it to be KNOWLEDGE/ FACTS. “I think, therefore I am.” A phrase coined by the French to convince a broader range of people to attain whatever knowledge. While it is commonly used in the field of philosophy it was widely used in my undergrad work in psychology/ Social Work degree. Encouraging people to seek knowledge is arguably, a blessing and a curse. The point I am trying to bring to light is simple really. What you want to be true becomes your truth and that is what you believe EVEN if you don’t know why. In lies the problem. We (as people) often times don’t want to know the “why” because then we’d have to make a decision and with that comes CHANGE!

    This then becomes my pivot of thinking. When I was not a Christian, I was ignorant of God’s love for me and I simply lived my life as I saw fit. ( my truth) Then I started questioning, exploring my own thoughts, reading and gaining insight into something i knew nothing about, which lead me to an answer. (my belief) With enough FACTS, I was then able to see the truth. (knowledge) This series, unfolded Truth+belief >knowledge = CHANGE.
    “When you know better, you do better.”

    In my opinion, certain people found the above quote offensive, because its easier to deny facts than it is to have the courage to change. Once you know the truth about Jesus, a politicians intentions, a false news report, a cheating spouse, an unethical workplace practice, etc. you can’t go on believing as you did before. You’d be a fool to believe you could!

    And anyone unwilling to believe the truth, well its because they aren’t ready to change their ways/ stop receiving the bonuses/ come off the addictive highs/ and personalized perks that come with believing what they fail to learn.

    Just like the nights you spent in the library digging up knowledge; when your eyes become so widen to the truth it can’t be ignored.

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    1. Thank you for this edifying response to my initial post. Yes, I would tend to agree with you that it is human nature to deny facts that don’t fit with one’s perspective or worldview, it requires entering the epistemic gap (learning) and that makes one very uncomfortable. That’s one of the reasons I call this blog, TruthBites.

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