In Defense of Naivety

“Naive” is generally a description we do not hold proudly. It is either used for children or for people who we see as immature or gullible. People who are not seasoned in the the ways of the world. Who are unsophisticated. Simpletons. It is not a word that majority of people would want to make to the shortlist of their character traits. It is perceived as a flaw. As something that needs to be corrected. Something to grow out of.

But before we go further, let’s look at what the dictionary says about the word. The dictionary gives 2 definitions.

  1. lacking experience of life, knowledge or good judgment and willing to believe that people always tell you the truth:
  2. (approving) (of people and their behavior) innocent and simple:

It is a quite narrow definition. But if we look at the root of the word, it is not so narrowly categorized. The word “naive” is derived from the Latin word for “natural”. A word that we are much more familiar with. A word that is much more favored than the word “naive”. Taking this new information in account, true naivety can thus be defined as absence of artificiality. As unaffected simplicity of nature. And with this definition, it becomes much less an insult and more a quality to which we might actually aspire.

But if the word naive is in fact a good quality, why then is it seen with so much negativity? Let us, once again, go back to the dictionary and look at the first definition of the word. It says, a naive person is “lacking experience of life”. I want to ask what kind of experience is this? Is it experience of people keeping their promises? No! Is it experience of never being wronged? No! Is it experience of never having to regret a decision to trust? No! To the contrary, the lack of experience that is being talked about here is actually the experience of being wronged. Of being manipulated, violated and broken. Never the experience of laughter or joy, never of trusty friends keeping their promises. The experience referred to here is only the experience of the dark variety.

Further, the definition speaks about “Lacking knowledge or good judgment”. These certainly do sound like a disadvantage. Knowledge and good judgment are really qualities worth having. But when I look into my own mind I realize that there are things that I know that I wish I had never known. I have knowledge that I regret having. It is a burden I wish I never had to bear. Everyone knows what I mean, and if you don’t just open today’s newspaper and you’ll come across an event that will permanently modify your outlook of the world for the worse. Just like in the earlier case of experience, the lack of knowledge that is being talked about here is the knowledge of how depraved and perverse the world has become.

So, the reason that naivety is perceived as a flaw in the world is not because it is essentially a flaw, but because of the state in which the world is! In a better world, in a perfect world, naivety would be all that we required!

But let us go one step further and think about what it means not to be naive. Or rather, what it means to know the world. If a person is not naive, does it not mean that he will bend the rules even just a little to his advantage? Does it not mean that he will take advantage of people who are gullible for his own advantage? That he will take shortcuts whether it is right or wrong? Does it not mean to have a permanent courtroom in your head where everyone is on trial? It seems to me that to such a worldly person, right and wrong or good and bad matter much less than advantageous and disadvantageous. For people who leave their naivety, morality stops being the driving principle and selfishness takes over the driver’s seat. It matters very little what others might suffer because of one person’s selfishness. And what about those who become victims of this selfishness? “They are naive. They must learn to live with it. It will make them strong. If they don’t, it’s their loss.” That’s how the world justifies itself. Simply put, the message is, “This is a dog eat dog world. It’s no place for children. The only way to live here is to leave off your naivety & innocence and play by the rules I dictate.” And these are the rules: anything you do is fine as long as you’re not caught.

But this type of thinking is flawed. Not only flawed, it’s quite simply wrong. And it makes men, less than what they used to be. The experiences that lead to one leaving one’s naivety behind also hardens the heart and grim the outlook of the world. It makes the person vary of every kind act and suspicious of grace. The proposal of someone doing a good deed for the sake of goodness start to look otherworldly. And if we go to the logical conclusion of this kind of thinking, in the end, the person himself will become incapable of doing good. Unless he leaves off the principles of the world.

And that is exactly what I propose to do. I propose that we look back in time and remember a time when we were still children. When the world was full of wonders. A time where in our youthful innocence, being a “Good boy” still meant something. Before a time when being “cool” or being a “bad boy” became fashionable. I ask that can we look at that child from our past and learn something from him? Can we learn to be like him again?

I propose to be naive again. But how can anyone decide to be naive? Is not naivety just a quality strongest when we are children but ebbs away as we grow up and experience perversity and horrors of the world? Yes, it is certainly that. But having lost that, I also think that we can still go back if we choose to.

Let me be frank. This essay has been more than 2 years in the making. And it is as much an argument as it is autobiographical. About 4 years ago, I had a sudden epiphany. I looked at where the world was going and what I was becoming. At the same time I looked at the childhood I was leaving behind. And I realized that the philosophy that I was leaving behind was much more complete than the the one that I was expected to accept. I decided there to stay naive since there’s no better alternative.

The decision to be naive is not an easy decision to make and certainly not an easy decision to live. To tell the truth, the first naivety of childhood has long been forgotten and I cannot go back even if I wanted to. I’ve seen enough, read enough to know that the pit of human depravity is bottomless. But still, in my dictionary being naive means to be generous. It means to trust people. To put away the spectacles of prejudices & discrimination based on caste, creed, race, color, status, sex etc & take people at their face value. To give them a chance, a second chance, a third chance and then, as many as they require. To put faith in them when no one else will. It means to be prepared to be hurt in order to heal. To sow so that others may reap. To do all this and still keep a smiling face and a joyful heart.

It sounds very hard to do, but then again, it is the easiest thing to do. Because it’s in our very nature. We are wired to trust what people say. We are not wired to deceive each other. If we do, we feel guilty. And those who don’t feel guilty are called sociopaths. A medically recognized mental condition. But being naive is still more than going back to our original nature. Living like this is like a breath of fresh air. For you and for the whole world. When one begins to live naively, he begins restoring the world back to its original innocence. First, through his own perspective he sees not the worst but the best in people. Not the ugliness but the beauty of the world. Then, through his actions, he begins to diffuse the artificiality of people who come in contact with him. Because slowly they begin to realize, for that one person, yes means yes and no means no. It’s as simple as that. And this simplicity is contagious. Slowly but surely, this simplicity, this going back to innocence can change the world.

It might sound like very foolish advice, but I believe in this foolishness with all my heart! Because I’m not the first person to walk this path of foolishness. There have been many before me, but before all of them goes the creator of the world! What shall I tell you about his naivety? Shall I tell you about his choice of Jewish people about which William Norman says, “How odd of God to choose the Jews”? Or shall I tell you about his choice in disciples? Or maybe I can tell you about all the disqualifications of the people who he chose to deliver nations!

I can go on, but I will speak on none of these. Instead I’d like to tell you about how he, after watching over humanity for thousands of years, after seeing every despicable act being committed against innocents, chose to be born as a baby, helpless and fragile, in that very world. How he gave himself over in the hands of his creation. But that’s not all! He came not to conquer, but to submit. Not to be served, but to serve. Not to condemn evil men, but to save them. Not to be glorified, but to be despised. Not to live as king, but to die among criminals. And in doing all these he changed the world. So much so that he is regarded as the central figure in history who divided history in two. He is regarded as the most humane teacher although he would refuse such a title. His teachings run contrary to everything that world promotes. He calls us to be “as innocent as doves” and teaches us to go “one extra mile”. When all that the world knew was “an eye for an eye” he taught us to “turn the other cheek”. A philosophy, that played a pivotal role in freedom struggle of India. The last two thousand years stand witness to the truth of his teachings. And perhaps, the last two thousand years also stand in defense of naivety.

Lesson from the life of Job

Here’s something that I’m thinking/learning about for past one month. It began as a simple question that many people legitimately ask, and one that I have asked myself many-a-times. The question is this: Why did God allow the devil to do as he wished with Job. Why did Job suffer? I’d like to share my thoughts on the subject.

Prelude

The book of Job is one of the oldest books in the bible. What it means is, a large part of a book that we call “Bible” today, wasn’t written. Maybe it was written in the same time as when Moses lived… I don’t know. “Scholars” haven’t made up their minds yet, and their opinions range from 2000 BC to 400 BC. (and even if they do, we still can’t be sure…). But one thing is certainly obvious, they didn’t have the new testament when it was written. So, that’s the background. How is it important? I’ll deal with it later.

Now, onto the actual content. The book of Job starts with a strange development. One day, all the sons of God (AKA Angels) came to present themselves before the Lord. Mr. Devil, who formerly was the Archangel and now had made it his business to tempt and torment anyone and everyone he can, also decided to join the event. He had just returned from “going to and fro on the earth” (as he always does), and God asked him where he came from. He answers. Let’s look at the passage that follows:


And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (ESV Job 1:8-12)


What follows is this: Mr. Devil goes out and destroys every bit of Job’s property, kills all his sons and daughters and tries everything he can to make Job sin before God. He doesn’t. So, another similar episode follows and this time God permits devil to do anything he wanted to do with Job except to kill him. So, Mr. Devil goes and does his best. He makes Job terribly sick and uses his wife and his friends trying to make Job sin.

What follows out of this whole incident is, chapters after chapters of arguments between Job and his friends, Job’s struggle to understand his sufferings, descriptions of God’s righteousness, sovereignty and his power, the wonders of this world and a glimpse of the glory of the Redeemer. It’s a treasure filled with gems.

The trail of clues

The absolute magnificence of the book of Job is only matched by tremendous hardships Job goes through during the course of this book. And I can’t help but wonder if there is a connection between the two. Because, I do not believe in coincidences. I do not believe in luck. I believe in a God who is sovereign. I believe there is a purpose for everything (and I mean, everything) that happens in the life of a God’s servant. But that isn’t the only reason that compels me to think that there is a connection between these two things.

The main reason, which doesn’t make sense until it does, is, God’s way of doing things. God always does things in a way that can never occur to anyone other than God. Indeed his ways are higher than our own. He is the master of doing the unthinkable. When he chose his disciples, he didn’t choose the scholars or the priests. He chose fisherman because he wanted to make them “fishers of men!”. When he wanted a messenger for gentiles, he didn’t choose a well known apostle, he chose Soul who was a persecutor of the church and later became Paul who wrote one third of the new testament. And when he decided to save the human race, he didn’t storm the earth with heavenly armies. He took up the cross, and when he himself was hanging on that cross, which was the symbol of hopelessness and death, he became the ultimate hope of mankind. Through that cross, he paved the way to everlasting life. And these are just some of the examples… However, it does illustrate fairly well why he is called “God”.

The problem of misconceptions

So, taking that as a preface, I’d try to explain why Job suffered. But that presumes that there is a need of an explanation. So, before I go on answering questions, first, let me establish the questions. The explanation is required because, on the surface it looks like Job suffered without any reason. He was a righteous man and didn’t commit any crimes worthy of such a punishment. Furthermore, it looks like God was tempted by the Devil. Consider the dialogue between God and the devil in the first chapter. God asks devil if he had considered Job. Devil says “Yes, but it isn’t for no reason that he fears God and hates evil. It’s because you have kept him safe and has blessed him. Take that away and see what happens.” At which point, if we take away the “majestic English words”, and paraphrase it into current slang, God says something like, “Oh yeah? Fine. Do whatever you like. Erm… just don’t kill him.”

That doesn’t sound much like what would come out of the mouth of Gods that are popularized by the current media. The Gods of our age, which are influenced by the fancies of modern day writers and make their homes into the comic books and the television screens, would do something like, “And God took his hammer and smote the devil. The devil couldn’t open his mouth after that. Job lived happily ever after”. Thank God that God is not like that. Because that would get boring after a while. However, one can not deny that it does seem like that God was tempted.

Enter GOD

What? Did I just say that it seems like God was tempted? Cross that. God can never be tempted. There must be another explanation. And I think there is. OK. Here’s the explanation: God. Doesn’t ring a bell? Neither did it for me at first. Thing is, we use the word God so often, we don’t even think about what the word means. I think neither of the two conceptions of God, the one who was tempted or the one who is a celestial brute who smashes anything that he doesn’t like, is true. Let’s think about it what the word God means. The first three things that come in my mind is, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. I’d like to focus on that last word. God is omniscient. It means God knows everything. If we take that little characteristic of God into account, the air of the whole event in the upper firmament of heaven changes. Here’s a being who knows everything talking with a being who doesn’t know everything. Asking questions. Giving examples of right conduct. God says about Job: “A blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil”.

If we really think about it, such a statement made by an omniscient being, certainly, can’t mean “You see that fellow Job there? He’s blameless and upright. He’s been good so far, though I can’t vouch for him tomorrow. Who knows what he might do tomorrow?” Certainly God can’t mean that. It’s much more logical to assume that God meant, “He’s an blameless and upright man. I’ve seen his future. He fears God and turns away from evil every time.” But the problem was, the poor Mr. Devil just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that God knew everything and his attempts to make Job sin would be futile. No matter what trick Mr. Devil played, he was hopelessly outmatched. There never was a possibility of Job sinning and God loosing him. Job was always secure in God’s arms.

That’s a little bit comforting to know that Job’s life was always secure. However, that still doesn’t answer the question, why did Job suffer? Once again, let’s go back where it all began. It began when God asked a question. God initiated the conversation. When that question was answered, it was God who drew the attention to Job. God initiated the turn of events which resulted in the suffering of Job. The God who is omniscient and is loving enough to go to such a length as to carry the cross for a people who were against him, certainly wouldn’t let a man who loves God suffer for no reason.

The Purpose

Folks, there is only one logical conclusion. There was a reason behind Job’s suffering. And I think, part of the reason was you and I. Remember I said earlier that there seems to be a link between the intensity of the suffering of Job and the magnificence of the book? Well, there is an obvious link. One is a direct consequence of another. If he didn’t suffer as much as he did, maybe he wouldn’t be as puzzled as he was, maybe his friends didn’t come to visit him because it was nothing serious. Maybe there wouldn’t have been any argument at all. And maybe, God himself wouldn’t have come to shed some divine light on the matter. So, I think that the reason was that there was a need for him to suffer to bring about other good things.

Also, remember in the beginning I said when the book of Job was written, the new testament wasn’t written? Well, in that time, when God hadn’t fully revealed himself to the world in his son Jesus Christ, the descriptions of God’s righteousness in the book of Job would be priceless. So, in his time, Job was an instrument for God to express his character to the whole world. However, now that God has revealed himself through Jesus Christ, does that mean the book of Job is irrelevant now? I don’t think so. If it were so, it wouldn’t be the part of the bible. The book still points to Jesus as every other old testament book does. Also, it has a purpose of teaching the grand lesson that we are learning right now. The lesson is this: The suffering of God’s people is an expression of God’s love to the people who doesn’t know him.

Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me”. I suggest, the suffering that Job endured was his cross to bear. So that the people who were far from God, can get closer to him. That certainly happened for his three friends. They understood where they were wrong, and through Job’s prayer, they were accepted before God. God used Job’s suffering as a means to expressing himself to those who didn’t knew him. Job suffered because God loved not only Job, but also his friends. He suffered because God loved you and me.

So, if there is any grand conclusion to draw from all this, it must be what I have stated earlier: The suffering of God’s people is an expression of his love towards those who don’t know him. If you are a follower of Christ, it’s certain that you will suffer. It might be anything, and it wouldn’t make sense when you are going through it. Just as it didn’t for Job. But one thing is certain, you are not alone in your troubles. And it certainly wouldn’t be for no reason. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So, once you’ve been through the hard times, when you look back, you wouldn’t find the heinous picture of your suffering, you will find the masterful strokes of the brush of the almighty. Full of grace and glory.

And what fills me with awe and wonder in my inner being are a few lines spoken by Job about Jesus in the midst of his suffering. For who can ever think that a man in such a state as of Job’s, at the height of his hopelessness, can muster enough excitement to say what he did say about a person that he never saw?

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27)

If God knew man will fall, why did he create us?

Today, in the ICPF cell group, there was one question raised that I had already dealt with in my mind. But haven’t documented the answer anywhere. Writing helps me refine my thoughts and give a structure to what is otherwise, like a maze. A maze only I can solve. Because I created it. And nobody can look at it, because it’s inside my mind. However, since I haven’t documented the answer, the answer to this little question was like a maze in my mind, and when this question was raised, I did answer it, however, wasn’t able to answer with the clarity I would have liked to answer with.

But, let’s get into the question. Sometimes I am surprised that more people don’t ask this question. It’s really simple. Why?? If God knew that man would disobey his command, and will fall, why did he create us in the first place?

Let’s take the last part of the question and then work backwards. Last part is, “Why did he create us in the first place?”. Well, I can’t say that I know. How can my feeble and finite mind understand the will and the plan of the infinite I am? However, there is one aspect that he has revealed to us. It is not the only reason, but, it is one of the reason. And that is, to have fellowship with us.

So, God wants to have fellowship with men. Why? Because he is a personal being, and, like every person, enjoys a good company. He wants to have relationship with us. When Jesus came into this world, he made it pretty clear that he loves all of us. He wants to have a relationship with each of us. A relationship that is based on love. However, problem is, robots can not love. So, for love to be possible, one needs free will. One can not be programmed to love.

However, when free will comes into the picture, there is one more thing that needs to come into the picture. That is choice. If I were to say to you, you can choose any one thing you like, however, there is only one thing to choose from. Can that proposition give you any freedom? It’s no different then saying, here, choose this. So, the same kind of problem would arise in the Garden of Eden.

When God made humans, he had fellowship and love in mind, but for love to be possible, free will is required. For free will to exist, there needs to be a choice. So, to provide humans with free will, and in the end, make love possible, he restricted Adam and Eve from doing only one thing. If God hadn’t commanded them to not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, it would be like, you can do whatever you want, and all of it is according to my will. There isn’t a real choice for you. You are trapped with me forever! But, God didn’t want that kind of love. He wanted genuine love. The kind that existed in the trinity. So, God says, you can do whatever you want, however, you must not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. If there wasn’t that single constraint, there wouldn’t be any real choice, if there wouldn’t be any choice, there wouldn’t be any free will, if there wouldn’t be any free will, then there wouldn’t be any love. If there wouldn’t be any love, then, the creation wouldn’t serve the purpose for which it was created.

So, the whole thing hangs on a branch of a particular tree. That single fruit held the fate of whole humanity. We know the rest of the story, so, there isn’t any point in describing what pretty much everybody knows. (If you don’t know, read the chapter 3 of Genesis).

Now that we understand a little bit of why genesis is the way it is, and why free will must exist, and why it was, at all, possible for humans to rebel against God, let’s go back a little bit in the question. Did God knew man will fall? As far as I understand it, the question can be answered in 2 ways. Yes and No. Yes, because he is omniscient and knows our future and everything that we are going to do. No, because he gave humans a free will and free choice to choose whatever they wished. So, it could have gone either way. I know the last two statements are very confusing and thus, I will try to illustrate it as best as I can.

Suppose, you saw a movie. Say, the latest Spiderman flick. Your friend hasn’t seen it. But you have. So, you know how the movie ends. Your friend doesn’t know how it ends. So, you can actually “prophecy” to your friend about how the story ends. But, your “prophecy” doesn’t affect the story writer of the movie. You can only “prophecy” because you have seen the whole movie. In the same way, since God is outside of time, God can see the whole movie, the whole universe from it’s beginning to it’s end. He can write your whole life story in a book on the day you are born. Not because he has predestined it, but because, as you are outside the movie, he is outside of the time and see the whole story. Just as your words do not alter the thoughts of the story writer of the movie, God’s words won’t alter your story. You are the writer of your own story. He has made you free and you are indeed free. If you want, God will certainly guide you into the right path, but what he won’t do, is force you.

However, now that we’ve taken a little detour to explain the paradox of God’s omniscience and our free will, let’s get back to the matter at hand. Now we are nearing the conclusion.

If God knew that humans will fall, why did he create us in the first place? Because it pleased him to do so. God is certainly not foolish enough to do things recklessly. I know that he must have counted the costs. If he knew everything, then, he must have also knew that if man falls, what a great price he would have to pay to save him. The very hand that formed the hands of the very first man, knew that one day, this very hand will hit him, will scourge him, it will drive the nails into his hands and feet and will drive a spear into his heart. And indeed, the question is very sobering one. Why exactly did he do it?

I think, he did count the cost. And, he gave much more value to us than we give to him. Even though we are inferior to him, he regarded us valuable enough to die for us. He was prepared to carry the cross before he laid the foundation of the world. He calls us as the apple of his eye. He created us because he loves us. Even before you or I existed, God loved us. He loved us enough, that he chose the cross.

Characteristics and Need of Reason in Today’s Generation

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey will make an attempt with the same response – all of the monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Keep this up for several days. Turn off the cold water. If, later, another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them. Now, remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm. Replace the third original monkey with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four monkeys that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. After replacing the fourth and fifth original monkeys, all the monkeys which have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs.

Why not?

“Because that's the way it's always been done around here.”

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