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Ignorance Is No Excuse

I hesitate to write when I have a brutal head cold and am moderately medicated, because I’m worried that I will rant and rave and just embarrass myself. So I will approach a fairly innocuous topic today in the hopes that I will not read it tomorrow and realize I have made an utter fool of myself. Again.

This weekend I was chatting with my mother (our usual Sunday afternoon phone call) and we were discussing the amazing amount of information at our disposal these days. I wrote about this not too long ago in an article entitled Informaton Overload and it was an article that seemed to make sense to a lot of people. One of the most amazing statistics I found in researching the topic, in my opinion, was that an average edition of the New York Times contains in it more information than a man who lived in the 18th century would have encountered in his entire lifetime. Neil Postman had some interesting information as well. “Neil Postman, in a talk entitled Informing Ourselves To Death spoke about the information facing Americans: ‘In America, there are 260,000 billboards; 11,520 newspapers; 11,556 periodicals; 27,000 video outlets for renting tapes; 362 million tv sets; and over 400 million radios. There are 40,000 new book titles published every year (300,000 world-wide) and every day in America 41 million photographs are taken, and just for the record, over 60 billion pieces of advertising junk mail come into our mail boxes every year. Everything from telegraphy and photography in the 19th century to the silicon chip in the twentieth has amplified the din of information, until matters have reached such proportions today that for the average person, information no longer has any relation to the solution of problems.’”

While all of this information is a mixed blessing, there is one benefit it has brought us, and it is this: ignorance is no excuse. I was telling my mother about how Brian McLaren was slated in as a speaker at the Kentucky Evangelism Conference. However, just a few days ago, the Conference withdrew the invitation. “Dr. Bill Mackey, KBC executive director, and Dan Garland, Church Development and Evangelism Team leader, said they made the decision after reviewing McLaren’s position on salvation.” It occured to us, as we chatted, that there is very little cause to plead ignorance anymore. We have at our disposal such a wealth of information, that we can learn just about anything about anyone at any time. All the leaders of the Kentucky Baptist Conference needed to do was perform a simple Google search and they could have brought up a wealth of information about McLaren and his Emergent following. They could have (and apparently did) order his book and had it in their hands within 24 hours. They had no excuse to not know a wealth of information about McLaren’s strengths and faults. There was no reason they could not come to an informed decision regarding his suitability as a speaker at their conference.

In the past, and even the recent past, information was more difficult to come by. I am sure my generation is the last that will remember library indexing systems that involved little file cards and huge, wooden shelving units containing forty or fifty little drawers. We may be the last generation that had to travel two or three towns away to find a library that contained the information we needed. We could often legitimately plead ignorance!

But as I have said, ignorance is no longer an excuse. This is not to say that information on the Internet is infallible, and in fact, much of it is completely useless. Yet by doing careful research, one can almost always arrive at an informed opinion. I am sure God has never accepted ignorance as an excuse, but it seems that we must be doubly liable in this age of information.