What If Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter?

by Mike Leake on January 31, 2014 · 10 comments

“Everybody’s opinion is valid,” said the teacher as she parroted the curriculum. It was one of those happy-feely Monday’s where the school was trying to help us love one another, accept differences, and play nice. We likely would have sang Kumbaya if it wasn’t so offensive to the atheists.

One of my wise-cracking friends asked what I thought was a pretty solid question. “What if my opinion is that no other opinion is valid?”

I don’t remember her answer. And I didn’t really care, nor did the kid asking the question. We just wanted to laugh. But I actually think that he had a good point. What if everybody’s opinion really isn’t valid?

Opinions on Opinions

At it’s core an opinion is a judgment about something that may or may not be grounded in fact. Opinions range from things like favorite candy bar to what we should do about health care.

In one sense I actually agree with the teacher. Just because my favorite candy bar is a Snickers doesn’t mean that people that enjoy a Butterfinger are inferior. These type of opinions are more a matter of preference than anything that is really founded upon fact. Theycan’t be anything more than an opinion.

There are other types of opinions that actually can be something more than an opinion. Someone probably has a correct answer but because of our finite and sinful understanding we aren’t able to grasp that answer. Questions about health care would fit into this category.

Now what has happened in our great nation is that we have flattened the distinction between these two types of opinions. Every Joe believes that his opinion on health care is just as valid as anybody else’s. And he probably has that opinion  because his teacher told him that on a Monday when they almost sang Kumbaya.

To prove that all opinions on matters like health care are not valid, consider my opinionated solution:

I propose a four step process. Step one is to move everyone with chronic health problems to Wyoming, with the rule that they can’t take their possessions with them. Step two is to force every doctor named Thomas (first or last name) to move to Wyoming with them, they can only take their doctoring equipment. In the third step we will build a bubble around the state of Wyoming. Step four will be to take all of the stuff they left behind and pay the non-Thomas-named doctors to treat us.

Problem solved.

Now what if I forcefully argued my point with people that actually have knowledge about health care? My mantra would be that everybody is entitled to their opinion and mine is just as valid as their opinion. That’s ridiculous, isn’t it?

Opinions and the Church

Why does this point get muddy once we try to carry it into the church? Saying things like, “Everyone’s opinion isn’t equally valid” feels so elitist. It feels like telling people to just shut their pie hole, pay the bills, and do what the pastor says. That makes me sick to my stomach.

But if we understand it correctly it’s not elitist, it’s just reality. My mechanic’s opinion about the dying goat sound coming out of my engine is more valid than the opinion of my Uncle Marty* who skims through Hot Rod magazines once per year.

Yet it still feels wrong when we try to make the same point in the church. After all, every Christian does have the Holy Spirit. And as a good Baptist I believe in the priesthood of every believer. I also believe that every member is not merely a valid part of the body of Christ but a vital part of the body.

But let’s be honest. The body functions much better when the opinion of the foot carries more weight than the opinion of the elbow in all things “walking”. The same Holy Spirit that we all have has apportioned to us various gifts and personalities. There are things that the arms do that the eyes can not. So what if it’s true that there are some things in which you and I really don’t know what we are talking about? Maybe the church would function better if feet gave all of their energy to being feet and not opining about what the arm ought to be doing.

Yet, Google has made everybody an expert on every subject. Perhaps the church ought tobe subversive in this area and pursue humility. Such a humility would seek to know what we are called to know and leave the rest up to other parts of the body. Opine on areas where we know something and realize that our opinion ought to carry little weight in everything else. After all it is the way of the fool is to take pleasure in airing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2). As if it always matters and needs to be heeded. But the way of the wise is to seek truth and understanding.

P.S. This is why I haven’t aired opinions on many topics. This doesn’t make me a sycophant it just means I’m not in the position to have an opinion that actually matters.

*I don’t actually have an Uncle Marty. I’ve always wanted one because I’m sure he’s cool, with all his magazine skimming and such.

1 Ken Hamrick January 31, 2014 at 9:23 am

No one is called to ignorance. All are called to learn as much as they can about God through His word. Opinions are not worth much, but a well-reasoned, Scriptural argument is a valuable thing—and the difference between the two is the understanding gained through study of both the Bible and of other well-reasoned, Scriptural arguments (even the flawed ones). Calling alone never validated any argument, and lack of calling never invalidated any, either. But the popular idea that its only the Pastor’s purview to study theology, and the laity should be content with the fluff of Sunday School quarterlies, is a bad idea (not that you were espousing that).

2 Mike Leake January 31, 2014 at 9:38 am

Agreed.

3 Mike Leake January 31, 2014 at 9:37 am

This article could be misread in about a thousand ways. Be careful that you don’t read what I’m not saying. If you walk away from this thinking that the author does not value the opinion of the laity then you’ve misread. The truth is what I’m saying here cuts both ways. There are many people in the congregation that know far more about many things than the pastor does. For example some pastors aren’t all that good at finances. They are responsible stewards but there are ins and outs that they just may not be privy to. In these cases a wise pastor will understand that the Lord has gifted someone else and that their opinion on financial matters ought to carry more weight than his own.

Make sense?

4 Ken Hamrick January 31, 2014 at 9:42 am

Sorry, Mike—didn’t mean to take the discussion in the wrong direction. My reading comprehension isn’t it’s best after a full night’s work…

5 Mike Leake January 31, 2014 at 10:23 am

My comment wasn’t any sort of response to yours, friend. I had intended to post that after the article posted. You just beat me to it with the first comment :-)

6 Allen Calkins January 31, 2014 at 10:00 am

I have felt for many years, even decades, that my opinion does not matter much beyond those groups I significantly contribute to or have an opportunity to influence with personal involvement with leaders. This being said, I feel my opinion does matter in my family, at church and in my local association, less in the state convention, even less in state sponsored Baptist institutions and NOT AT ALL in the SBC and its entities (NAMB, IMB etc.) …But, like the government, they still expect my money and would like to have more.

7 Jim Hedrick January 31, 2014 at 10:35 am

Allen and Mike I often think like both of you. Concentric circles of relationships in the faith family keep me humble and wowing over and over again about our God’s amazing sorereign church building wisdom. Community building is for everyone. Complimentarianism in the body is more than just male/ female. Shalom.

8 Roger Simpson January 31, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Facts obtained as a result of reproducible experiments are one type of input that should inform our own view on a topic. But of course there are also less quantifiable factors based upon our unique experience.

People can share a common corpus of belief and understanding and still come out differently on certain topics. I guess that is why we as Baptists argue so much — because we draw on a common set of propositional truths but then mold them based upon our own frame of reference.

The priesthood of the believer is a good thing. That way we can’t subcontract or outsource responsibility for our actions to someone else.

9 Christiane January 31, 2014 at 5:36 pm

A person’s opinion does belong to them, so I agree with the ownership of an opinion as its author;

but I also agree with this statement:
““The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
(Flannery O’Connor)

Facts are hard things sometimes. Especially when they clash with our preconceived opinions. Perhaps best to consider an ‘opinion’ as a perspective, or a point of view . . . it can change as one grows, or ages, or experiences life . . .
but a ‘fact’ is not so subjective.

I am also reminded of this from sacred Scripture:
“18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son,
in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight,
19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected
and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.”
(from 1 Timothy 1)

keeping a good conscience does ask of us to recognize the facts of a particular situation honestly as a part of our response to it,
and this is something important when bringing our faith to bear on decisions we make after prayer, in good conscience . . . that takes discipline as sometimes the path we must journey is not the one that is the easiest, or the most convenient, or the most in line with popular opinion

10 Jim Pemberton February 1, 2014 at 5:23 pm

There’s another dimension to this. I could say, “My opinion doesn’t matter,” but you wouldn’t know if I were referring to the general usefulness of my opinion outside of whether anyone would give special weight to it, or to the reception that my opinion generally has. Of course, if it wasn’t received and implemented for what it was worth, then there would be no way of discovering if it had value on its own.

This plays to the quote from the article: “Such a humility would seek to know what we are called to know and leave the rest up to other parts of the body.” It’s futile to seek to know what we are called to know if the opinions are never tested at large. At some point we need to be willing to entertain untested opinions to see if those who hold such opinions are called in the area their opinions apply to.

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