I was recently reading a blog post by Zalman Kastel, a Jewish Rabbi I had the pleasure of meeting last month at an Anabaptist conference in Sydney, when was drawn to his comments on curiosity. Specifically,
“A key strategy for positive inter-group relations is curiosity. Yishai Shaliff taught me the concept of asking from “a place of not knowing” which is essentially about asking open question without any implicit assumptions.”
“When it comes to the texts of others there needs to be a genuine curiosity to learn what these mean for those who follow those texts.”
This is a belief I share with Zalman, and it got me wondering, is there a biblical basis for this belief? Is curiosity biblical? So I went searching.
I couldn’t find the word “curiosity” or curious” in a bible word search so I started looking further afield and found this comment by a Christian woman on Bible figures who expressed a character of curiosity.
“The one who springs to mind is Moses when he saw the burning bush. Curiosity is what made him take the second look and draw nearer to it for closer examination.”
She then listed multiple bible references on “seeking”, which are of course numerous. Yes, God urges us to be curious about God, his wisdom and his way of life! Elsewhere I found other Christians warning that there are some things that are not for us to know, the time of the end and the forbidden fruit being too examples.
So how does this relate back to interacting with followers of other traditions, texts and gods? Should we treat them as forbidden fruit? To be avoided lest we be corrupted? This is where I think we need to think carefully. In interfaith dialogue I have seen many confuse respect with agreement, and conversely, disagreement with disrespect. This is unfortunate. I think we need to be curious of others in the light of love and truth. On the one hand, we can welcome others and be curious about them without having to agree with everything they say. On the other hand, truth requires that we listen in order to understand and honour God’s commandment about not bearing false witness against our neighbours. Love requires curiosity. Truth requires curiosity as well. God requires curiosity tempered with wisdom.