This past week, one of my worship team members asked me an interesting question, "does God care about what we wear in worship?" She explained that in the past she had used makeup and clothes to hide who she was out of a feeling of inadequacy but that a few years ago God convicted her about her use of cosmetics so much that she stopped using them for a while. Through that experience, she learned that she was beautiful just the way that God made her and that she didn't need her brushes and bottles to make herself acceptable in his eyes. However, she still struggled with whether or not wearing makeup or fancy clothes while leading worship was somehow necessary, for lack of a better word. After all, we're supposed to bring God our best, right?
The question she is asking effects all of us, not just women. Personal appearance is important. The way we present ourselves - our clothes, speech, and mannerisms - goes a long way in determining how others perceive us. Even so, we know that "man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (1 Sam 16:7). What is the right thing to do?
While it is possible to find people in America today who have made radical simplicity a virtue (the Amish come to mind), the vast majority of us live in a culture that hyper-focuses on appearance. Whether we are looking at the professional world or the influence of the media, there are expectations and pressures to ensure that we look a certain way. On the one hand, physicians are often required to wear a white coat; lawyers must wear suit and tie; and worship leaders aren't recognizable without a deep v-neck t-shirt, skinny jeans, and outrageous facial hair - fortunately that's only for the men. On the other hand, celebrities become icons of body image and fashion and entire industries have arisen to critique the best and worst of the Hollywood elite.
These pressures tend to push people to extremes. For some, the temptation is to hide behind the clothes out of a sense of inferiority. They feel like if they look the part others will accept them - fake it 'til you make it. For others, the draw is to use their wardrobe as a way of gaining attention for themselves. Fear and pride, respectively, drive them to extremes. Neither option is a biblical response to the culture. Both are highly invested in their appearance as an indicator of their personal value.
The value of a human life is not determined or even expressed by the clothes we wear. The life of each individual is precious because everyone has been made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). Man or woman, adult or child, short or tall, fat or skinny, movie star or septic tank cleaner we all bear the image of our Maker. It is as reflections of the glory of God that we find our worth. It is not a value intrinsic to ourselves, determined by our birth or accomplishments. It is the free gift of God and in his sight we are all highly valuable.
There is, of course, a problem. While we do bear the image of God, it is a disfigured likeness. It is twisted and marred by sin but still recognizable. We all know that something is wrong and we try to cover it up with makeup, fancy clothes, or good deeds. Sometimes we simply try to forget and pretend that nothing is wrong. Either way there is nothing we can do to fix the problem. We need more than an image consultant. We need to be re-imaged.
This is where Jesus comes in. In him, all things are made new. This includes us! He redeems the image in which we were created when we place our faith in him. He restores that image back to its original glory as we are progressively made more like him through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. In Christ, God looks at us and says, "it is very good" (Gen 1:31).
At this point, I'm sure some of you are thinking, "yeah, we know all of that. Whats your point?" Simply this: we need to keep our priorities straight. Peter's exhortation to wives (1 Peter 3:3-4) is instructive for both women and men. His point is that we need to take more care of the inward matters of the heart and how God sees us than we do for our outward appearance. Peter isn't saying that we can't dress nicely. Rather, our emphasis needs to be on the things that matter to God. As worship leaders, if we spend more time and effort on how we will look during the worship service than we do preparing to lead our brothers and sisters into the presence of God then we need to do some soul searching.
New Man, New Clothes
As mentioned above, there is a desire in worship that everything be done with excellence and that we bring our best before God. When it comes to physical appearance, we need to avoid the one extreme of hiding behind our raiment and the other of using it to bring attention to ourselves. Beyond this, there remains a wide variety of options ranging from extremely casual to the very formal. What is appropriate will vary from one context to another based on the culture of the church and the individual. We need to take these into consideration because as Christians we represent Christ to the world not simply in what we say and do, but also in how we look.
At the end of the day, however, our outward image is of secondary importance. The real issue is how well we are conforming to the image of him who called us out of darkness. Paul reminds us to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 13:14). While it may not be fashionable in the world's eyes, we know that it brings a smile to the Father's face when we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ - and of all the critics, he is the only one who truly matters.
So, to sum up, there is nothing wrong with dressing nicely and wearing our best to worship - feel free to wear that old tuxedo that's just hanging in the closet - but there is also nothing wrong with wearing more casual clothing. The thing that matters is the heart. We need to ask ourselves, why am I wearing this? Who am I trying to impress? And most importantly, am I more concerned about being Christlike or being cool? Let's make sure we keep our priorities straight. To paraphrase Romans 14:17 - the kingdom of God is not a matter of clothes and makeup and accessories but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
It's that time of year again. The time of year when Christians get nervous about how the church assimilated pagan practices centuries ago as we try to find ways to feel better while still allowing our kids to enjoy a night of costumes, candy, and fun. We've got harvest festivals, fall festivals, even Reformation Day events. My church did a trunk-or-treat event tonight all with no official mention of Halloween. Its enough to make you wonder. . .
There have been rivers of ink used to justify why Christians should or shouldn't celebrate Halloween, and maybe someday I'll cast my opinion upon those waters, but that's not what I want to talk about tonight. Instead, I would like to point out that Halloween is actually All Hallows' Eve. In other words, like Christmas Eve is to Christmas, Halloween is just the prelude to what should be celebrated the next day. Now, if you're like me, you aren't necessarily all that familiar with All Hallows' Day. Growing up in a Baptist church, I was taught all believers are saints because they have been made holy by the blood of Christ but that we don't pray to them or have special days to celebrate them. In liturgical traditions like Roman Catholicism, Orthodox, and Anglicanism major saints have their own days when they are celebrated by the church. But All Hallows' Day (also called All Saints' Day or Hallowmas) is a catch all for all those saints that don't have their own day or have been forgotten by the official church.
At this point, I can see the raised eyebrows and the uncomfortable shifting in chairs. Let me say that I'm not advocating that we start praying to saints, but if we're going to go to such pains to sanitize Halloween we would do well to take a look the day that gives Halloween its significance. Here's why. . .
The stories of the saints are an encouragement to us in our daily lives. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." The great cloud of witnesses the author is talking about was a long list of saints from the previous chapter (also known as the Hall of Faith). We are now some 2,000 years distant from the writing of that chapter and the list of Christian heroes has continued to expand from that day to this. What God did in their lives stands as a testimony to us of his continued presence and activity in the everyday and the mundane. As a nation, we celebrate our fallen heroes on Memorial Day because it is an encouragement and reminder to us of how to act in the worst of times. In the same way, we should celebrate and honor those who have lived faithful lives to ensure that you and I might hear the Gospel.
The stories of the saints connect us with God's acts in history. American culture today is all about the new. What's the newest gadget, celebrity, show, song, car, fashion - the list goes on and on. Sure there is a fetish for vintage things, but I think the reality is that those select desirable things are rare and so have value and create a certain status in the now. But for most things, newer is seen as better. One side effect of this craving for the new is a disconnect from what came before. In the past century there has been more change than in all the centuries before it combined and we have been left with a kind of cultural amnesia. By revisiting what God has done in the lives of his people in history, we renew our understanding that we exist at the end of a great chain of blessing and that every new generation forms a new link in that chain.
The stories of the saints prove the faithfulness of God. I'm relatively certain that if you've made it this far you're probably envisioning the stories of the great heroes of the faith when I mention the stories of the saints. The short answer is, not so much. Those stories are wonderful and should be told, but I'm really more interested in the millions of believers who have gone before us who followed in the footsteps of Christ while living normal lives - the people that our grandparents knew and looked up to when they were young in the faith. Exodus 34:7 and Deuteronomy 7:9 both state that God shows favor to "a thousand generations" of those who love him and keep his commands. I am blessed to have a detailed family tree on my dad's side that goes back eleven generations before me (into the mid-1600's!!). We have stories beginning with the first Bell to come to America and for nearly each one we know that they were devout Christians and often leaders in their churches. My relationship with God is in part a product of their love for and faithfulness to God. I do not have a testimony of how God saved me out of some dire situation like drug addiction or worse. Instead, pointing to those verses in Exodus and Deuteronomy, my testimony is of the faithfulness of God to my family over centuries.
So let me ask, who did God use to bring you to Christ? Who do you know that changed the world in some small way because of their willingness to follow God? Who has inspired you by their life of faith? Who are you thankful for? On November 1, let me encourage you to remember them, thank God for them, and share their stories with your friends and loved ones.
Happy Hallowmas, everyone!
Note: The word Hallowmas is not my invention. It is an old usage and shares a common origin with the word Christmas. Hallow means holy (Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. . .) and was a term for a saint (saint comes from sanctus, the latin word meaning holy) so the mass that was said on All Hallows' Day was known as Hallowmas.
Last week I had to do some work on the Suburban. The rear differential had started to leak and we had a big campout coming up on Labor Day weekend so I wanted to get it squared away before driving a couple hours out into the middle of nowhere. Now, my father taught me how to change the oil and the brakes, how to do a tune up and handle a flat tire, and how to replace a water pump and thermostat. But beyond that I’m pretty much self-taught, albeit with some good resources (my brother is an ASE certified mechanic). All that is to explain that when the differential started to leak, I was completely surprised because I didn’t even know there was anything in it to leak. I’d simply never had to deal with one and had never given it any thought.
After half hour or so of searching the web and watching videos of people doing the repair, I felt like I was adequately armed to tackle the project. A trip to the parts store and $20 later I had everything I needed to fix the leak. I took my time and went slow since I’d never done the job before. I’m sure someone with more knowledge and experience could have done it from start to finish in 30 minutes or less. It took me four times that long, but I wanted to do it right the first time. And it worked. I fixed the leak and we went on our trip and had an amazing time with some good friends.
As I was laying on my back and working my 13mm socket wrench under the truck, I got to thinking about worship and church in general. Sometimes we notice a small signal that all is not quite right. It is so easy to brush those things aside. Sometimes the signals are confusing because we don’t expect them from that person or that ministry. Our response to these signals needs to be flexible and targeted to the issue at hand. Watching and waiting to see how things develop is a good start. Finding out more about the situation informs our understanding of what is going on. Prayer and seeking God’s guidance is key throughout the process.
Maybe the right answer will be to continue to watch and pray and let the issue work itself out. Maybe a simple intervention early on where we come alongside one another to encourage and edify will forestall a greater problem down the road. Maybe we recognize the signs at a late stage and the problem requires a bigger solution. Whatever the answer that the Lord may leads us to, the one thing that we shouldn’t do is ignore the red flags we see around us.
Would the differential on my truck have seized up from the tiny leak that I found? Not likely – at least it would have taken months to get to that point. But by identifying the problem early and taking steps to correct it, I was able to become more familiar with my vehicle’s operation, keep it running smoothly, and for a minimum of time and treasure give myself peace of mind as my family and I headed out into creation. The same is true of our experience in the Christian community. We are all interconnected as parts of the body of Christ. Consistently praying for one another, building stronger relationships, and reaching out to help those in need strengthens our ties as brothers and sisters in Christ and is the regular maintenance the church requires.
This is the third in a series of articles that looks at the impact the Trinity has on Christian worship. The material has been adapted from my doctoral thesis.
In the previous article of this series, we examined how the church brings glory to God simply by its existence, aka the church as worship. Turning from the church as worship to the church at worship, we must keep in mind that in both respects, worship is participation in the divine life of the Trinity. The former is concerned with temporal relationships taken up and renewed by the triune God, while the latter is concerned in particular with the divine/human relationship. Among Evangelicals, there exists a tendency to view the divine/human relationship in a direct way. Because the veil has been torn, we often think that humanity can simply come before God as his children. This statement is partly true, but it leaves out a crucial detail: there is only one true Child of God. Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, is the only human being who has a perfect relationship with the Father, and it is in and through Christ that the rest of humanity are accounted children of God. Moreover, all human experiences of God, with the exception of Jesus’ own experiences, are mediated, and the mediator is Christ.
Regarding the liturgical action of worship, the mediation of Christ rests at the heart of what we do. The Son is in a state of continual worship of the Father and as we enter into worship, the Son’s worship becomes our own, and our worship becomes his as he clothes us in his righteousness and presents us to the Father. Our own works of worship are not worthy of God, but, by the Spirit, our offerings are made acceptable through Christ in the sight of the Father. This pattern is a reversal of the normal action of the economic Trinity. Instead, we are drawn up by the Spirit through the Son into relationship with the Father.
The paradigm of mediated experience necessarily affects the manner in which the worship service should be understood and enacted. For one, worship is an interactive encounter with the God who is three in one. The idea that worship is what we do for God is false. Worship is what we do together with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as we seek to bring glory to God. So, how should we approach worship if it is not wholly our own act? The answer is found in the reality of the triune God.
God is not a static monad, but a Trinity – a community of three persons each relating to the others in unique ways. As mentioned above, the pattern of worship within the Godhead found in Scripture is that of the Spirit glorifying the Son, the Son glorifying the Father, and the Father sharing his glory with the Son and the Spirit. Likewise in us, the Spirit calls us to worship and leads us to worship the Son. The Son, as High Priest, in turn, brings us before the Father that he might receive the ultimate glory. While revelation from God represents a downward movement from the Father through the Son in the Spirit, our response is an upward movement in the Spirit through the Son toward the Father. God calls us to himself, and we answer his call, yet both movements take place with the individual actions of the divine Persons.
This trinitarian understanding of revelation and response forms the basis for all that occurs in a worship service. Everything that happens in a service falls into one of these two categories. The call to worship, the reading of scripture, the preaching of the word, the retelling of the story at communion, and even the benediction are all types of revelation. They are intended to be words from God to his people. On the other hand, our prayers, the passing of the peace (aka the welcome, for us less liturgical types), the collection of the offering, coming to the table, and most of our songs are examples of response.
Let’s look at some specific instances. When we consider the reading of Scripture, here as in other divine actions, we see that the Father speaks through the Son in the power of the Spirit. In the reading of the Scriptures it is not the voice of the reader that is heard, but the voice of Christ. The words of Scripture are not merely of human composition but are the very words of God and when we read them aloud it is Christ who speaks through us. Likewise, in preaching the preacher is meant to be a conduit through which Christ might speak in the power of the Spirit. If we accept that the sermon is a joke and three points of application then we have missed the bigger picture. The most relevant preaching is that which sets our attention on the triune God in whose image and for whose pleasure we were created. Bookstores are stuffed with self-help books. What we need in the sermon is to hear the voice of Christ.
When it comes to our response to God’s self-unveiling prayer is the ultimate paradigm. Prayer at its most simple is communication with God. As such, prayer defines all of our actions in worship. But prayer is not simply something we can do on our own. The access available in prayer is the gift of God. In prayer we engage directly with the whole Trinity. We pray to the Father in Jesus’ name but that prayer is offered up in the power of the Spirit. Praying in Jesus’ name means that our access to the Father in prayer is mediated by Christ. But prayer is also offered in the Spirit, who leads us to Christ. Too often prayer in the Spirit is associated with glossolalia and intense emotional experiences, but the truth is that all prayer is offered in the Spirit, even the most humble mealtime blessing. It is the Spirit who empowers our prayer to God and directs us to Christ the Son. It is Christ the High Priest who brings our prayers before the Father as his own. This same pattern is at the heart of all of our Godward actions in worship.
The question will undoubtedly be asked as to the rightness of praying to Jesus or the Spirit. Though the question attempts to take seriously the norms of the economic Trinity it does seem to miss the wider point. The Son and the Spirit are not lesser beings than the Father. Each of them is in fact fully God and worthy of receiving worship, including prayer. The problem is not worshiping or praying to the Son or Spirit, but instead when we fixate on one Person to the detriment of the other two. The whole doctrine of the Trinity matters, not simply the economic Trinity.
The beating heart of worship is not music. Or preaching. Or even Jesus. No, the heart of worship is the one God who exists eternally as three Persons bound together in a relationship defined by perfect love. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have a place in that divine relationship. We experience it as we are conformed by the Spirit to the likeness of Christ and the image of God is restored in us. We also experience it as we enter, in Christ by the power of the Spirit, into the ongoing worship within the Godhead. In these things we bring glory to God, and that is what worship is all about.
Cocksworth, Christopher. Holy, Holy, Holy: Worshiping the Triune God (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd Ltd, 1997).
Letham, Robert. The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2004).
Parry, Robin A. Worshiping Trinity: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2012).
Thompson, John. Modern Trinitarian Perspectives (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
Torrance, James B. Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1996).
Volf, Miroslav. After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Ware, Bruce A. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005).
This is the second in a series of articles that looks at the impact the Trinity has on Christian worship. The material has been adapted from my doctoral thesis.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated that he dreamed that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color or their skin but by the content of their character.” Character is an interesting thing. One has it before any action is taken, but another cannot see it until it is displayed by action. Character is something intrinsic to the person. An individual’s character defines him. He is his character. It is the same with worship. It is easy to think of worship as something the church does; after all, worship is a verb. But there is another sense in which the church brings glory to God by its existence. The church is worship.
How can this be? Simply put, it is why humanity was created. Genesis 1:27 states that “God created man in his own image. . . male and female he created them.” God did not create an individual but a pair, a community of people. Even in the following chapter in Genesis where Adam is created first, the story highlights the fact that the individual was meant to live in community with his own kind (Gen 2:18). While creation in the image of God does confer all individuals with worth and natural rights, the image of God applies equally to the creation of the community and its most basic unit, the family. From the beginning, this original community included God, but the presence of sin has broken this fellowship. It is only through the work of Christ that true community, a community that embodies the image of God in relationship with God, can be reestablished. This restored community is the church.
The hallmark of the Christian community should be the same as that of the Divine community: love. God has many attributes, but love is only one that applies to God in himself. All of the other qualities we think of – goodness, holiness, mercy, etc. – are in relation to created beings but love his how the persons of the Trinity relate to each other. Likewise, love is meant to saturate the church. At the first, this love relationship is expressed between the church and the triune God because, as the adoptive children of God, Christians share in Christ’s filial relationship with the Father thus participating in the life of the Trinity. The reality of the life of the Trinity as the model for the Christian life means that the relationships expressed within the Trinity are as important as God’s character and his commands. We are to love others – both inside and outside the church. The trinitarian relationships of the church can be expressed in the same language as the relationships with the Godhead. Inside the church, we find three primary categories: unity and diversity, authority and submission, and mutual indwelling. Relationships outside the church can be expressed in terms of mission.
Unity and Diversity
Within the Trinity, there exists a unity of being/essence and a diversity of persons, as well as a unity of purpose within the whole and a diversity of action in the particular. In the same way, the church is one body made up of many local assemblies, or on the smaller scale, it is a local gathering comprised of many individuals and ministries. Christians do not share a single essence as the Trinity does, but rather a kinship, all being made sons of God and coheirs with Christ. All of the redeemed, being clothed in Christ, stand equal before God (Gal 3:28). Even so all Christians are not the same and reflect a wonderful diversity. As with the Trinity, so with humanity, there exists no conflict between the equality of all and diversity.
The key here is diversity as opposed to division. In the Spirit, believers are united in Christ but there exists a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, purposes, and gifts (1Cor 12:12-14). We are to honor and respect the differences among believers so long as those aspects are not contrary to God’s character or law. As sinful creatures, it is easy to distort the variety that God has ordained for good. On one hand, there is a tendency toward uniformity, which by necessity erases all distinctions, and on the other, is the desire to turn distinctions between individuals and groups into barriers of fellowship. The Apostle Paul addressed this very issue in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 which leads directly into the famous love passage. The point is that the diversity of the body of Christ is a good thing when expressed in love, for it is love that leads to unity and from unity love leads to expressions of diversity. With the Trinity, contemplating the three leads back to the one which in turn leads back to the three – and so with the unity and diversity of the church.
Authority and Submission
Just as the unity and diversity of the triune God is a model for humanity, the same is true regarding issues of authority and submission. Within the Trinity, the Father is the source of authority. It is he who sends the Son and the Spirit. For some people, relating to God as Father is difficult because of their experiences with their own fathers. Unfortunately, this is the wrong way to look at the situation. The Father is the source of all fatherhood. In the same way that the image of God was scarred by sin, all human experiences of fatherhood have been likewise damaged. We must see beyond human experience to glimpse at the truth. The Father is the perfect father, and the Son is the perfect son. Their relationship is the paradigm for all relationships where authority and submission come into play.
The Father sends the Son, and the Son readily obeys. The Son also asks things of the Father, which the Father does, but it should be noted that the things the Son asks for are in concert with the Father’s will in sending the Son. The unseen animus here is love. It is out of love for the Son and a desire to glorify him that the Father sends the Son who obeys out of love for and a desire to glorify the Father because love exercises rightful authority and love also submits to rightful authority. Because these types of relationships exist within the Godhead, they also exist among his creatures. When we live in harmony with each other in rightly ordered relationships we brings glory to God.
At first glance, the idea of perichoresis among human beings seems absurd. The closest thing to it I can imagine is dissociative identity disorder in which a person exhibits multiple personalities. Without question, this is not what God intended for humanity and cannot be an expression of the image of God. The issue changes, in my opinion, as we reflect on the Divine image among groups, specifically the family and the church. Within these groups it is not uncommon for one person to act on behalf of the whole, bearing the consent and goodwill of the larger body, and using resources gathered by the community. In such cases, the actions of the one are recognized as actions of the whole. As Christians, we experience unity in Christ through the work of the Spirit who dwells within each believer. So it is not that we indwell each other, but the Spirit who abides in all believers who makes us into the image of God.
This union in Christ by the indwelling of the Spirit creates a new community where we are connected and dependent on each other to supply our needs. This interconnection and interdependence allows for the many to participate in the actions of one, or to put it another way, for the one to act in place of the many and the many to act for the one. Where one weeps, all weep. Where one rejoices, all rejoice together. This indwelling happens in various ways: through prayer, giving, and service. True, the type of indwelling that exists with the Father, Son, and Spirit does not exist within the created order, but what does exist within the church is a reflection of that perichoretic relationship.
Lastly, we see the church as worship by virtue of its efforts to fulfill its mission. Participating in the mission of the Trinity is not a mere imitation of the trinitarian paradigm – it is a participation in the life of the Godhead itself. At no point is the mission simply that of the believer. Rather the believer, through union with the Son by the Spirit, participates in the Son’s mission from the Father. There is a tendency, to think of the mission of the church as simply the evangelization of the nations. Though evangelism is certainly a part of the church’s mission, the reality is much broader. We are meant to be an eschatological community that provides a foretaste of the full restoration of creation and images the triune God to the wider world.
In its unity and diversity, authority and submission, mutual indwelling, and mission the church enters into the life of the Trinity. Furthermore, the church brings glory to God by reflecting the image of the Trinity in the community we were created to be. This worship is done primarily through relationships within the community of believers in Christ with the empowerment of the Spirit. It has nothing to do songs or sermons, buildings or budgets. It has everything to do with how we live our lives in communion with the triune God and with each other. These are the worshipers the Father seeks.
Volf, Miroslav. After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Ware, Bruce A. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005).
 This statement and some of what follows can equally be applied to the individual believer. I have refrained from making the case for the individual in the interest of keeping things simple and highlighting how the community of believers follows the pattern of the Trinity.
 It is not my intent to make light of anyone’s painful experiences, but we all must attempt to understand God as he has revealed himself, and not lean too heavily on our prior experience or preconceived notions.