Last night, my husband and I (along with thousands of other online viewers and a 900+ public audience) watched as Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) debated the question: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”
Now, I won’t restate the arguments posited (you may go watch the debate if you desire). Both men advocated for their scientific position ardently, and though I favor one side more than the other, there was a third contender in the debate who I feel earned my allegiance more than Ham or Nye. Though it had no voice of its own, it was clearly represented in the discussion: critical thinking.
The debate between Nye and Ham illustrated quite clearly the great need for critical thinking in regards to issues that involve “great mysteries,” as Nye put it. Questions such as “Where does consciousness come from?”, “What is the purpose of man?” and “Why should the Bible be an authority in daily life?” require thoughtful investment in order to edify the church, bear fruit for the kingdom, and bring honor to God.
What is critical thinking?
To think critically is to engage in the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion. In other words, it’s thinking seriously about an idea or belief before making a conclusion about it.
Everyone thinks, it’s a natural process. But often our thinking is biased, uninformed, distorted, or prejudiced. However, we must become disciplined and “take every thought captive to Christ” as a part of our spiritual growth process. As a part of our sanctification, then, we must work through things thoughtfully in order to be raised up to the fullness of maturity in Jesus.
Why is critical thinking important?
Aside from some of the aforementioned reasons (unbiased thought, spiritual maturity), critical thinking is an essential part of the believer’s life for a few other reasons.
1. Blind faith is no faith at all.
“Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation.” – Charles Spurgeon
If you say you believe something, yet you can’t communicate why you believe it or what it is you believe, then can you truly claim to believe it? To believe in something is to let it take root deep inside you and infuse your very being, including your thinking. Part of “loving God with all your mind” is to be a lifelong student of His Word and the wells of truth which it contains.
2. It is part of reaching a lost and dying world.
“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15
Part of being in the millennial generation is the belief that to adhere to any religious tradition, especially to the doctrines of the evangelical Christian faith, is to sacrifice one’s intellectual integrity. Yet, there is logic and reason throughout Scripture. Believers need to know, and be able to share, how the Christian faith is a reasonable belief system. This is especially true for reaching and engaging young people with the truth of the gospel.
3. God is honored by it.
“Glorifying God with our minds and hearts is not either-or, but both-and. Thinking carefully about God fuels passion and affections for God. Likewise, Christ-exalting emotion leads to disciplined thinking…the mind serves to know the truth that fuels the fires of the heart.” – John Piper, Think
Some people are naturally more emotional, and some are naturally more analytical or intellectual. Our natural inclinations do not excuse us from loving God with ALL of our beings, our minds and our hearts. God does not say to Isaiah “Come, let us reason together,” (Isaiah 1:18) if he does not intend to engage our minds through His Word for His glory.
Critical Thinking in 3 “Easy” Steps
I’m not advocating that we all be stoic scholars or intellectual elitists. Critical thinking doesn’t have to be some laborious process. Here are a few things you can start doing to help you start thinking more critically about your beliefs and the world around you:
1. Ask questions. What does this text mean? Where did that speaker get his/her information? What is the source of this evidence? Is this a reliable source of information? Evaluate evidence, look for weaknesses or flaws, and examine the issue from other angles or perspectives.
2. Consult knowledgable people/resources on the subject. Wikipedia might be a nice go-to for quick information, but it probably isn’t the most reliable resource upon which to stake your belief in something. Utilize the wealth of wisdom around you. If you’re reading something from the Bible or you hear somebody claim something from the Bible that you don’t quite understand, consult your pastor, youth pastor, pastor’s wife, etc. Even if that person can’t give you an immediate answer, I can almost guarantee he/she will hop on board to investigate it with you.
3. Make an informed conclusion. The aim of critical thinking is well-reasoned judgments that hold up under examination and scrutiny. As believers in Christ, our ultimate authority is God’s Word, and like the Berean Jews, we must ensure that our conclusions about our beliefs are in accord with Scripture.
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” 1 Corinthians 14:20
There is much that could be said about last night’s debate. Above all, I think it is illustrative of the ongoing need for the Church to equip the saints to think critically about matters of doctrine and faith in order to bring honor to God, to edify the Church, and to bear fruit for the kingdom of heaven.