Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
The Bible teaching about critical thinking is absolutely necessary. You and I are bombarded with a constant gaggle of information that furiously pounds our senses with information.
We must make decisions on religion, politics, social issues, buying a new car or computer, whether to marry this one or that one – the perplexing list is endless. Is the globe warming or cooling, and do we have anything to do with it? Is homosexual marriage the biggest social issue of the day? How about evolution and abortion? You get my point.
So…here is the problem: out of all the sales pitches, pleadings, and positions thrown at us, how can we sort through them all to find the truth – or at least, the most truthful? How can we carefully weigh the evidence? This is where critical thinking comes into play.
In this Bible study, I will set forth eight principles, or questions, which will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. I think you will find them very helpful. With practice and experience you will get better, but none of us will become perfect in this art of discerning truth. The process is seeking answers to a series of questions.
God said through Isaiah, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). OK. Let us see how to do it.
Some Causes of Confusion
The place to start with critical thinking is to recognize some causes of the bewilderment in our environment. Here are some.
•People say different things about virtually everything.
•People are confused.
•People don’t care, and don’t want to be bothered.
•Some people have selfish motives and twist the truth.
•Situations change: what might be ok in one situation may be wrong in another.
For example, sex is ok in marriage, but wrong outside of marriage.
•New information is discovered that is better than present information.
•Old information is found to be wrong. For example, once upon a time scientists thought the world was flat.
What Did You Say?
Here is the first step to successfully wade through any tangle of words and ideas. When you are faced with a barrage of opinions, nail down precisely what the other person is saying. For example, ask something like, “What exactly is it you are saying about the Person of Jesus Christ? I want to make sure I understand your position.”
What Did You Mean?
Words have meanings, but meanings change in different contexts. Make sure you know what they mean by the words they use. For example, if your spouse says, “I hate you,” what exactly do they mean? Is it playful teasing, or do they wish you mortal harm. It makes a difference! Snag the words, and find their meaning. Ok, let’s go back to Jesus.
You might try something like, “You say Jesus is God. Then what do you mean by God, and what Jesus are you talking about? Do you mean the God of the Inca Indians, or the God of the Christian Bible?” Explain.
Who Are You?
Critical thinking seeks credibility. Is the person an expert? Are they qualified to address the issue? For example, if your boss or a policeperson tells you something, then you probably should take matters seriously. Also, your pastor probably has a better idea of who Christ is than a shaman from the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Hopefully, your pastor heads for their Bible.
How Do You Know?
Now you are looking for evidence, which includes the source of evidence. Is the person just spouting ignorant ramblings, or have they done their homework. What about Jesus? Well, the first place to look for evidence is the Bible.
When we dig out the data, we find that He claimed to be God, others recognized Him to be God – and most importantly, He rose from the dead. In my opinion, someone who comes back from the dead has impeccable credentials and needs to be taken very seriously as to what He says. Click here (link) for the Bible study on Jesus Christ.
Why Are You Saying This?
This question drives to motives – a very important part of critical thinking. Here you can ask follow up questions such as, “Who benefits from this particular position?” Another avenue of exploration in critical thinking is to “follow the money.” Who is paying for the promotion of any particular position? When you trace down the source, you will locate the motive. The Bible teaches us to be careful in looking for motives.
What Difference Does it Make?
This question looks for the consequences of choices and decision? For example, if you have a daily work commute of one hour in heavy traffic, would it be best to have a reliable car, or will an old worn out vehicle work? The latter might get you fired if your boss cannot count on you getting to work.
Turning back to the Bible, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Observe that a decision regarding the Person of Christ has very permanent and potentially catastrophic or triumphal results.
The logic goes this way: if Jesus lied about who He is, then He probably lied about being the only way to heaven. My feeling is this. If I become a Christian, and found out He lied, then so what. There are no terrible consequences.
However, if He is telling the truth, and I reject Him as my personal savior, then I would be the most foolish person in the world! But, by accepting Him as my savior, I have everything to gain, and nothing to lose – except a one way ticket to hell. My decision makes a profound and personal difference of mammoth consequences.
What Perspective Are You Coming From?
We all bring certain assumptions and presuppositions into solving problems and seeking right from wrong. They greatly influence our decisions. For example, a Catholic, atheist, Marxist, and Islamist would have very different views on the Person of Jesus Christ. Well, maybe the atheist and Marxist would agree! Critical thinking will help clear the fog and spot the bias. So will the Bible.
What Do Other People Say?
In critical thinking, cast a wide net to gather information. Carefully sift the information. Compare and contrast with other studies, research, opinions, findings, evidence. For example, in the case of Jesus, about one third of the world’s population is Christian. Consequently, that many people think He is God. You cannot honestly call two billion people stupid.
The Bible tells us that even demons believe in the God of the Christian Bible (James 2:19). Is Satan stupid too?
What Do You Think?
Regarding the Person and claims of Christ, what are your ideas? It makes a difference. Esmie and I urge you to carefully consider the evidence. Beyond this issue, we wish you all the best, and desire that you find these questions of critical thinking helpful in your pursuit for truth and good decisions in your personal life.
Dr. Willis and Esmie Newman
BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS
1. What does Paul consider to be a good source to go for evidence (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17)?
2. How did Paul evaluate our ability for critical thinking (2 Timothy 1:7)?
3. Study 1 Timothy 1:1-11. Applying the eight questions of critical thinking, what discoveries can you make in Paul’s discourse to Timothy?
4. What did James tell us about the source of evidence in critical thinking (James 3:13-18)?
5. What does Proverbs 15:22 tell us about the critical thinking process?
6. What does 1 Corinthians 11:3, 13-15; Acts 20:28-35 tell us about motives people may have? Relate this to critical thinking.
7. What do you think would be some of the biases an atheist and Christian might have on the issue of creation and evolution? Explain.
8. What are the consequences regarding one’s opinion about the Person and claims of Jesus Christ, according to the Bible?
9. What is your personal opinion regarding Jesus Christ. Explain your position using the questions of critical thinking in this study.
10. What stands out to you the most in this Bible study? Explain.
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