Last time I considered the intersection of critical thinking skills and culturally-driven assertions of truth (e.g. LGBTQ truths). My concern is a simple one: are we concluding things are true based on reason and facts, or upon feelings and cultural assertions? Have our critical thinking skills dulled like a rusty knife?
Christianity and Critical Thinking
One thing I find attractive about Christianity is that it has a basis in reason, logic, and discoverable truth. What do I mean? It holds up under critical thinking. In fact, it fosters it. For example, follow my line of reasoning:
Let's pretend a Christian makes the following claim: "Angels exist." How in the world would someone discern the truth or falsity of that statement? I submit the Christian needn't believe in angels simply because a minister told her they exist. Nor does she believe in angels because a stranger (an angel?) in a crowded parking lot saved her a space. No, she can use critical thinking skills. She might think ...
- I've studied the historical reliability of the New Testament and have made the highly-reasonable deduction that the things Jesus allegedly said in the NT are accurately recorded.
- I've also surmised from these reliable documents that Jesus made claims to be God (not merely a good man). Using critical thinking skills, I've determined the most logical explanation of this claim is that he actually was who he claimed to be – God. (For a treatment of this logic, read about the Trilemma: Lord, Liar, or Lunatic? or watch Josh McDowell's explanation here).
- I've done my homework and concluded that the New Testament is reliable, and Jesus is God in the flesh. Therefore, it is no leap of faith to conclude that whatever Jesus (who is God) thinks about something, he is not in error ... and I would be wise to join him in that thinking.
- In Matthew 26:53 and Luke 15:10, it is unambiguously clear that Jesus believes angels exist.
- Therefore, via critical thinking skills, I conclude that angels exist, apart from ever having seen one.
This makes sense, right? This reasoning can be applied to many things. Whatever can be shown to be Jesus' thinking about something, someone can conclude comports with real truth.
Now, I'm not blind to where a skeptic ought to challenge me. Where? At my premise: that the Bible is reliable and accurately conveys the words of Jesus. (I think the evidence falls on my side). But even if we were to debate the premise, it's important to see that critical thinking skills are helpful in making informed decisions. The Christian needn't apologize for his or her beliefs about Jesus (and by extension, to anything Jesus thought to be true). They are based on rather simple logic. To accuse the Christian of specious reasoning is unthinking assertion, not critical thinking. It is the very thing the skeptic often claims about the Christian: they believe only what they want to be true, independent of reason.
An Example from Marriage
What gets culturally unacceptable is when a Christian agrees with Jesus' thinking, but Jesus' thinking is now out of vogue. For example, what did Jesus think about marriage? It's not difficult to determine. He thought it was between one man and one woman. Not between same sex participants. Not beyond a binary of persons. Note his words from Mark 10:6-9. Jesus says ...
"But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Using critical thinking skills, and building on our previous example of the veracity of the NT Scriptures, we can deduce a number of things from Jesus' words:
- Jesus believes in some kind of creation, (regardless of whether it's an old or young earth). A creation demands a Creator. There appears to be no wiggle-room for the atheistic, forever-expanding-and-contracting universe of the Oscillation Theory.
- Jesus believes God made humans in two sexes: male and female. Not in 5, or 10, or along a spectrum.
- Jesus believes marriage is between a man and his wife (woman). Not same-sex options, in Jesus' mind.
- Jesus believes that, since 'man' and 'wife' are singular, and since two (not another number) become one, marriage points logically to monogamy, not polygamy.
- Jesus believes God joins together a man and woman in marriage. So, marriage is not simply a human contract to be governed by the State. It is an institution created by God and under His authority/rules (for our good).
By the way, reread Mark 10:6-9 and notice that Jesus says "therefore" twice and "so" once. He himself is modeling critical thinking skills for us, building truth claims upon previous conclusions.
It's also noteworthy in Mark 10:6-9 that Jesus quotes from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. Why is this important? He seems to believe in the authority and veracity of the Old Testament Scriptures, all the way back to Genesis chapter one. If Jesus is convinced about such things, it is not a leap of faith into the dark to conclude the same things as Jesus, who is "God in the flesh." Afterall, God would know. Right?
I could go on, but I've made my point. Let's continue to sharpen our critical thinking skills, lest we fall prey to culture's latest wave of truth-assertions.