We do not need to be taught to think but we do need to learn to think well. To think critically is among the greatest mental abilities which God has given man but many people are unprepared to do so. Many Christians fear entering into dialogue with unbelievers who seem more intelligent or better educated than themselves and many are greatly uncomfortable with anyone questioning the teachings of the Bible.
It is imperative that we as Christians learn to think critically. When we are faced with statements we should ask some basic questions such as, “Is this true?”, “Is this the right question for them to be asking?”, “What are they assuming when they say this?”, and “Does this match up with or contradict other things this person has said?” Apologist Michael Ramsden said in an address that “Apologetics is not just about having answers to other people’s questions; it’s also about having questions to other people’s answers, or even having questions of the questions themselves.” We do not have to be the most educated or most intelligent people in the room in order to meet a well-versed unbeliever on their turf, we can instead ask questions of and make observations about the turf itself.
So what is critical thinking? Critical thinking is like putting weight on a structure to see of it collapses. If the structure is a house of cards then I certainly do not want to put my confidence in it. If it is a worthy structure then it should be able to handle my challenges. Critical thinking is different from criticism. Criticism assumes there must be something wrong and looks only for faults. Critical thinking looks for something that can stand up to challenges and is worthy of trust.
When someone makes a statement we should take a hard look at it in order to find out if it holds up. Does it contradict itself (e.g. “There is no truth”)? Is it the right question to ask? Is something being assumed? One of the best questions to ask is “Why?” If you ask “Why?” enough times you will end up in areas which people have never considered before although they are the foundational assumptions behind one’s belief system.
This is why many are so uncomfortable with anyone questioning the Bible. They are willing to assume the truth of the Bible without having ever really thought about why. They say it is true but don’t seem confident that if someone questions its truth it will be able to stand up. If we really believe in the veracity of the Bible we should have a reason ready in obedience to the command in 1 Peter 3:15. If our children or friends question the truth of the Bible we should never say, “Thou shalt not ask!” Are we so afraid that the Bible will not prove itself to be reliable?
Among those who forbid anyone to ever question whether or not the Bible can be trusted we find yet another need for critical thinking – the very thing which they forbid. We should ask them if they believe implicitly in the Word without any reason. We might also ask if they have ever failed in their trust of the Lord. Have they ever worried about their finances? Have they ever doubted God’s love? A real unquestioning belief in the Bible would mean that we would never have the slightest trouble peacefully believing all that it says. It is here that the humble soul learns the apologetic of a life trusting in Christ. I am confident that we have all flagged in our trust of God and the Bible says we should have reasons for why we know Him to be trustworthy. May He continue to help us to both think and believe and allow others to do the same.