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biblical teaching on critical thinking

What does the Bible say about critical thinking?

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19 Bible Verses about Critical Thinking

Proverbs 14:15 esv / 107 helpful votes helpful not helpful.

The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

2 Timothy 2:7 ESV / 78 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 ESV / 43 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

But test everything; hold fast what is good.

1 John 4:1 ESV / 40 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Proverbs 18:17 ESV / 21 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

Acts 17:11 ESV / 17 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV / 13 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Proverbs 9:10 ESV / 13 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Isaiah 1:18 ESV / 11 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord : though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

1 John 4:7-17 ESV / 8 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ...

Colossians 2:8 ESV / 8 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Proverbs 25:1-28 ESV / 8 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied. It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable. Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel; take away the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness. ...

2 Timothy 2:15-16 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,

Proverbs 23:7 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

For he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

1 Samuel 1:2 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Genesis 1:1 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Matthew 18:6 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

John 1:1 ESV / 2 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Matthew 2:3 ESV / 2 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;

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Unless otherwise indicated, all content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles , a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Contact me: openbibleinfo (at)

biblical teaching on critical thinking

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A biblical foundation for critical thinking.

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Bible Nerd Society

Why critical thinking is important for christians (and how to introduce it to your church), "it's critical to think critically, but don't be critical of those who don’t.".

I have been in church my entire life. I don’t remember where, but I do remember once being told that Christians should not think critically, because it’s never the right thing to be “critical” of others. 

Oh boy, do we, as the church, still have our work cut out for us.

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The Battle for the Bible Belt: The Forgotten Art of Christian Scholarship

It’s been said that it is easier to develop wholly committed Christians in areas of the world that are more liberal than others. 

For example, a Christian living out the truths of God’s Word in California or New York is going to be a bit more noticeable than the same person doing so in the hills of North Carolina. 

Don’t misunderstand me, the effects of sin are plenty noticeable here in North Carolina (plenty in the church, too).

But in the so-called “Bible Belt,” Christians are “a dime a dozen.” “Everybody’s” a Christian, “everybody” goes to church, “everybody” grew up in church, etc. 

I used to think that God wanted my family to be full-time in ministry traveling to other places, and maybe he’ll lead us in that direction in the future. 

For now, he has us blooming where we’ve been planted, and I’m convinced he’s right on target. 

In the Southern United States, at least, there is a need to rediscover the lost art of biblical scholarship. 

Christian living is important, absolutely, but there is a rational side to the Christian faith that I did not even know existed growing up. 

I mean, I didn’t think to question my own faith  at all  until I was in my late 20’s! Until I asked the question, I always thought most Christians throughout history were somewhat like me—“good old boy” just doing his best to make it through this world.

And let me be very clear that I don’t mean to minimize that mentality. In fact, we probably need more of that, too!

Still, it’s unwise to believe something when you don’t have good reasons to believe it. You would never treat your medicine bottle that way. 

Why treat your eternal destiny that way?

Defining Critical Thinking For the Rest of Us

Allow me to start with an example, then we’ll break it down. 

The subheading of this article is: “It's critical to think critically, but don't be critical of those who don’t.”

Right away—without any formal training in logic—the reader is aware something is up. 

A few reasons: 

A fairly uncommon word (“critical”) was used multiple times in the same sentence. 

You can’t quite pinpoint it, but something doesn’t seem right about the way the words are used in the sentence. 

It sounds pithy. The very act of reading it elicits a curiosity to know more. 

If your mind went through an exercise like that when you first opened this article (even if quite quickly), then you—for a brief moment—began to go down the road of critical thinking. 

Critical thinking involves taking the time to  consider  that which has entered your mind. That’s really what it boils down to. 

If you’d like the dictionary’s opinion, it’s  the analysis of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments to form a judgment.

So, what of my curious subtitle?

It’s a simple thing, really. There’s nothing wrong with it. But if you slow down, you see the same word being used in different ways. 

Again: It's critical to think critically, but don't be critical about it. 

We could reword it to: It’s important to think carefully, but don’t criticize those who don’t. 

The sentence doesn’t have much meaning behind it. But that was never the point. 

My point is that some people use the word in a fallacious way, called an equivocation. It’s when you trade  one  definition of a word for  another  definition of a word. 

So if someone said, “You shouldn’t think critically because it’s not nice to criticize someone else,” this statement would be absurd. Critical thinking is not the same thing as criticizing. 

Get to the Point, Steve

The point is that Christians—especially those from the Bible Belt and/or who have grown up in the church—do not have a habit of thinking critically. 

And in a world where it’s hard to know which way is up, Christians who do not have a firm foundation for their faith will be at a serious disadvantage when they enter higher education, the workforce, etc. 

(Of course, dangerous ideas persist in Kindergarten too, but hopefully I’m addressing an audience with the sense to have their kids in Christian or homeschool education of some sort,  if feasible. )

Critical thinking is no longer reserved for bookworms. It’s not a “nice to have.” It’s not “for the nerds” or the “smart guys.” 

If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your children.

Our world is no safe place for folks content to wander about in the darkness. 

The Real, Real Reason for Critical Thinking in Christianity 

In the discipline of apologetics, 1 Peter 3:15 is often cited: 

…but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

Although I think it has broad enough application to be true when speaking in terms of pure logic,  that’s not the immediate context of the passage.

The context is suffering.

To paraphrase the chapter, Peter is saying this: 

In times of suffering (which we all experience), you have the opportunity to be a persuasive witness to the goodness of God. To do so, you must be ready with an answer to explain to others why you have hope in Christ in the midst of your darkest moments.

Whoa! What a perspective! 

And so I ask: Does that apply to you? Are you a person who has experienced suffering? If not, do you think you ever will? 

What does suffering have to do with critical thinking, though? 

In the midst of suffering, even the most committed Christians often begin to doubt and question their faith. 

You won’t find a more committed Christian than Peter himself, who denied the Lord on three separate occasions for  fear  of suffering and persecution. 

When you become a critical thinker, you have the opportunity to show those in your immediate influence how God is good in the midst of suffering. 

Beyond Suffering: Critical Thinking and the Church

As I mentioned, though, it goes beyond suffering. 

The world is hurting not only emotionally and physically, but the world is also hurting intellectually. 

“Intellectual hurt” shows up primarily in two ways: 

A perceived lack of information

Rejection of information 

Do we have enough information?

The word “enough” is a moving target. After all, why create  more information (e.g., this very newsletter) if there is already enough information?

Nevertheless, there is “enough” information to make an informed decision to trust Christ with one’s eternal destiny. 

And in fact, this is true regardless of access to the Internet, the abundance of scholarly resources, etc. 

According to the Bible, there is a witness in creation (Ps. 19:1/Romans 1) and a witness in conscience (Romans 2:14-15) that renders humanity without excuse. 

Put another way, it’s obvious there’s a God.

But—and more to the point of this post—it goes further than that. Most of us need not rely  merely  on those instincts, because we  do  have an abundance of resources and information which inform the veracity of our faith. 

The issue is that many Christians are in the same position I was. Once the scholarly world of Christianity was revealed to me, it was like the floodgates had been opened. 

But until that point, I had no idea that world even  existed  in the first place! 

Exposing this side of Christianity to the everyday believer is a big part of what we do here. I want  every Christian  to be a Bible Nerd! That should be normal! 

If we can do our part to awaken more Christians to the reality that there is no lack of information, we will begin to see even greater change. 

What about those who have the information?

“Deconversion” is a huge trend and problem in the church. 

At the core, what’s happening (at least in many cases) is that someone who grew up with the perceived lack of information eventually discovers it, but that discovery comes in the way of those questioning or attempting to refute it. 

It’s quite easy to be minding your own business on YouTube or TikTok and come across someone who’s creating content about how they used to be a Christian and discovered, usually through other online influencers, that it isn’t actually true. 

At this point, one of two things usually happens: 

The person begins the process of critical thinking, engages scholarly resources created by Christians, and remains secure in their faith.

Or, they either (1) don’t engage those resources or (2) find them lacking, and “deconvert” from Christianity into some form of atheism or agnosticism. 

(For the record, I don’t mean to oversimplify. There will be outlier cases that follow neither of the paths listed above and are much more complex. I sympathize, and am essentially summarizing trends, here.) 

What can we do? 

As we become ever more conscious of objections to Christianity, new arguments for the existence of God, and utilize new points of connection and technology to help shepherd people’s thought lives, I’d like to suggest a few ways we can make critical thinking a regular part of our church culture. 

1. Taboo Banishment: We must encourage, allow, and even raise important and difficult questions within the church. 

Do you ever get the sense that certain subject matter is just not “allowed” in church? 

If you’ve never been given that impression, you are a blessed individual. Most churches—no matter how theologically mature—have “off limit” topics. 

We dramatically reduce these to our benefit.

This is very important: Whatever we’re not willing to talk about, the world gets to dictate in our minds. 

By definition, any conversation we do not have control over, we have forfeited control over. 

Things like pornography, addiction, and yes— critical thinking —have long been dominated by secular conversation because the church isn’t willing to deal with them. 

We can change that! Little by little, one small group, local church, regional fellowship, denomination, and movement at a time. 

2. Pastoral Apologetics: We must approach this subject matter with an emphasis on pastoral care. 

Once people  do  discover this side of their faith, many times, the pendulum swings the other direction and there is no emphasis on pastoral care, love, etc. 

This, too, is error. 

Paul was quite clear on this point: 

If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)

As we introduce critical thinking into our local church communities, let’s do so while ensuring we have a “God’s eye view” of people. 

Theology is important and informs our beliefs. But God is concerned with people coming to know and trust him, above all. 

As with most things, we should strive for balance. It  is  possible to come alongside a hurting person with pastoral love and care, while intellectually assuring them of God’s truth, love, and goodness. 

3. The Pastor-Scholar Ideal: We must return to the “scholar as pastor” and “pastor as scholar” ideals.

This—perhaps more than anything—is needed in our churches today. 

There was a time when the “smart guy” in the room was the local pastor. Can you believe that? Sadly today, there is almost the complete opposite assumption. 

Many Christians are, as we discussed, missing the scholarly historical context of Christian tradition. To be a Christian was not a “backwoods southern person” thing—it was the well-respected, default mode of operation. 

Much of this perception was influenced by the fact that the pastor was the scholar, and the scholar was the pastor. 

This ideal is possible today! A friend of mine who does this well is Marc Lambert. 

Marc’s  YouTube channel  is full of teaching he brings before his church, to—in a pastoral way—introduce the concepts of critical thinking and rationality. 

It’s also possible to accomplish this through staffing and volunteer work. 

If you’re a pastor but you are not inclined to the more philosophical side of things, perhaps you could get started by working with someone from your staff or congregation. 

Critical Thinking is Important for Christians

These days, it’s not a question of whether or not your faith—or the faith of someone you know—will be challenged. It’s a question of  when.

The stakes are too high to act like the proverbial ostrich who digs his head into the sand. 

It  is  possible to introduce critical thinking skills into our local churches and everyday Christian experience. 

It  should  be—and can be—normal to be a Bible nerd.

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Religious Educator Vol. 18 No. 3 · 2017

Critical thinking in religious education, shayne anderson.

Shayne Anderson, "Critical Thinking in Religious Education,"  Religious Educator  18, no. 3 (2018): 69–81.

Shayne Anderson ( [email protected] ) was an instructor at South Ogden Junior Seminary when this article was published.

Baseball player

A common argument in an increasingly secular world today is that religion poses a threat to world peace and human well-being. Concerning the field of religious education, Andrew Davis, an honorary research fellow at Durham University, argues that religious adherents tend to treat others who do not agree with them with disrespect and hostility and states that efforts to persuade them to behave otherwise would be “profoundly difficult to realize.” [1] Consequently, he believes that religious education should consist only of a moderate form of pluralism. Religious education classes, in his view, should not make claims of one religion having exclusive access to the truth.

Others argue that religious education should consist only of teaching about religion in order to promote more democratic ways of being. [2] Their perception is that religion is yet another distinguishing and divisive tool used by those who seek to discriminate against others, thus impeding the progress of pluralistic democracies. Further, those perceived as religious zealots, so the argument goes, are the least apt to give critical thought to either their own beliefs or the beliefs of others. [3] This reasoning, in which religion and critical thinking are viewed as antithetical, is especially prevalent in popular culture, outside the measured confines of peer-reviewed publishing.

Reasons for why religion and critical thinking might be viewed as incompatible are as varied as the authors who generate the theories. They include the following: religions often claim to contain some amount of absolute truth, an idea in itself that critical theorists oppose; individual religions generally do not teach alternate views, a requisite for critical thinking; and, in critical theory, truth is comprised of “premises all parties accept.” [4] Theorist Oduntan Jawoniyi reduces the argument down to the fact that religious claims of truth “are empirically unverified, unverifiable, and unfalsifiable metaphysical truths.” [5]

One explanation for variations in opinions concerning the place of critical thinking in religious education may be that no consistent definition exists for critical thinking, a concept that stretches across several fields of study. For instance, the field of philosophy has its own nuanced definition of critical thinking, as does the field of psychology. My first aim in this article is to survey a range of definitions in order to settle upon a functional definition that will allow for faith while still fulfilling the objectives of critical thinking, and my second aim is to explore how this definition can apply to religious education in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Defining Critical Thinking

The first definition under consideration comes from a frequently cited website within the domain of critical thinking. Here critical theorists Michael Scriven and Richard Paul endeavor to encapsulate in one definition the wide expanse of critical thinking’s many definitions: “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/ or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.” [6]

Assessing the definition in parts will allow for a thorough examination, beginning with a look at critical thinking as being active and intellectually disciplined. Such admonitions are repeated often in the scriptures. The thirteenth article of faith teaches that members of the Church “seek after” anything that is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” The Prophet Joseph Smith borrows terminology here from what he calls the “admonition of Paul”—from the book of Philippians, where Paul lists many of the same qualities and then suggests, “Think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Common scriptural words that suggest active, skillful, and disciplined thinking include inquiring , pondering , reasoning , and asking . Additional scriptures suggest such things as “study it out in your mind” (D&C 9:8) or “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). Assuredly, the portion of the definition of critical thinking pertaining to intellectual discipline fits well within the objectives of the Church’s education program.

The next part of the definition given by Scriven and Paul includes “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/ or evaluating information.” The Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook, used by teachers and leaders in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion program of the Church, sets forth the “fundamentals of gospel teaching and learning.” [7] Included in these fundamentals are (a) identifying doctrines and principles, (b) understanding the meaning of those doctrines and principles, (c) feeling the truth and importance of those doctrines and principles, and (d) applying doctrines and principles. Comparing the definition for critical thinking to the fundamentals of gospel teaching and learning, one can argue that conceptualizing is akin to identifying and analyzing, both of which require the understanding sought for by the previously mentioned fundamentals. Synthesizing and evaluating can be a part of understanding and feeling the importance of a concept. Also, application is found in both the definition and the fundamentals of gospel teaching and learning. It is an integral part of critical thinking and effective religious education within the Church.

Finally, according to this definition, critical thinking assesses “information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” This portion of the definition seems equally suited for religious education. So much of religion is based on personal experience and reflection on those experiences. Owing to the personal nature of religious observations, experiences, reflections, and reasoning, adherents often find them difficult to fully explain. This personal experience may be compared to a baseball player who has mastered the art of batting. Intellectually, the player may understand perfectly what must be done, as he or she may have practiced it innumerable times, but when asked to explain it to someone else the player is unable to do so. Such a situation does not detract from the fact that the batter has mastered the art, yet the explanation remains difficult. Additionally, religious experiences are often very personal in nature. Due to the value attributed to those experiences, a person may not choose to share them frequently because of a fear that others will not understand or may even attempt to degrade and minimize those experiences and the feelings associated with them. Thus, even on the occasion when someone attempts to articulate such experiences, they remain unexplained.

In a religious setting, information derived from observation, experience, and communication may come from meeting with others who share religious beliefs. Moroni 6:5 touches on this idea. “And the church [members] did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak with one another concerning the welfare of their souls.” Congregating has long been a cornerstone of religious experience. Doing so provides members opportunities for observation, experience, reflection, and communication, all of which make up the delicate tapestry of religious belief and behavior.

Adding to the definition given by Scriven and Paul, college professor and author Tim John Moore asserts that another quality important in critical thought is skepticism, verging on agnosticism, toward knowledge—calling into question whether reality can be known for certain. [8] This skepticism carries with it immediate doubt prior to being presented with knowledge. Others have termed it as a “doubtful mentality.” [9] This definition does not seem able to coexist with faith-motivated critical thinking. Many scriptures teach about the importance of faith trumping doubt, the most recognizable among them likely being James 1:5–6: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

Concerning the type of doubt that arises even before learning facts, Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Church’s First Presidency said, “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” [10] This admonition indicates that there is an ultimate source of truth, and when our doubts loom large it is better to doubt those doubts instead of doubting God. The Doctrinal Mastery: Core Document , a part of the S&I curriculum introduced in the summer of 2016, states that “God . . . is the source of all truth. . . . He has not yet revealed all truth.” [11] Thus, doubt should be curbed at the point when we do not have all the evidence or answers we seek. Such is the case in the scientific method: a tested hypothesis leads to a theory, and confirmed theories lead to laws. Fortunately, neither hypotheses nor theories are abandoned for lack of proof or the existence of doubt concerning them.

Some within a religious community may be hesitant to apply critical thinking to their own religious beliefs, believing that doing so could weaken their faith. Psychologist Diane Halpern, however, suggests that critical thinking need not carry with it such negative connotations. “In critical thinking , the word critical is not meant to imply ‘finding fault,’ as it might be used in a pejorative way to describe someone who is always making negative comments. It is used instead in the sense of ‘critical’ that involves evaluation or judgement, ideally with the goal of providing useful and accurate feedback that serves to improve the thinking process.” [12] Applying critical thinking need not indicate a lack of faith by a believer—an important point to consider when applying critical thinking to religious education. Critically thinking Christian believers are adhering to the Savior’s commandment to “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).

Religious believers may be concerned that other critical thinkers have reached an opinion different than theirs. This concern can be addressed by the way critical thinking is defined. Professor of philosophy Jennifer Mulnix writes that “critical thinking, as an intellectual virtue, is not directed at any specific moral ends.” [13] She further explains that critical thinkers do not have a set of beliefs that invariably lead to specific ends, suggesting that two critical thinkers who correctly apply the skills and attitudes of critical thinking to the same subject could hold opposing beliefs. Such critical thinking requires a sort of mental flexibility, a willingness to acknowledge that a person may not be in possession of all the facts. Including such flexibility when defining critical thinking does not disqualify its application to religious education. A religious person can hold beliefs and knowledge while remaining flexible, just as a mathematician holds firm beliefs and knowledge but is willing to accept more and consider alternatives in the light of additional information. In other words, being in possession of facts that a person is unwilling to relinquish does not mean that he or she is unwilling to accept additional facts.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke about the idea of differing conclusions when addressing religious educators. “Because of our knowledge of [the] Plan and other truths that God has revealed, we start with different assumptions than those who do not share our knowledge. As a result, we reach different conclusions on many important subjects that others judge only in terms of their opinions about mortal life.” [14] Each person brings different life experience and knowledge, which they call upon to engage in critical thinking. While both are employing critical-thinking skills, they may be doing so with different facts and differing amounts of facts. All of the facts in consideration may be true, but because of the way those facts are understood, different conclusions are reached. Still, the thinking taking place can be correctly defined as critical.

Another belief included by some in a definition of critical thinking, though at odds with the edifying instruction presented in LDS religious education, is addressed by Rajeswari Mohan, who suggests that to teach using critical thinking would require “a re-understanding of the classroom.” [15] Generally, the understanding that currently exists of the classroom, both inside and outside of religious education, consists of creating an atmosphere of respect and trust, a safe place to learn and grow—something that Mohan calls “cosmopolitan instruction.” [16] In its place Mohan advocates that the classroom become “a site of contestation,” [17] which connotes controversy, argument, and divisiveness. Of course, it is possible to contest a belief, debate, and even disagree while still maintaining trust and respect, but such a teaching atmosphere is what Mohan considers cosmopolitan and, as such, it would require no re-understanding to accomplish it.

Elizabeth Ellsworth described her experience when attempting to employ the type of approach Mohan suggests in her own classroom. [18] In reflecting on the experience, she noted that it exacerbated disagreements between students rather than resolving or solving anything. She summarized what took place by saying, “Rational argument has operated in ways that set up as its opposite an irrational Other.” [19] Rather than having her class engage in discussion and learning, Ellsworth witnessed students who refused to talk because of the fear of retaliation or fear of embarrassment.

Such a situation does not align with D&C 42:14, “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” Additionally, this confrontational atmosphere in the learning environment seems to run counter to the doctrines taught by the Savior. Consider the words of Christ in 3 Nephi 11:29: “I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”

Many authors who offer definitions of critical thinking discuss how critical thinking leads to action; one author states, “Criticality requires that one be moved to do something.” [20] President Thomas S. Monson, while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “The goal of gospel teaching . . . is not to ‘pour information’ into the minds of class members . . . . The aim is to inspire the individual to think about, feel about, and then do something about living gospel principles.” [21] This application is the foundation of the teachings of Jesus Christ, the very purpose of his Atonement, to allow for individuals to change. This change does not solely consist of stopping some behavior but also includes starting new behaviors. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, for example, suggested that many of us could make more spiritual progress “in the realm of the sins of omission . . . than in any other place.” [22]

Critical Thinking Exaggerated

President Boyd K. Packer taught that “tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, when exaggerated, it transforms itself into a vice.” [23] This facet of critical thinking whereby critical thinking prompts action must be explained carefully, as it can be exaggerated and transformed into a vice. Mohan described this aspect of critical thinking that moves individuals to action outside of the classroom as having a “goal of transformative political action” aimed at challenging, interrupting, and undercutting “regimes of knowledge.” [24] Pedagogy of the Oppressed author and political activist Paulo Freire taught that this action brought about the “conquest” [25] of an oppressed class in a society over its oppressors. Some would argue that if it does not lead to this kind of contending, transformative action, critical thinking is incomplete. [26]

Transformative action taken by individuals to change themselves is necessary. Yet the idea that one can effect change within the Church, for individuals or the organization itself, by compulsion or coercion in a spirit of conquest can lead to “the heavens [withdrawing] themselves; the Spirit of the Lord [being] grieved” (D&C 121:37). Critical thinking defined to include this contention does not have a place in religious education within the Church.

A balanced definition of critical thinking that allows for faith in things which are hoped for and yet unseen (see Alma 32:21) may look something like this: Critical thinking consists of persistent, effortful, ponderous, and reflective thought devoted to concepts held and introduced through various ways, including experience, inquiry, and reflection. That person then analyzes, evaluates, and attempts to understand how those concepts coincide and interact with existing knowledge, ready to abandon or employ ideas based upon their truthfulness. This contemplation then leads the person to consistent and appropriate actions.

Because of the benefits of critical thinking, some have taken its application to an extreme, allowing it to undermine faith. Addressing a group of college students in 1996, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “This is such a marvelous season of your lives. It is a time not only of positive thinking but sometimes of critical thinking. Let me urge you to not let your critical thinking override your faith.” [27]

Examples in Doctrine

Despite a potential to undermine faith when applied incorrectly, critical thinking holds too much promise to be abandoned. This is particularly the case for religious education in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not only do questions and critical thought have an appropriate place in the Church, but as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has pointed out, the Church would not exist without it. [28] He explains that the doctrinally loaded and foundational experience of the First Vision came as the result of Joseph Smith’s critical thought toward existing churches and a desire to know which he should join. Knowing for ourselves if the church that was restored through Joseph Smith’s efforts is truly the “only true and living church” (D&C 1:30) can be done only by following his lead and “ask[ing] of God” (James 1:5). “Asking questions,” President Uchtdorf said, “isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a precursor of growth.” [29]

This concept of critically thinking while still acting in faith is illustrated in Alma 32:27–43, when Alma teaches a group of nonbelievers who nonetheless want to know the truth. Table 1 compares Alma’s words with concepts of critical thinking.

Figure 1. Alma and Critical Thinking.

The necessity of exercising faith is a major component of all religion. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6). “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36). The skeptical critic of religion could assert that these statements amount to blind faith or towing the line without a rational or logical reason to do so. Applying critical thinking to such assertions may disclose, ironically, that such approaches are no different than using rational thought.

In Educating Reason , author Harvey Siegel responds to a criticism sometimes waged against critical thinking called the indoctrination objection. His argument provides a means for reconciling faith with logic. In short he observed that critical thinkers have traditionally been opposed to indoctrination of any kind. Over time much has been applied to the perception of, and even the definition of, indoctrination, which now carries with it highly negative connotations of teaching content that is either not true or is taught in such a way that the learner is not provided a way to measure the truthfulness of what is being taught. Yet the fundamental definition of indoctrination is simply to teach.

The indoctrination objection is based on the idea that critical thinkers want to reject all indoctrination, but they cannot do so because critical thinking itself must be taught (indoctrinated). The definition he gives to indoctrination is when students “are led to hold beliefs in such a way that they are prevented from critically inquiring into their legitimacy and the power of the evidence offered in their support; if they hold beliefs in such a way that the beliefs are not open to rational evaluation or assessment.” [32] Siegel delicately defines an indoctrinated belief as “a belief [that] is held non-evidentially.” [33]

It must be acknowledged that children are not born valuing rational thought and evidence; those values must be taught, or indoctrinated. According to Siegel, “If an educational process enhances rationality, on this view, that process is justified.” [34] He later adds that such teaching is not only defensible, but necessary. “We are agreed that such belief-inculcation is desirable and justifiable, and that some of it might have the effect of enhancing the child’s rationality. Should we call it indoctrination? This seems partly, at least, a verbal quibble.” [35]

A teacher is justified in teaching students and a learner is justified in studying if doing so will eventually enhance rationality and if students are allowed to evaluate for themselves what is being taught.

There may even be a period when rationality is put on hold, or the lack of rationality perpetuated, temporarily for the sake of increasing critical thought in the end. This concept of proceeding with learning without first having an established rationale for doing so is the very concept of faith. Just as “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things” (Alma 32:21), reasons may not always be understood at first, just as a rational understanding for accepting a teaching is not always given at first. The moment when a learner must accept a teaching without first having a sufficient reason for doing so is faith. Students who continue to engage in the learning process are acting in faith. If the things being taught are true, those things will eventually lead those students to increased rationality and expanded intellect. Such teaching should not detour the student from seeking his or her own personal confirmation. Teaching in a manner that discourages students from establishing their own roots deep into the ground is antithetical to both critical thinking and the purposes of LDS religious education.

Teaching in a way that encourages and invites students to think critically about doctrines reflects not only teaching practices encouraged in today’s religious education within the Church but also doctrines of the Church. The culture and doctrine of the Church seeks to avoid indoctrinating members in the negative or pejorative sense. On the Church’s official Newsroom website is an article explaining what constitutes the doctrines of the Church. Included in that list is this statement: “Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together.” [36] More than solely a statement of doctrine on a newsroom website, this concept is bolstered by the words of canonized scripture: “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). “You have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me” (D&C 9:7–8). And finally, from the admonition of Paul, who, after speaking of doctrines, counseled believers to “think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

The Prophet Joseph Smith addressed the relationship between faith and intellect. “We consider,” he said, “that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views.” [37] In other words, acting in faith, or giving heed and diligence to light communicated from heaven, can enlarge the intellectual faculty and clarify views. Diligence and heed are required in religious education, in which the content being taught is considered irrational by secular society. Amid ridicule by the irreligious, when the intellect is enlarged, the faithful recognize enhanced rationality and clearer views that are never realized by those who are ridiculing. This process continues until full rationality is achieved and the promise of God is fulfilled: “Nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known” (Luke 8:17). What a promise for a critical thinker!

Critical thinking has the potential to be a powerful tool for educators; that potential does not exclude its use by teachers within the Church. When used appropriately, critical thinking can help students more deeply understand and rely upon the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ. The testimony that comes as a result of critical thought can carry students through difficult times and serve as an anchor through crises of faith. As Elder M. Russell Ballard teaches,

Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, “Don’t worry about it!” Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue. Gone are the days when students were protected from people who attacked the Church. Fortunately, the Lord provided this timely and timeless counsel to you teachers: “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” [38]

Critical thought does not consist of setting aside faith, but rather faith is using critical thought to come to know truth for oneself.

[1] Andrew Davis, “Defending Religious Pluralism for Religious Education,” Ethics and Education 3, no. 5 (November 2010): 190.

[2] Oduntan Jawoniyi, “Religious Education, Critical Thinking, Rational Autonomy, and the Child’s Right to an Open Future,” Religion and Education 39, no. 1 (January 2015): 34–53; and Michael D. Waggoner, “Religion, Education, and Critical Thinking,” Religion and Education 39, no. 3 (September 2012): 233–34.

[3] Waggoner, “Religion, Education, and Critical Thinking,” 233–34.

[4] Duck-Joo Kwak, “Re‐Conceptualizing Critical Thinking for Moral Education in Culturally Plural Societies,” Educational Philosophy and Theory 39, no. 4 (August 2007): 464.

[5] Jawoniyi, “Religious Education,” 46.

[6] Michael Scriven and Richard Paul, quoted in “Defining Critical Thinking,” Foundation for Critical Thinking, http:// pages/ defining-critical-thinking/ 766.

[7] Gospel Teaching and Learning Handbook: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2012), 39.

[8] Tim John Moore, “Critical Thinking and Disciplinary Thinking: A Continuing Debate,” Higher Education Research & Development 30, no. 3 (June 2011): 261–74.

[9] Ali Mohammad Siahi Atabaki, Narges Keshtiaray, Mohammad Yarmohammadian, “Scrutiny of Critical Thinking Concept,” International Education Studies 8, no. 3 (February 2015): 100.

[10] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Reflection in the Water” (CES fireside for young adults at Brigham Young University, 1 November 2009), https:// media-library/ video/ 2009-11-0050-the-reflection-in-the-water?lang=eng#d.

[11] Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, Doctrinal Mastery: Core Document (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2016), 2.

[12] Diane F. Halpern, “Teaching Critical Thinking for Transfer across Domains,” The American Psychologist 53, no. 4 (April 1998): 451.

[13] Jennifer Wilson Mulnix, “Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking,” Educational Philosophy and Theory 44, no. 5 (July 2012): 466.

[14] Dallin H. Oaks, “As He Thinketh in His Heart” (evening with a General Authority, 8 February 2013), https:// prophets-and-apostles/ unto-all-the-world/ as-he-thinketh-in-his-heart-?lang=eng.

[15] Rajeswari Mohan, “Dodging the Crossfire: Questions for Postcolonial Pedagogy,” College Literature 19/ 20, vol. 3/ 1 (October 1992–February 1993): 30.

[16] Mohan, “Dodging the Crossfire,” 30.

[17] Mohan, “Dodging the Crossfire,” 30.

[18] Elizabeth Ellsworth, “Why Doesn’t This Feel Empowering? Working through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy,” Harvard Educational Review 59, no. 3 (September 1989): 297–325.

[19] Ellsworth, “Why Doesn’t This Feel Empowering?,” 301.

[20] Nicholas C. Burbules and Rupert Berk, “Critical Thinking and Critical Pedagogy: Relations, Differences, and Limits,” in Critical Theories in Education , ed. Thomas S. Popkewitz and Lynn Fendler (New York: Routledge, 1999), 45–66.

[21] Thomas S. Monson, in Conference Report, October 1970, 107.

[22] Neal A. Maxwell, “The Precious Promise,” Ensign , April 2004, 45, https:// ensign/ 2004/ 04/ the-precious-promise?lang=eng.

[23] Boyd K. Packer, “These Things I Know,” Ensign , May 2013, 8, https:// ensign/ 2013/ 05/ these-things-i-know?lang=eng.

[24] Mohan, “Dodging the Crossfire,” 30.

[25] Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed , trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Continuum International, 1970).

[26] Donaldo Macedo, introduction to Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed , 11–26.

[27] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign , October 1996, https:// ensign/ 1996/ 10/ excerpts-from-recent-addresses-of-president-gordon-b-hinckley?lang=eng.

[28] Uchtdorf, “The Reflection in the Water.”

[29] Uchtdorf, “The Reflection in the Water.”

[30] Harvey Siegel, “Indoctrination Objection,” in Educating Reason: Rationality, Critical Thinking, and Education (New York: Routledge, 1988), 78–90.

[31] Halpern, “Teaching Critical Thinking for Transfer across Domains,” 451.

[32] Siegel, Educating Reason , 80.

[33] Siegel, Educating Reason , 80.

[34] Siegel, Educating Reason , 81.

[35] Siegel, Educating Reason , 82.

[36] “Approaching Mormon Doctrine,” 4 May 2007, http:// article/ approaching-mormon-doctrine.

[37] B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 2:8.

[38] M. Russell Ballard, “The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century” (address to CES religious educators, 26 February 2016), https:// broadcasts/ article/ evening-with-a-general-authority/ 2016/ 02/ the-opportunities-and-responsibilities-of-ces-teachers-in-the-21st-century?lang=eng&_r=1.

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Resources for Teaching Bible Students Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking skills are crucial for Christian young people. Having strong critical thinking skills can help them avoid all sorts of false teaching. These skills involve more than just comparing what they are told or read to scripture – all that is one great critical thinking practice for them to learn and practice.

biblical teaching on critical thinking

There are quite a few helpful resources for teaching critical thinking skills to young people. Some of these are secular, but can easily be adapted for Bible classes by changing the examples to ones they might encounter when discussing Christianity, God, the Bible, etc.

  • Examples of Critical Thinking: Biblical Application. Answers in Genesis has a great article showing how to use critical thinking skills to analyze something from science. They have other resources that can help students analyze scientific “finds” – helping them understand why there are often multiple interpretations to the same data.
  • The Thinking Toolbox books by Nathaniel & Hans Bluedorn. These books are written primarily for teens, but would also work for many upper elementary students. Each principle is followed by examples and exercises designed to give students practice. In most cases it would be relatively easy to substitute appropriate examples from the Bible or religious discussions.
  • Practical Critical Thinking for Grades 9-12 by Catherine Connors-Nelson. While this is a secular teacher’s manual and student book set, it has so many good basics in it. Many of the activities could be adapted or you could use the general skills information and develop your own activities.
  • The “Case” book series by Lee Strobel. A former reporter, Strobel does a great job of hunting the evidence trail for many of the doubts expressed by people. His books have student and children’s versions as well as the adult ones. He has recently partnered with a Christian University in CO, so I anticipate more apologetics materials coming out from him over the next several years.
  • RightNow Media. Our church has a free subscription to this service that we are all allowed to use. It has a wealth of videos – including some great ones with apologetics. If you have a child who would rather watch than read, this may be worth checking out – even if you have to pay for a subscription.

Taking the time to work with your students on critical thinking skills can protect them from not only the arguments of atheists and people from other religions, but also from false teaching within the church. It’s worth taking class time to help them master it.

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      A Christian Perspective on Critical Thinking

      The bottom line, in a Christian worldview, is that humans are sinful, we need a savior, and our salvation is in Jesus Christ, not human reason.  On the other hand, logical reasoning is useful, it should be highly valued, and "critical thinking must be a part of every Christian classroom if we are to maintain our integrity." (from Critical Thinking and the Christian Perspective by Wendy Dutton, Thomas Hart and Rebecca Patten)       For living by faith as a Christian, one useful approach is to combine critical thinking — "the art of taking charge of your own mind [which is valuable because]... if we can take charge of our own minds, we can take charge of our lives" — with Christian thinking: "Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.  Then you will be able to know the will of God — what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect."

      Critical = Evaluative (and it's not necessarily negative)         To avoid misunderstanding, the homepage for CRITICAL THINKING begins with a non-definition:       critical thinking is not necessarily being "critical" and negative;  in fact, it would be more accurate to call it evaluative thinking.       The result of evaluation can range from positive to negative, from acceptance to rejection or anything in-between.  Yes, critical evaluation can produce a glowing recommendation.  On this page, for example, the quotes and links — which are recommended, but (as with all sources of information) should be used with an attitude of "critical thinking" evaluation — are the result of my own critical thinking.

        Christian Resources about Critical Thinking

      And there is a neutral intro-page about different worldview-perspectives on critical thinking :  Christian, agnostic, atheistic,...

        Critical Thinking & Worldviews in Education

This page, written by Craig Rusbult (editor of ASA Science Ed), is views/critical.htm

Copyright © 2005 by American Scientific Affiliation, all rights reserved


May 1, 2012

How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God

Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises

By Daisy Grewal

Why are some people more religious than others? Answers to this question often focus on the role of culture or upbringing.  While these influences are important, new research suggests that whether we believe may also have to do with how much we rely on intuition versus analytical thinking. In 2011 Amitai Shenhav, David Rand and Joshua Greene of Harvard University published a paper showing that people who have a tendency to rely on their intuition are more likely to believe in God.  They also showed that encouraging people to think intuitively increased people’s belief in God. Building on these findings, in a recent paper published in Science , Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia found that encouraging people to think analytically reduced their tendency to believe in God. Together these findings suggest that belief may at least partly stem from our thinking styles.

Gervais and Norenzayan’s research is based on the idea that we possess two different ways of thinking that are distinct yet related. Understanding these two ways, which are often referred to as System 1 and System 2, may be important for understanding our tendency towards having religious faith. System 1 thinking relies on shortcuts and other rules-of-thumb while System 2 relies on analytic thinking and tends to be slower and require more effort. Solving logical and analytical problems may require that we override our System 1 thinking processes in order to engage System 2. Psychologists have developed a number of clever techniques that encourage us to do this. Using some of these techniques, Gervais and Norenzayan examined whether engaging System 2 leads people away from believing in God and religion.

For example, they had participants view images of artwork that are associated with reflective thinking (Rodin’s The Thinker) or more neutral images (Discobulus of Myron). Participants who viewed The Thinker reported weaker religious beliefs on a subsequent survey. However, Gervais and Norenzayan wondered if showing people artwork might have made the connection between thinking and religion too obvious. In their next two studies, they created a task that more subtly primed analytic thinking. Participants received sets of five randomly arranged words (e.g. “high winds the flies plane”) and were asked to drop one word and rearrange the others in order to create a more meaningful sentence (e.g. “the plane flies high”). Some of their participants were given scrambled sentences containing words associated with analytic thinking (e.g. “analyze,” “reason”) and other participants were given sentences that featured neutral words (e.g. “hammer,” “shoes”). After unscrambling the sentences, participants filled out a survey about their religious beliefs. In both studies, this subtle reminder of analytic thinking caused participants to express less belief in God and religion. The researchers found no relationship between participants’ prior religious beliefs and their performance in the study. Analytic thinking reduced religious belief regardless of how religious people were to begin with.

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In a final study, Gervais and Norenzayan used an even more subtle way of activating analytic thinking: by having participants fill out a survey measuring their religious beliefs that was printed in either clear font or font that was difficult to read. Prior research has shown that difficult-to-read font promotes analytic thinking by forcing participants to slow down and think more carefully about the meaning of what they are reading. The researchers found that participants who filled out a survey that was printed in unclear font expressed less belief as compared to those who filled out the same survey in the clear font.

These studies demonstrate yet another way in which our thinking tendencies, many of which may be innate, have contributed to religious faith. It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to believe in God. Since System 2 thinking requires a lot of effort , the majority of us tend to rely on our System 1 thinking processes when possible. Evidence suggests that the majority of us are more prone to believing than being skeptical. According to a 2005 poll by Gallup, 3 out of every 4 Americans hold at least one belief in the paranormal. The most popular of these beliefs are extrasensory perception (ESP), haunted houses, and ghosts. In addition, the results help explain why some of us are more prone to believe that others. Previous research has found that people differ in their tendency to see intentions and causes in the world. These differences in thinking styles could help explain why some of us are more likely to become believers.

Why and how might analytic thinking reduce religious belief? Although more research is needed to answer this question, Gervais and Norenzayan speculate on a few possibilities. For example, analytic thinking may inhibit our natural intuition to believe in supernatural agents that influence the world. Alternatively, analytic thinking may simply cause us to override our intuition to believe and pay less attention to it. It’s important to note that across studies, participants ranged widely in their religious affiliation, gender, and race. None of these variables were found to significantly relate to people’s behavior in the studies.

Gervais and Norenzayan point out that analytic thinking is just one reason out of many why people may or may not hold religious beliefs. In addition, these findings do not say anything about the inherent value or truth of religious beliefs—they simply speak to the psychology of when and why we are prone to believe. Most importantly, they provide evidence that rather than being static, our beliefs can change drastically from situation to situation, without us knowing exactly why.

Are you a scientist who specializes in neuroscience, cognitive science, or psychology? And have you read a recent peer-reviewed paper that you would like to write about? Please send suggestions to Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at the Boston Globe. He can be reached at garethideas AT or Twitter @garethideas .

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  • Answers in Genesis
  • Patricia Engler Blog

What Is Critical Thinking Anyway—And Why Does It Matter?

Critical thinking is incredibly important when evaluating competing claims. But what does "critical thinking" really mean—and why should Christians care about it?

Pop Quiz: Define Critical Thinking :

  • Mentally criticizing everyone you think about
  • Thinking quickly in dangerous situations
  • Evaluating messages to see whether they’re worth believing
  • Nobody really knows, but teachers and textbooks sometimes mention it
  • A synonym for “extra work”
  • None of the above

Okay, so if this were a real exam question, it’d be easy enough to eliminate the wrong-sounding answers and be left with C . But honestly, while I was growing up, the answer D and E better summarized how I viewed critical thinking. I’d see critical thinking referenced in places like textbook exercises, which suggested that students “think critically” about different concepts but didn’t often explain how to do that. So, I began to suspect that critical thinking is just a vague phrase which educators like using to make up assignments.

But then, I read another textbook that explained what critical thinking is really about: logically evaluating messages. 1 I realized that by thinking critically, I could avoid being taken in by bad arguments, manipulative advertisements, and even false teachers. After all, since God ’s Word is true, any teaching that opposes Scripture must be a lie, and recognizing lies in every area of life is what critical thinking is all about.

I started seeing how biblical, critical thinking skills can come in handy for almost any situation.

As a young person following Christ in a world which often opposes Scripture’s teachings, I started seeing how biblical, critical thinking skills can come in handy for almost any situation. Whether online, in classrooms, or on the media, we’re bombarded daily by persuasive (but often, unbiblical) messages that try to alter our thinking, sway our beliefs, and direct our decision making. Some of these messages may be at least partially true or promote useful ideas. But others, not so much. How can you tell what’s worth believing, and what isn’t?

Enter critical thinking.

Critical thinking is like a mental toolkit. The tools inside include skills such as spotting faulty logic, sensing psychological manipulation, and sorting out facts from opinions, interpretations, or assumptions. And after testing these tools over four years of secular university, I’d rate them a must-have for any Christian in secular classrooms and culture.

Wait, Isn’t “Critical Thinking” a Secular Toolkit?

Granted, some people may associate the words “critical thinking” with secular humanist agendas. Humanism is an atheistic worldview, relying on human reasoning alone as man’s ultimate authority for truth. Often, humanists (and even many Christians) may contrast “thinking” with “faith,” defining faith incorrectly as belief without evidence . Typically beginning with the belief, “If you can’t measure it, then it doesn’t exist,” 2 humanism praises rational thinking—where rational is often defined as “excluding any mention of God .”

Critical thinking is rational, in the technical (though not atheistic) sense of the word. So, through a quick switcheroo of these different definitions for “rational,” some people claim critical thinking is a bulwark of humanism. As a pamphlet from the American Humanist Association called Humanism and Critical Thinking states:

Since humanism is a rational philosophy, it is dependent on a methodology that successfully addresses questions and problems related to the natural world. Critical thinking provides that methodology and includes skills, attitudes, and dispositions that a person can learn and practice. In fact, science itself can be thought of as a subset of critical thinking. 3

No human can know everything, and human reasoning is fallible even by humanists’ own standards—especially since humanists believe the mind is a byproduct of evolution (and ultimately, a cosmic accident). And how do we know whether any thoughts resulting from a cosmic accident are trustworthy? Those thoughts would be accidents too. Besides, logic, rationality, and truth can’t be measured. So, they technically wouldn’t exist within a consistent humanist worldview anyway. 4

Being all-knowing, God can reveal truth to his creatures and give them faculties to know things for certain.

In contrast, a biblical worldview states that humans are made in the image of a logical God, who knows everything, who is the source of absolutes, who created an orderly universe, and who reveals truth through His Word. Being all-knowing, God can reveal truth to his creatures and give them faculties to know things for certain. Unlike humanism, then, a biblical worldview provides a consistent philosophical basis for logic, reasoning, critical thinking, and true knowledge. And since the Bible is the revelation from God, who cannot lie, it will always stand up to scrutiny. So, Christians have no reason to avoid critical thinking—and every reason to embrace it. In fact, you might say that it’s humanists who must have a much greater ‘faith’ than Christians to claim they can know anything for certain, without a mechanism to explain knowledge itself.

The Garden Analogy

Here’s another way to look at critical thinking skills. At the house where I grew up, our backyard had a small garden surrounded by rocks. Tall, weedy grass would grow around the rocks, out of reach of the lawnmower. So, my job was to snip back the weeds with a massive pair of garden pruners. Sometimes, their blades would run into rocks as I tried maneuvering the pruners between stones. But would the rocks get severed along with the grass? No way—they were too solid.

God’s word, as humanity’s only absolute authority for truth, is rock solid.

In the same way, critical thinking skills are like garden tools: pruners, hoes, and spades for destroying the weeds of lies, irrationality, and flawed logic in our thinking. God ’s Word, meanwhile, as humanity’s only absolute authority for truth, is rock solid. And no matter how determinedly anyone might try hacking against biblical teachings with a critical thinking tool, God ’s truth will ultimately remain unscathed.

Furthermore, just like critical thinking is only possible because God ’s Word provides a foundation for logic, that person in the garden can only stand up to hack against the stones because deep underground, a foundation of bedrock is upholding everything. Grounded on this bedrock of God ’s Word, Christians have every right to apply their critical thinking tools against any weedy lies obscuring the rock-solid truths of biblical teachings.

Tools for the Real World

Personally, I began realizing how valuable these tools truly are during my time as a student. While taking my science degree, I regularly heard repeated, persuasive messages which came from intelligent people, but which also contradicted the Bible . For example, I heard that Genesis 1–11 is a myth, that there’s no evidence against evolution , and that anyone who believes science points to some Intelligent Designer is from a “whacked-out tea party movement” which no “real” scientist supports. I even heard a professor argue that teaching kids about Jesus is the same as telling them about Santa.

Apologetics equips Christians to answer specific worldview questions.

Remember, these messages were coming from authoritative professors and textbooks, often backed by official-looking diagrams and illustrations. Sitting under these messages day after day became wearing, even though I’d spent years learning apologetics to defend my faith as a teenager. Apologetics, the study of why believing the Bible makes intellectual sense, equips Christians to answer specific worldview questions, like “ How do we know the Bible is true ?” or “What about apemen , evolution and millions of years ?” Being able to answer these questions is part of having the intellectual foundations that Christian students I’ve interviewed all over the world said was so important for keeping their faith at secular university. But as I discovered as a student myself, no matter how many apologetics answers you learn for defending your worldview, you're always bound to have new questions, because there will always be new information.

And then what do you do?

That’s where critical thinking skills come in. These skills help you think like a Christian apologist —to reason about any message that challenges Scripture and to arrive at a biblical, logical conclusion yourself. God’s Word is true, so anything that contradicts it must be a lie, and critical thinking skills equip you to identify how those lies fall apart. 6 This is especially important for students, who need accessible tools to process the faith-challenging messages they hear every day without draining valuable study time. But at some point, all of us encounter persuasive information presented as fact which challenges a biblical worldview. So, critical thinking matters for everyone.

For more on how to think critically about messages which challenge the Bible’s teachings, stay tuned for future posts and my new video series, CT (Critial Thinking) Scan, available now on the AiG Canada YouTube channel and AiG Canada Facebook page .

  • The most helpful definition I’ve found for critical thinking (Answer C from the “quiz”) is based out of MacDonald & Vaughn, The Power of Critical Thinking , 4th Canadian edition, (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada: Oxford University Press, 2016), 406–410.
  • This quote, which summarizes the atheistic belief of materialism, comes from the following TED talk which a professor played in one of my university classes: .
  • American Humanist Association, “Humanism and Critical Thinking,” 2016, .
  • For more on the inconsistencies of atheistic worldviews, see Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate , (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Publishing Group, 2009).
  • I once heard my critical thinking professor, a secularist, tell a student that we can’t know anything for certain. This stance is a consistency requirement for atheistic worldviews.
  • Answers in Genesis specializes in helping Christians develop a consistent, biblical worldview and has a ton of great resources (many that are absolutely free!) than can be accessed online at .
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  • Bible critical thinking

"Thinking Critically, Reading Faithfully: Critical Biblical Scholarship in the Christian College Classroom"

Profile image of William R. Osborne

2014, Criswell Theological Review

In religion departments across America, anecdotes abound of brilliant young students who —knowing too much for their own good— go to their small-church pastors and ask the perennial stumper: How did God make light before the sun? Or: Can you help me understand how Jesus is fully God and fully man? Or possibly: Where are dinosaurs in the Bible? At which point the student is told in so many words, “You just need to stop asking those kind of questions and believe.” Tragically, these students then slump away, intellectually baffled and spiritually deflated. These students simultaneously label themselves a “bad” Christian and wonder if they are even a Christian at all. Is faithful Christianity truly represented by the “do not ask questions; just believe what you are told” position presented here?

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biblical teaching on critical thinking

The T&T Clark Companion to Analytic Theology, edited by James Arcadi and James Turner

Daniel Howard-Snyder , Daniel J McKaughan

Christians in the West struggle with intellectual doubt more than they used to, especially university-educated Christians. It is common for young Christians to go off to college assured in their beliefs but, in the course of their first year, they meet powerful defenses of scientific naturalism and the basic Christian story (BCS, for short) in particular. What they learned at home or church seems much less plausible to them, and many are thrown into doubt. They think to themselves something like this: "To be honest, I am troubled about the BCS. While the problem of evil, the apparent cultural basis for the diversity of religions, the explanatory breadth of contemporary science, naturalistic explanations of religious experience and miracle reports, and textual and historical criticism of the Bible, among other things, don't make me believe the BCS is false, I am in serious doubt about it, so much so that I lack belief of it. In that case, how can I have Christian faith? And if I don't have faith, how can I keep on praying, attending church, affirming the creed, confessing my sins, taking the sacraments, singing the hymns and songs, and so on? I can't, unless I'm a hypocrite. So integrity requires me to drop the whole thing and get out." Of course, our student is not alone. Many Christians find themselves for some portion of their lives somewhere on the trajectory from doubt to getting out. What should we say to them? Some will say "Get out!", welcoming the development as a path to liberation. We'd like to explore a different response. We begin by affirming the integrity these Christians display by aiming to live in accordance with their best judgment. Further, we can address the basis of their doubt. But we suspect that many of them-perhaps quite rightly-will still be in enough doubt to cancel belief. They have a problem, a practical problem: should I sacrifice my integrity to stay in, or should I preserve my integrity and get out? Call this the problem of the trajectory from doubt to getting out. Christians in the West generally have an interest in responding to this problem, not least because of the plummeting population of youth in the Church, many of whom leave precisely because of their doubt. For those of us who are not in doubt and who deem the grounds for the BCS adequate for belief, there is still the matter of relating well to those who think otherwise. We suspect that a satisfying response will require Christian communities to rethink what authentic participation requires cognitively, and to find ways to encourage doubters-young and old-to participate with integrity despite their doubt. Notice that the problem presupposes that if you have enough doubt to cancel belief, then you can't have faith. We propose to examine this presupposition. Toward that end, we will assess three theories of faith, plump for one of them, and then apply it to the problem of the trajectory.

Journal of Religious Education

Don Michael Hudson

Patricia Kornelis

Intégrité: A Faith and Learning Journal

Matthew Easter

Christian M M Brady

Jonathan Van Santen

In this study, a university professor, a high school teacher, and two teacher-candidates engage in an inquiry into the identity and integrity of the religious studies teacher. Using Charteris’s (2014) ‘epistemological shudders’ as a framework, the authors explore the experience of learning to teach Bible in Christian schools by paying attention to the ways in which their experience with the unfamiliar intersected with their taken-for-granted beliefs and perspectives. The authors believe such reflections on experience are essential in particular to teachers of the Bible in Christian schools, but also, more generally, for ongoing lifelong teacher growth. This paper offers insights into how inquiry can be used as a method in a teacher education context. It also serves as an example of the importance of the partnership between universities and schools in the education of future teachers.

Douglas Shantz

I sum up my own approach to studying and teaching religion in terms of two motives: curiosity and respect. Curiosity includes a childlike interest in what really happened in the Christian past, and why; it also includes a certain adult cynicism and maturity that does not take things at face value. But to really probe the religious past also requires empathy and respect, so we do not too quickly make dismissive judgments and sabotage patient study and reflection. It is hard to keep these two motives of curiosity and respect in balance, and to value them equally in our academic work. But we do our students a disservice if we fail to keep the balance and allow both to inspire our study and teaching.

Laura Duhan-Kaplan

Today, in some political circles, lack of critical thinking is a marker of belonging. Some religious communities actively teach people to avoid critical thinking. And legislators in some US states are moving to make some kinds of critical thinking illegal. Here I explore how this decay of critical thinking emerged, and how religious communities can respond. First, I focus on the role our changing media technologies played. Then, I note why some political actors exploit these media trends. Finally, I describe strategies religious communities can use to weave critical thinking education into their liturgy, preaching, scripture study, and classes. To do this, I offer three examples from my own Jewish tradition, based on early rabbinic traditions of midrash (Biblical interpretation), chavruta (paired study), and liturgy. To craft this interdisciplinary exploration, I draw on the work of historians, journalists, educators, media theorists, political scientists, biblical scholars, and theologians.

James Callahan

The general complaint against recent Christianity is its lack of identity (specifically, its reliance on prevailing power-and thought-forms and therefore acquiescence to find approval). Christianity lacks Christian faith-this is the most direct charge. And any effort to critically realize alternatives engenders halfway measures at best in response to legitimate questions raised against the enfranchisement of Christianity and its sacred texts. The very premise allows for the defectability of Christianity. But this is something Christianity insists is impossible. This paper was shared among graduate students in religious studies for a recent discussion of alternative forms of criticism directed against inherited forms of Christian faith. This alternative employs the early anabaptistic experiences and the Schleitheim statement, but shouldn't be read as an anabaptistic document (they wouldn't like it).


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Biblical Critical Thinking for Christians: Living the Truth

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The Bereans provide a wonderful example of biblical critical thinking—analyzing what they are exposed to and comparing it against the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).

As members of God’s Church, when we were called to live God’s way of life, we took the time to prove the true doctrines of the Church and disprove many traditional Christian doctrines that contain ideas not consistent with the Bible. Those of us who are second- or third-generation Christians also had to closely examine our beliefs before baptism and prove them for ourselves.

An important academic tool taught to students is critical thinking. This type of objective analysis is reflected in the biblical admonishment to “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

For those who are members of God’s Church, this tool is basically what we used when first confronted with God’s truth. We wanted to make sure we were embracing that truth, so we likely got books and computers out, studied the Bible, and by our research, we proved those things.

As we go through life and form our opinions and beliefs on issues in the world around us, do we use critical thinking?

We are exposed to all kinds of mainstream news, political agendas and theories from a variety of media sources. Newsletters and blogs are more popular than ever, and they can be convincing and seem right. Whenever we believe and embrace a stance on an issue of the day, do we honestly study both sides of the issue before believing it?

When we examine issues outside the Church and then do what seems right to us without proper biblically-based critical thinking, it can cause confusion, trouble and possibly lead us in the other direction from God. In our culture today, there is indeed a famine of truth! Notice Hosea 4:1-2. Ancient Israel, like many modern nations, allowed falsehoods and myths in their societies.

The originator of all deceptive teaching is Satan the Devil, and he holds sway over our world. If he can’t deceive us about God’s truth, one of his tricks is to get us to embrace falsehoods of the world. Without comparing what we hear to God’s Word and His ways, these falsehoods can cause us to have attitudes that are independent of God’s ways. This can result in us neglecting our calling to God’s Church, Sabbath services and causing division. This is the Devil’s snare mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:25-26.

In Matthew 24:4, Christ’s first end-time warning was for us to not be deceived. We can now see how serious that warning is!

Virtually all the letters of Paul, Peter, John and Jude urged brethren not to be led astray by false teachings of any kind (1 Timothy 1:3-4). In the last 20 years the Internet has been overflowing with theories and opinions of people on every extreme.

Take everything with a “grain of salt”—think critically about what you read so you can avoid deception.

Here are three ways God tells us in His Word how to avoid deception:

Love the truth (John 17:17)!

Notice how serious this is in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12. The only real truth is God’s Word (John 17:17), and the truth makes us free (John 8:32). When you read or hear any opinion, examine it and think, “Is this compatible with God’s Word?”

Guard the door to your mind (Proverbs 14:15).

Just like a computer virus, we can ingest corrupting information that can lead us astray. Be informed without being corrupted.

Prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Notice this is not just in the realm of religion—it covers all things. Christ taught that we must use righteous judgment—not according to appearances (John 7:24)! That means learning all sides to an issue.

Like trusting sheep, it can be easy for us to be lead astray. Don’t be infected with Satan’s distractions, deceits and the polarized society in which we live. It is crucial that we examine everything we read and hear against the Bible. The Bereans “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They provide a wonderful example of biblical critical thinking—analyzing what they are exposed to and comparing it against the Scriptures.

We know much greater deception will come to this world before Christ returns to restore all things—including truth. As our Lord Jesus Christ taught: don’t be deceived, guard the door to your mind, love the truth and prove all things!

Evan J. Chase

biblical teaching on critical thinking

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On Critical Thinking

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All academic inquiry must be judged by the standards and criteria common to all scholarship.

See Synopsis of Misusing Scripture: What Are Evangelicals Doing with the Bible?

See Misusing Scripture: A Brief Rejoinder

 See Response to Jim West, “Misusing Scripture: A Brief Rejoinder”

By Niels Peter Lemche University of Copenhagen  September 2023 

I used to start a new class telling students that they should believe nothing that they are told. And most important, they should believe nothing I tell them. Academic inquiry demands evidence. It was easy to see from their reaction that they were more than surprised. They had probably never heard a teacher say that they should not believe anything the teacher told them.

The point, of course, is that the only acceptable academic inquiry must be 100 percent critical. Either you are critical – or you are not. There is nothing in between; not 50 percent critical or even 90 percent critical.  All academic inquiry must be judged by the standards and criteria common to all scholarship.

As a critical scholar, you should never accept the results concerning any academic subject, unless it is subjected to a critical evaluation. There is no subject which is so venerable that you cannot critically evaluate it.

But tell this to theologians of the usual standard. We know that it is risky to travel to Iran and claim that Muhammad never lived and that what is written in the Quran is simply religious insanity. However, nobody claims that such assertions have anything to do with critical thinking. Of course they do not, and the consequence of such a way of thinking is absurd.

In Iran and fundamentalist Islam in general is there something different in their analysis of their sacred texts from the way fundamentalist Christianity is reading their texts? Many westerners argue there is. But is there? The recent collection of studies published by Mark Elliott, Kenneth Atkinson, and Robert Rezetko  ( Misusing Scripture; What are Evangelicals Doing with the Bible ? 2023) has a different story to tell. They insist that the evangelical so-called scholarship has abused Scripture for its own purposes, claiming that evangelicals are defending biblical truth against assaults by non-believers. As a matter of fact, evangelicals are just repeating what fundamentalist theologians have always done. When biblical truth – as they understand it – is under attack, they react not with scholarly arguments but by using force. Biblical truth is the standard for studying the texts, but they are not very good at explaining what this means in a world which is very intellectually different from the world in which the Bible originated. By their arrogant claim that they know what biblical truth is, most evangelicals simply assume that they have some kind of mysterious knowledge of the ways of God. In reality, they are behaving like Iranian mullahs, although sadly (or so they think) restricted by modern secular beliefs. It never occurs to them that they are themselves relics from the past.

I have explained to the editors that I have only one problem with their title. I would perhaps not say, “What are evangelicals doing with the Bible?” but “What have evangelicals done to the Bible?” But I am also living in a part of the world where evangelicals do not have the importance as in “Iran” (using Iran as a symbol of a very serious problem), or for that matter in the United States. In Europe we certainly have evangelical Christianity, but politically and intellectually it is not very important, and has not been for the last hundred years, whether in Protestantism or in Catholicism.

Leaving Catholicism for a moment – after all the Bible does not play the all-important role which it has in Protestant communities – in Protestantism we have witnessed the rise of critical biblical scholarship, a movement that has by now lasted for more than 200 years. It is not perfect, but the general idea is that we are now living more than 2000 years later than the biblical era, and a lot has changed since then. I have sometimes referred to Johann Phillip Gabler’s inaugural speech at the University of Ingolfstadt in 1787. Here he commented on the relevance of the biblical passage stating that Paul said women should be silent in the congregation. Yet, this may only be true for Paul’s time, but we are living in 1787 … meaning that Paul’s advice may not carry much weight in 1787 (not to speak of 2023). ( An English translation of Gabler’s speech can be found in Ben C. Ollenburger, ed., Old Testament Theology: Flowering and Future , Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2004: 497 – 506. ) As a matter of fact, Gabler’s speech has a lot to contribute to this discussion, as the main trust of his lecture is that biblical studies should precede after their own rules, and not impeded by dogmatic concerns.

Ever since Gabler’s time evangelicals have tried to diminish the importance of critical scholarship, creating their own forum for the interpretation of the Bible. It seemingly works very well for them especially in the United States. Critical scholarship of the kind described here, i.e., 100 percent critical and totally independent from “dogmatic” concerns – dogmatic just meaning any religiously based opposition – has been ridiculed, misrepresented and never accepted by religious people who are convinced that they possess the truth. This has resulted in an inappropriate importance for the Bible in general as a guide to the present, including the natural sciences in all their aspects. It has also resulted in the creation of a dichotomy within present society, between faith-based ideas of life and science, or to be blunt, in the marginalization of the Bible in modern discourse. This is a major problem when we realize that the Bible is providing an image of humans, which we should realize comes from an ancient era containing many different ideologies and beliefs, several of which are not compatible with Western notions of the value of human beings.

What have evangelicals done to the Bible: They have marginalized it, made it unimportant – except for themselves.

Article Comments

"what have evangelicals done….

"What have evangelicals done to the Bible: They have marginalized it, made it unimportant – except for themselves."

Here is a snip from: Bridging the Religion - Science Divide, a Review of David Sloan Wilson’s Darwin’s Cathedral, Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, Richard Faussette, Published 2003

[Snip] People intuitively know that religious morality as embodied in Calvin’s catechism is vital to the health of society. Ken Ham, the fundamentalist Christian, is lambasted because he espouses Creationism over evolutionary theory, but then Ham is a religious man whose primary concern is not for the physical sciences. He says:

"If Christian leaders have told the next generation that one can accept the world’s teachings in geology, biology, astronomy, etc., and use these to (re)interpret God’s Word, then the door has been opened for this to happen in every area, including morality."

Ham’s primary concern is not the age of the earth, but the viability of the Ten Commandments from which Calvin’s catechism is drawn. Is he wrong? No. The belief system and social organization that Calvin founded based on Christianity “caused a city of roughly 13,000 souls to function more effectively than it ever did before. Indeed reform minded people from all over Europe flocked to Geneva to learn and export the secrets of its success.”

Ken Ham champions Biblical morality because it is evolutionarily adaptive, but he doesn’t know that. As a Christian fundamentalist he can’t get past the religion he embraces to look at the science he rejects, just as a lapsed religionist can’t get past the science HE embraces to consider the irrational HE rejects.

Wilson says religious beliefs should be considered from both rational and adaptive perspectives. If people are inclined to adaptive behaviors by a fear of God and their behaviors are truly adaptive, then the fear of God is adaptive, however irrational that belief may initially appear to an objective observer. [End Snip]

Consider Ken Ham's observation. His concern is the loss of our sexual morality (to LGBTQ+ ideological constructions). Is he right? LGBTQ+ ideology is based on a REVERSAL of the Levitical prohibitions at Leviticus 18:19-24.

When your community observes the Levitical prohibitions at 18:19-24 your total fertility rate rises. When your community ignores the Levitical prohibitions at 18:19-24 your total fertility rate falls.

Since segregated Orthodox Jewish communities observe the Levitical prohibitions and have the highest total fertility rates and one of the oldest ancient legacies in the world, it is obvious that the prohibitions preserve and advance an observing population, in fact, the prohibitions, which Ken Ham the evangelical Christian will not abandon, are the behavioral guarantors of the Abrahamic covenant.

Have non-evangelicals taught this to the evangelicals? No.

Do non-evangelicals know what the evangelicals know about biblical morality? It doesn't seem so. G.B., Europe and the U.S.A have falling TFRs, their borders have been dropped and pronatalist warlike adversaries are currently being imported into their nations whose leading religious clerics are mulling over a deeper engagement with (non-reproductive) LGBTQ+ behavior with its associated drop in total fertility rates. Would a religiously informed healthy populace embrace such self-destructive propaganda?

Evangelicals refuse to do so because they don't want to be "spewed out of the land." See Leviticus 18:25-29.

I drive an elderly woman home from a Baptist food pantry twice a week. I've been doing it for about two years now. The organization running the pantry is an evangelical group from the midwest. They have a permament staff at their church and a visiting staff from Texas that changes/rotates every two weeks. They do outstanding volunteer work caring for the poor and the hungry. From what I see over the last few years, they have good marriages and many, happy children, too.

That's interesting. The evangelical community maintains the Abrahamic covenant (of pronatalism), the first and most important of the biblical covenants, especially in light of Leftist propaganda that militates against covenantal fidelity and whose end game is extinction.

On their current trajectory, evangelicals may wind up becoming a viable remnant as we non-evangelicals are rapidly "spewed out of the land."

"...Religious beliefs should be considered from both rational and adaptive perspectives. If people are inclined to adaptive behaviors by a fear of God and their behaviors are truly adaptive, then the fear of God is adaptive, however irrational that belief may initially appear to an objective observer." - David Sloan Wilson

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Christian School Administrators and Preservice Teachers Consider Critical Thinking with Dr. Juan Valdes

Home \ Faith News \ Christian School Administrators and Preservice Teachers Consider Critical Thinking with Dr. Juan Valdes

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biblical teaching on critical thinking

April 4, 2024

biblical teaching on critical thinking

Throughout the conference, administrators have opportunities to interact with Faith students in various contexts. They visit college classes, eat lunch with students, and share information about personnel needs over coffee at Twigs or during an informal education career fair in the gymnasium on Thursday evening. For about an hour, students visit displays and learn about various schools and current or expected vacancies. 

biblical teaching on critical thinking

Administrators, mark your calendars. The 2025 Educators’ ENLIST Conference will be held February 27-28, 2025. As the date approaches, visit for more information. 

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  1. What does the Bible say about critical thinking?

    Critical thinking encompasses these qualities by involving the careful analysis of facts to draw well-considered, objective conclusions. A critical thinker is skeptical when he or she approaches new information but intends to discover the truth. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, God commands us to "test everything, hold fast to what is good.".

  2. What Does the Bible Say About Critical Thinking?

    1 John 4:7-17 ESV / 8 helpful votesHelpfulNot Helpful. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live ...

  3. A Biblical Foundation for Critical Thinking

    A Biblical Foundation for Critical Thinking. September 30th, 2015. God's Word is sharper than a sword. And, it should also be the foundation from which we start our thinking! "Does not the ear test words, as the palate tastes its food?" (Job 12:11) Ideological Instability. There are countless people in our world that will embrace almost ...

  4. Why Critical Thinking is Important for Christians (And How ...

    The person begins the process of critical thinking, engages scholarly resources created by Christians, and remains secure in their faith. Or, they either (1) don't engage those resources or (2) find them lacking, and "deconvert" from Christianity into some form of atheism or agnosticism.

  5. Critical Thinking in Religious Education

    It is an integral part of critical thinking and effective religious education within the Church. Finally, according to this definition, critical thinking assesses "information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.". This portion of the definition ...

  6. Jesus' Questions in the Gospel of Matthew: Promoting Critical Thinking

    From a biblical perspective, Jesus challenged his followers to use critical thinking to solve problems associated with preaching and teaching (James et al., 2015). Critical thinking is an expectation of the mature Christian, and most importantly every Christian as he or she actively engages in faith in the world ( Sanders, 2018 ).

  7. PDF Critical Thinking, the Bible, and the Christian

    Critical thinking has many defini-tions, ranging from the ability to en-gage in useful, self-regulatory judg-ment5 to the broad ability to interpret information and approach problems correctly,6 or to the simple ability to analyze arguments.7 Educators have called for the teaching of critical-thinking skills; yet results from imple-ating ...

  8. Resources for Teaching Bible Students Critical Thinking Skills

    Practical Critical Thinking for Grades 9-12 by Catherine Connors-Nelson. While this is a secular teacher's manual and student book set, it has so many good basics in it. Many of the activities could be adapted or you could use the general skills information and develop your own activities. The "Case" book series by Lee Strobel.

  9. Christian Worldviews and Critical Thinking

    A Christian Perspective on Critical Thinking. The bottom line, in a Christian worldview, is that humans are sinful, we need a savior, and our salvation is in Jesus Christ, not human reason. On the other hand, logical reasoning is useful, it should be highly valued, and "critical thinking must be a part of every Christian classroom if we are to ...

  10. PDF Using the Bible to Stimulate Critical Thinking E

    Using the Bible to Stimulate Critical Thinking BY PAUL N. HAWKS E ducators today are calling for students to learn critical thinking skills. This topic, though perhaps lost sight of over the years, is hardly new. The most widelv acclaimed thinker in Judeo-Christian thought declared that reverence for the Lord is the first

  11. Lesson 25: The Christian's Thought Life (Philippians 4:8)

    In Philippians 4:8 Paul exhorts us to develop a Christian thought life. His words should not be divorced from the context. Practicing verse 8 is essential if we want to develop and maintain healthy relationships (4:2-3, 5). A Christian thought life is also integral to a life of joy (4:4) and peace (4:6-7) in every situation. Since our thoughts ...

  12. How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God

    Analytic thinking reduced religious belief regardless of how religious people were to begin with. In a final study, Gervais and Norenzayan used an even more subtle way of activating analytic ...

  13. What Is Critical Thinking Anyway—And Why Does It Matter?

    Critical thinking provides that methodology and includes skills, attitudes, and dispositions that a person can learn and practice. In fact, science itself can be thought of as a subset of critical thinking. 3. No human can know everything, and human reasoning is fallible even by humanists' own standards—especially since humanists believe ...

  14. Think Christianly, Think Critically: Faith-Learning Integration

    Abstract. Using a quantitative research design, this study examined the patterns of growth in select faith-learning integration outcomes—critical thinking and perceived importance of worldview development—and the college environments and experiences influencing such growth over four years of college among students attending Christian colleges and universities.

  15. Journal of Adventist Education

    82-4:2020. Critical Thinking, the Bible, and the Christian. E ducators in Adventist schools face challenges posed by the influences of secularism in public education when they choose a textbook, look for a video to illustrate a point, and even when they select articles for students to read. The difficulty often comes from the non-alignment of ...

  16. Bible critical thinking

    Beyond assessing Christian claims, teachings, and cultural messages, critical thinking enhances decision-making. Relying on Scripture as our ultimate authority and the Holy Spirit as our guide, we should evaluate crucial life decisions concerning education, marriage, job opportunities, and investment opportunities.

  17. What Does the Bible Say About Critical Thinking?

    The Bible repeatedly instructs Christians to test teachings, gain wisdom and knowledge, avoid foolishness, and develop sound judgment. Critical thinking is biblical. Examples of critical thinking include the Bereans examining Scripture, Jesus' skillful debates with Jewish leaders, Solomon's wise judgments, and Paul's rhetorical arguments.

  18. (PDF) "Thinking Critically, Reading Faithfully: Critical Biblical

    Some religious communities actively teach people to avoid critical thinking. And legislators in some US states are moving to make some kinds of critical thinking illegal. ... The remainder of this essay will seek to address these questions, and thereby shed some light on how critical thinking and critical biblical scholarship can fonction in ...

  19. Biblical Critical Thinking for Christians: Living the Truth

    The Bereans provide a wonderful example of biblical critical thinking—analyzing what they are exposed to and comparing it against the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). ... John and Jude urged brethren not to be led astray by false teachings of any kind (1 Timothy 1:3-4). In the last 20 years the Internet has been overflowing with theories and opinions ...

  20. On Critical Thinking

    The point, of course, is that the only acceptable academic inquiry must be 100 percent critical. Either you are critical - or you are not. There is nothing in between; not 50 percent critical or even 90 percent critical. All academic inquiry must be judged by the standards and criteria common to all scholarship.

  21. Jesus: The Master of Critical Thinking

    Consider the speech of Jesus in John 8:47 where your has been engaged in a long series of arguments with the scribes both Pharisees that leads to this powerful argument. Premise 1: If you are of God then you heareth God's words. Premise 2: You know them not. Conclusion: Therefore: it are not of God.

  22. Teaching for Critical Thinking: Tools and ...

    In Teaching for Critical Thinking, Stephen Brookfield explores how students learn to think critically and what methods teachers can use to help. In his engaging, conversational style, Brookfield establishes a basic protocol of critical thinking that focuses on students uncovering and checking assumptions, exploring alternative perspectives, and ...

  23. PDF Adolescence Students' Critical Thinking Skills in The Context of

    The teachings in the Bible are often conveyed in metaphors, parables, simplicity, empathy, paradoxes, or commands. In this regard, every reader of the Bible needs critical thinking skills to comprehend the conveyed meaning. Based on the background explained above, this research aims to measure the extent of critical ...

  24. Christian School Administrators and Preservice Teachers Consider

    Having recently written the book How to Think: A Crash Course in Critical Thinking and with over 20 years of experience teaching critical thinking and philosophy to Christian high school students, Dr. Valdes adeptly and winsomely impressed on attendees their need to be champions of critical thinking in a post-truth age. Several administrators ...

  25. S1-E12: Critical Thinking in Higher Education Settings: A ...

    Listen to this episode from In Pursuit of Excellence: Teaching in Christian Higher Education on Spotify. Co-hosts, Drs. Shawn Bielicki and Tom Doss welcome Dr. Daniel Berkenkemper, Department Chair and Assistant Professor for the Academic Success Center in the College of Applied Studies and Academic Success at Liberty University. In this episode, Dr. Berkenkemper explores critical thinking and ...

  26. INTO critical of change to criteria for teaching supports

    INTO critical of changes to criteria for teaching support hours Updated / Tuesday, 2 Apr 2024 17:49 The change in criteria was introduced in February and has faced considerable opposition

  27. Why some Christians are angry about Trump's 'God Bless the USA' Bible

    Former President Donald Trump's endorsement of a patriotic Bible during Holy Week has been challenged by some Christians who say it preys on people's faith for profit.