Developing Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is crucial to personal growth and the prevention of spiritual abuse. No one is born with it; it must be cultivated. 

The following excerpt from Steven Smith’s article, “A Biblical Perspective on Spiritual Authority and Critical Thinking” might serve as an excellent New Year’s resolution list:

‘How can a Christian develop critical thinking skills? Here are ten steps I wish I had followed:

  • Pray for the Spirit of wisdom (James 1:5-8).
  • Intentionally encounter diverse people and perspectives. Travel. Listen to podcasts from other preachers and teachers. Cultivate friends outside of your church circle.
  • Zondervan’s Counterpoint series is an excellent way to study thorny theological matters. Scholars from each major position present their case on a particular topic, and the other scholars interact with those essays.
  • Learn to dialogue instead of shutting down at the first hint of difference.
  • Educate yourself about the world at large. Read foreign English newspapers. Subscribe to a blog (or ten). Think outside the box.
  • Learning to think critically is like training for an athletic event. Find “trainers” who will stretch you, tone you, and give you a good workout. Ravi Zacharias always helps me to think more clearly (find his website here).
  • Idolize no man or woman. Respect and admire, but put no one on a pedestal except for God.
  • Do theology in community. Yes, discuss spiritual things in your own local church, but also engage with the Church universal, and the historical church. There are (and have been) wise Christians throughout the world who have thought well about God, other people, and themselves.
  • Embrace mystery and give grace for “grayness” in disputable matters. Not every theological issue is critical for salvation. Really. As one of my seminary professors says, heaven will be like torn paper: it tears unevenly. We will be surprised at some of the people who made it in…and even more surprised by who’s missing.
  • Relax. Enjoy being part of the Body of Christ and humble yourself to receive from other people, even people outside your church or denomination. If Solomon’s temple couldn’t hold all of the presence of God, neither can your little church.’

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