Tag Archives: Critical Thinking

God uses logic and evidence

28 Jul

The handwritten note peaked out between flyers and magazines as if to say, ‘Don’t miss me!’  I scanned the return address, quickly recalling a former student from Virginia.

Along with the graduation announcement and senior photo, he wrote an account of the four years just completed at this classical Christian school in Virginia.  I rejoiced to read his description of the long-term effect our 8th-grade logic and reasoning curriculum had exerted on his life. Encouraged and guided in HOW to question and to think logically had sparked the fuse that propelled him out of complacency in his studies.  Apparently, after I departed, hunger to grow intellectually had gripped him, for he had gained vision and a purpose for learning.  That kind of feedback would energize anyone!

I do give thanks that a middle school logic class birthed this young man’s interest in knowledge and ideas. Certainly, students need to know how to reason well and express themselves clearly in order to advance in academics.  But clear thinking is vital to all of us, even Christians.

Why do I say Christians must know how to express themselves clearly and evaluate arguments accurately?  Contemporary society bombards believers with the false and disreputable view that faith and science or faith and reason are antithetical.  Not true! But we people of the Book must be taught how to gently push back with the truth.  And that takes information and practice, in essence: ‘skill’.

Humans are not born knowing how to reason well. But just like my former 8th-grade student, we all can be taught and equipped with some basic tools and ways of evaluating both written and spoken thoughts.

Why is it important for Christians to use logic? Just today, in Isaiah 41, I read verse after verse where God exhorted His people to argue or reason on behalf of the efficacy of idols. Consider these 3 verses, 21-23 (NLT):

Present the case for your idols,”
    says the Lord.
“Let them show what they can do,”
    says the King of Israel.
22 “Let them try to tell us what happened long ago
    so that we may consider the evidence.
Or let them tell us what the future holds,
    so we can know what’s going to happen.
23 Yes, tell us what will occur in the days ahead.
    Then we will know you are gods.
In fact, do anything—good or bad!
    Do something that will amaze and frighten us.” 

God doesn’t want His people to fall back on ‘blind faith’.  He wants us to believe Him, count on Him, trust Him and thus obey Him having gained true knowledge. Like scientists who collect, observe, and study evidence we also must reason to likely conclusions. Listen to how He chides Jacob in Isaiah 40:26-28, encouraging the people to consider the evidence He provides:

Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.

‘Use the eyes, ears, and mind I’ve given you!‘ God seems to argue. From God’s perspective and His true knowledge, only willful obstinacy and sinful desires can explain Jacob’s irrational behavior, since they had been given ample visual and historical proof.

My former logic student probably doesn’t know how learning (and subsequently teaching) logic also changed my life. I had never been taught to think or to reason. No course in grade school or college had guided me in how to begin to evaluate others’ assertions, let alone construct my own reason-based logical argument.  Those six years at that classical Christian school altered my life for good!  I grew into a better reader, listener, thinker, and writer.

Reading this young man’s sweet note re-ignited MY passion for advocating for thinking. As the bumper sticker trumpets:

Critical Thinking - national deficit

 

Multiple assumptions behind tweet

11 Nov

The tweet read like this: 

CEOs with daughters run more socially responsible firms

Assumptions

Those words invite questions.  What shall we tackle first, the hidden assumptions or the terms?

Critical thinkers, those who use the tools of reason and logic, usually focus on the terms in a premise or position in order to move toward understanding the viewpoint under consideration.

Taking a look at ‘socially responsible’, I wondered, “What does that mean?”

A Google search yielded this definition from Wikipedia:

  • Social responsibility is an ethical framework, which suggests that, an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large. Social responsibility is a duty every individual has to perform so as to maintain a balance between the economy and the ecosystems

That definition alone generated further questions and thoughts.  Had I been able to sit down with either the definer of the concept of social responsibility OR the tweeter, I would have asked:

  • Who came up with this obligation? In other words, what grounds it?
  • Are there no other responsibilities besides economic and environmental?  What about life preserving or educational or skill building among workers?

A current national obstacle churning up much ‘Stürm und Drang’ is that citizens are split between very different world views and each holds SOME major values that are in opposition, one to the other.  As I heard Al Mohler on The Briefing mention the other day, the varying worldviews mean that people will identify DIFFERENT problems!  For example, if we disagree on the top 3 problems facing our country, how can we ever expect to compromise and coalesce behind workable solutions?

So much for terms. Let’s move on to the lurking pre-suppositions!  I did avail myself of the actual article.

Apparently the data collected sufficed for the author only to draw conclusions about male CEOs with children.  That in itself leaves us wondering about child-less CEOs or female CEOs.  Nevertheless, given the limited data, two of the unstated assumptions were:

  • It’s a healthy sign that leaders who are fathers who happen to have daughters prioritize reproductive liberties over other social concerns
  • Reproductive freedom contributes to the flourishing of our society

What about those dads who run companies that actually protect women and unborn female babies? Wouldn’t that contribute more to the welfare and vigor of our communities?

Here’s one more assumption:

  • any programs or strategies that prioritize environmental protection should be front and center in a company’s strategic plan

How about balancing preservation concerns with the economic vitality of the company?  If the company can’t remain competitive and grow a profit, then employees will lose out.  Life is a complex system or web of intertwining issues.

Pausing to pull apart an assertion and draw out the often-unstated assumptions, thereby seeking consensus about the fullness of the argument goes along with agreeing on the definition of terms.  The time spent on this kind of groundwork is worth it. Once that prep work is done, discussing reasons for one’s point of view goes much smoother and quicker.  And even if the defender and the questioner don’t agree, they can at least appreciate each other’s thinking!