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Episode 80: Let My People Think- Critical Thinking and the Christian Life

christian life podcast Oct 08, 2020

Episode 80 Show Notes 

Many people have struggled to give a proper definition to critical thinking. This is especially true when it comes to the Christian life. Is it right to say that Christians- people who live by faith- should think critically about God and this world? And if so, what difference does this make? This is episode 80 of the Better Bible Reading Podcast with Kevin Morris!




Bible Verses Reference from the English Standard Version (ESV):

Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Ephesians 4:11-14

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Should people create a contrast between that which is assumed and that which is thought of critically? While trying to create a space for critical thinking theory, people have struggled to decide whether critical thought is an extension of logic, a distinct enterprise, or a matured form of assumed intuition. Ultimately, it matters whether the reality and assumptions and critical thinking are mutually exclusive. This paper seeks to demonstrate why both assumptions and critical thinking are not mutually exclusive but rather, mutually dependent.

First, it’s important to understand the role of critical thinking in questioning one’s assumptions. How does one know whether or not they have assumptions? Gary Klein makes the case that critical thought, or in his case insights, are gained by escaping flawed beliefs and transitioning from a passive to an active stance. These two actions are significant for several reasons. First, they demonstrate that the first step in moving from assumption to critical thought is to be self-conscious- not in a social sense but in a psychological sense. Truly, people cannot readily exercise critical thought without first coming to terms with their own assumptions. While assumptions are often viewed as the antithesis to critical thought, critical thought could not be exercised to its freeing capacity unless someone is self-conscious of their own assumptions. 

While assumptions are a helpful starting point to the process of critical thought, it is not enough to simply be aware of one’s own assumptions. This calls for the second consideration, which is the essential nature of assumptions to thinking critically. How does the awareness of assumptions actually support critical thought? One can look again to Klein for an answer. Assumptions are not bad, but they must be put into check by critical thinking. It is therefore necessary to evaluate one’s own assumptions by “a process of flagging the right connections and contradictions to spotlight”. 

This is the reality of escaping from the negative element of assumptions. This negative element is expressed as “people gripped by a flawed theory [who] can ignore, explain away, or distort evidence that could lead to insights”. People must not be expected to disown any assumption that they possess. This is illogical and impossible, since doing so would be operating under the assumption that all assumptions are barriers to critical thinking. Instead, people should operate under the qualifiers suggested by Klein, in order to test their assumptions- whether they are contradictions that become obstacles to critical thought.

The original question can now be revisited: should people create a contrast between that which is assumed and that which is thought of critically? After considering these two aspects, it seems that the answer is no. Assumptions are as much a part of critical thought as any, regardless of the context in which someone wants to situate critical thought. Assumptions help the critical thinking process, just like intuition and data work in an organic and methodized synergy. But critical thought is the check factor for assumptions- the testing of one’s assumptions to discover whether they are viable or not. Seeing both assumptions and critical thought as aides to the human experience is the difference between being a critical thinker and merely assuming oneself as such.


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