Matthew 3:1-2 reads, ‘In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Repent means many things, but the essence of the word is ‘to think differently’. We need to think differently. We need to think differently about the nature of progress, knowledge, and truth. We so easily buy into the humanistic concepts of our age. We tend to accept unthinkingly that scientific advancement is both good and inevitable and that competitive individualism is a virtue. We need to learn to think critically.
Several years ago, I supervised my first Masters candidate. He had completed a four-year degree programme at an accredited institution and had been in the pastoral ministry for more than a decade. The first chapter of his thesis arrived and I was distressed to find that it was little more than a bunch of quotes strung together. I sent his work back with explanations of how the thesis needed to reflect his own thinking. His second attempt was little better, so this time I sent him my own rework of a part of his chapter as an example of how he should develop his thesis. I was dumbfounded when I read his third submission; he had cut and pasted my work! I sought help from my friend and colleague, the late Dr Rex Mathie, and he explained two things to me. Firstly, in my student’s culture there was no higher honour he could give his professor than to quote from his teacher’s work. Secondly, nobody had taught him to think. Despite four years of full time higher education, this man did not know how to think critically.
The rate of change that is upon the world is bewilderingly fast. The foundations of society are shifting more quickly than the polar ice cap is melting. Technology is shaping a world we will hardly recognise in ten years time. If we are to survive, we need to learn to think creatively. However, God expects more than survival from us; he wants us to thrive. To thrive, we need to learn to think critically. This applies to all people but it is especially applicable to Christians. We are the ones who should be forming world opinion. We are the ones who should be leading a confused generation back to truth and godliness. We should be the inspired thinkers of our time.
One of the effects of the blizzard of change we are currently experiencing is the cloud of deception it generates. James wrote to the church of his day, ‘Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers’. (James 1:16) That warning was important then and it is even more important now.
To avoid deception we need grace, wisdom, and critical thinking skills. We need to learn to evaluate, test, analyse, and judge.
Satan usually appears as an angel of light, and deception most often presents itself clothed in fine sounding words and enticing proposals. We will be in grave danger if we do not learn to think critically. Remember, Jesus said that ‘false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform miraculous signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones’. (Mark 13:22-23 NLT) We have the Bible, and we have access to the knowledge and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Yet what many of us appear to lack, are critical thinking skills.
I recently completed a revised edition of the book: Truth is the Word – restoring a lost focus. Its second chapter is all about how we acquire knowledge. I have also designed the entire book in a way that stimulates thought and improves thinking skills. You can find out more about it at www.truthistheword.com