I had a thought recently. I know this surprises you as much as it did me. For the most part, we are not a thinking people. Someone says, “Buy this,” and we buy it. Our society as a whole has lost the art of thinking. Since we don’t think much anymore, we now have people whose job it is to make labels for non-thinkers.
The other day, I saw one of these labels on an iron-on transfer kit to make your own T-shirt design. The label read, “Do not iron while wearing shirt.” Wouldn’t the average person know how dangerous it would be to run an iron across a heat transfer design while wearing the shirt? I guess not.
And then there’s the label on the back of a bottle of children’s cough syrups that reads, “Do not drive car or operate heavy machinery.” I don’t think children should be driving or operating heavy machinery whether or not they are taking cough syrup. But someone wasn’t thinking.
The Bible talks a lot about the art of discernment, another term for thinking. In the process of thinking you gather, explore, evaluate and then assign values to ideas, situations, circumstances and decisions. Scripture defines two types of thinking, that of a child and that of an adult. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Cor. 13:11).
What’s the difference between childish thinking and adult thinking? A true adult uses the Word of God as a part of his thinking process and makes decisions in agreement with God’s Word. So do you need a Bible to see if you should iron a decal on your shirt while wearing it? It wouldn’t hurt, but it shouldn’t be necessary, either.
I love the part in the Bible where Jesus asked His disciples two questions. The first was a non-thinking one, and the other was tremendously deep-thinking. In Mark 8:27, Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” His followers didn’t even have to use one brain cell to repeat what they had heard.
And the answers were easy: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets” (Mark 8:28). But Jesus, the Master of making people think, turned the question around: “But who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29). Now that’s a question you have to think about. And the answer requires a lot of thinking, too.
Too often our churches train our children and students to know the answer to the question “Who do other people say I am?” They can quote back what their Sunday School teacher, youth pastor or senior pastor says, but when the questions comes around to “Who do you say I am?” this generation falls apart. They can’t give a reasonable defense for the faith.
I’ve spent my life taking students into cross-cultural situations where Sunday School answers won’t work. Now don’t get me wrong. I am a big proponent of Sunday School, but our teaching must move from thinking as a child to theology and apologetics. These subjects equip us for the adult skill of speaking in defense of our faith.
If we don’t teach our children critical thinking, we are raising up the Church of Homer Simpson. I don’t know if you have ever seen the television show The Simpsons, and I honestly hope you haven’t. But when Homer, the father of the family is put in a situation where he doesn’t know the answer or what to do, he says, ”D’oh!”
I think our non-thinking culture is teaching the members of the church, when asked a serious question, to respond by saying, “D’oh!”
“How do you know that Jesus is the Son of God?”
“How do you know the Bible is true?”
“Is there such a thing as absolute truth?”
“How do you know Jesus arose from the grave?”
There’s a difference between knowing what you believe and understanding why you believe it. Too often, I have seen the church send her students off to college where their faith is questioned. And too often, they stand there without a reasonable answer.
If your faith is shaken and you don’t have an answer, it won’t be too long before you leave it behind. Your faith is only as good as your ability to defend it.
“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise” (1 Cor. 3:18).
Lord, may we be fools to the world and wise in the things of You.