Critical thinking and the Bible

What exactly does the bible say about critical thinking?

Many religious believers are under the impression that the bible teaches critical thinking and argue that critical thinking forms an integral part of their faith. Personally – I don’t see how on earth faith can be based on critical thinking. That is why it is called “faith.”

A good place to begin is to define the term:

The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin

The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin

Defining “Critical Thinking.”

There are multiple definitions of the term, some of which are religionists attempts to alter the meaning of the words in order to defend their irrational beliefs, but these are some accepted terms as applied to beliefs and whether or not there is any rational validity to them.

Wikipedia – and this is the one I am most attached to as a reasonable definition says that “Critical thinking is a way of deciding whether a claim is true, partially true, or false.” They also use more terms such as “using reason in the formulation of beliefs,” and “reflective skepticism.” Their full definition is here.

The Foundation for Critical Thinkingdefines it thus: “Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them. Their full definition is here.

Indiana University has an interesting definition here, in downloadable PDF form which they use as a handout to students and they say (amongst other things) ” Critical thinking is a set of skills and attitudes that are deployed selectively to evaluate arguments.”

So, although there is some ambiguity in the meaning of the term, and there are many possible definitions, there are most certainly some things that critical thinking is not!

So – what does the bible say about Critical Thinking?

This is what the bible says about critical thinking:


The bible and critical thinking

The bible and critical thinking

And if you are wondering what that is, it is a tumbleweed. This is allegorical for –NOTHING!

Yes – you heard me right – the bible says nothing, nada, zip, rien, sweet Fanny Adams, Fuck All! about critical thinking. Trust me – I have looked. But – that does not stop certain religious people from twisting the words to lie that it does. Here is a great example:

Dr Joel McDurmon, whose sole raison d’être seems to be to twist the meaning of words to lie about what the bible says – in order to make money – no less. 🙁 says: “the Bible uses the word “critical” in a very important way,” and “the Bible itself sets the ultimate standard for godly critical thinking.”

So – rather than admit the bible says sweet F.A about critical thinking, he creates a new meaning that – well, makes no sense at all. If you want to lie and say that godly critical thinking is the same as genuine critical thinking – I guess you must have a book to sell. Of course, he goes on to say that one must ‘divest the phrase “critical thinking” of the humanistic, skeptical baggage normally associated with it.” Which – of course renders the words meaningless. He does go on then to tell all Christians that their job is to judge others and ignore the bible’s instruction “judge not, that ye be not judged,” because that doesn’t mean what it says either.

And if you want to hear more of this irrational attack on reason that sells books – go here.

The King James' Book of Majick

The King James’ Book of Majick

The Bible Teaches Intellectual Dishonesty in Place of Critical Thinking

 If the preceding example was not enough to back up this claim, I will offer more examples of Liars For Jesus (TM) demonstrating a high level of intellectual dishonesty, while at the same time claiming to be using Critical Thinking or Reasoning skills. This is one of my favorites:

Oddly enough, this is from another self proclaimed Doctor who – coincidentally – has a book to sell. His Doctoral degree is from a Theological Seminary, mind you. Regardless, this is what Dr.Witherington has to say in his essay entitled “Critical Thinking— What Is it and Why is it Important to Believers?”

He first of all defines the term, and then laments the fact that critical thinking is used to criticize the bible and therefore ‘gets a bad name,’ amongst religionists. But my absolute favorite example of intellectual dishonesty is this: “take the case of the person that dogmatically says ‘miracles don’t happen because in the natural world as it exists they can’t happen,”

Dogmatically using the term “miracle,” correctly? By any stretch of the imagination a miracle must occur outside the bounds of nature to be called a miracle. Unfortunately, this attack on reason dressed up as an argument for critical thinking is typical of the type of intellectual dishonesty the bible seems to engender. The entire essay is here.

It appears the only thing critical thinking should not be applied to is belief in majick.

A Pastor’s Thoughts

Intellectual dishonesty and Biblical belief go hand in hand

Intellectual dishonesty and Biblical belief go hand in hand

This is another one of my favorites, and the amount of this sort of thing I come across leads me to genuinely think that biblical belief leads inevitably to intellectual dishonesty.

According to the Hanover Baptist Church, in their essay entitled,

What does the Bible say about critical thinking?

“First words set the tone. When a tale begins with “Once upon a time…” every reader knows that it is a fairy tale and critical thinking takes a break. When the Declaration of Independence begins with “When in the course of human events…” critical thinking is awakened to action. When the United States Constitution begins with “We the people of the United States…” critical thinking knows it has power. When the Bible starts with the words, “In the beginning God created…” critical thinking learns it has boundaries and values which inform our conscience.”

He the goes on to say that “God sets the boundaries and creates the values of critical thinking in the very first words of His revelation to mankind.” and makes several implications that the bible teaches that Christians should use critical thinking in their daily lives.

“Make critical thinking your regular thinking, finding your boundaries and values from God alone, and you will live a life pleasing in His sight.”

Well, I applied my critical thinking skills and found the first sentence in Genesis wanting. We now know that the earth was not “created,” until some time after “the beginning,” and it appears that GravityDunnit.

The full essay is here.

Yet more examples

I am not going to go on too much about this, but here are a couple more examples that make my argument for me.

This person is offering “Ten Steps toward Critical Thinking,” the first of which is to Pray for the Spirit of Wisdom. WTF? He also says that “In my former church, we embraced a counterfeit of critical thinking.” while offering yet another counterfeit version. Article here.

I lost count of the amount of these sort of articles I have come across as I researched this. I started out genuinely looking for biblical teachings on critical thinking, and all I found was lies and Christian apologetics. According to Bible Gateway, Critical thinking is important, but it functions best with the firm foundation of the fear of God,” and – once again, this makes a mockery of the term.

I think this is a good example of the cognitive dissonance that comes from believing what you know to be untrue and being unable to reconcile the two. Why else would there be so much obvious dishonesty around the question?