Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sound Thinking

How do we properly study the Bible? Should we interpret everything metaphorically? Is everything in the Bible directly applicable? How do I know if what my pastor is saying is true? All of these questions must be addressed in ones own life. One thing I've really noticed my entire life as a Christian is the dire lack of critical thinking in the modern church. Though it is crucial to have a kind and humble attitude towards others faults, I believe this fault is of such significance to where it must be addressed.

A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps. 
(Proverbs 14:15) 

How do we view the world around us, the word of God, and rightly assess the massive amounts of information that we encounter? The way in which we assess and think about things drastically affects the conclusions we make in our minds. If our thinking is faulty, our conclusions will be exactly that: faulty.

Even though I believe the lack of critical thinking stems from faulty education, I believe the issue should be addressed as a personal responsibility in adults. Though there is much to discuss, I would like to address three practical points in Biblical thinking that are crucial for the everyone to apply to their studies.

1. Grasp and apply simple logic

First and foremost we must be able to construct simple logical arguments. Though logic could be discussed in great depth, a cursory discussion of it is of great benefit. To begin with a simple deductive argument we must first discuss propositions. Propositions are statements that can be assessed as either true or false. A deductive argument begins with with a preliminary proposition called a premise. Premises are assumptions that must be agreed upon to continue the discussion. Next, within a deductive argument is inferences. Inferences are building blocks within the argument that lead you down a path of thought. Finally, a deductive argument hopefully comes to a conclusion. A conclusion should be affirmed on the basis of the premises and the inference made from them.

In conclusion here is an example of a deductive argument:

(Premise) All humans are sinful

(Inference) David was a human
(Conclusion) David was sinful

2. Understanding and recognizing fallacies

A fallacy in an argument is a flaw in reasoning. A great way to discuss fallacies is to give examples of them. See if you can see the fallacy in the following argument.

(Premise) All humans are sinful

(Inference) Demons are sinful
(Conclusion) Demons are human

This argument is fallacious because you cannot conclude solely from the propositions that demons are human. To correct the argument you would have to write it as such:

(Premise) All sinful things are human

(Inference) Demons are sinful
(Conclusion) Demons are human

As we critically think about the Bible, what people say, and just life in general, we must be able to recognize fallacies, and be able to assess things in a conclusive manner. As you encounter arguments of various forms in everyday life, try your best to assess them with a sound mind and test if they are fallacious or solid arguments.

3. Proper study of the Bible

No matter how perfect arguments are, they must come from proper information to be useful. A critical aspect of studying the Bible or any text is hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is a just a big word for the study of interpreting biblical or philosophical texts properly. Some simple rules of hermeneutics for Biblical texts are as follows:

1. Assess the context; Scripture taken out of context can convey something much different from it's original intention. 

2. Recognize the cultural context; Who was this written to? Why was this written? When was this written?

3. Realize potential translation clarity; The Bible has been translated multiple times and was not initially written in English.

4. Approach the Bible holistically; To gain a balanced and holistic theological view it is critical to combine verses from the whole Bible, not just build theology from one verse.

5. Recognize literary type; much like assessing the context, recognizing if the text is a narrative, prophesy, poetry, a letter, or history can be crucial in interpreting the text correctly.

Being aware of these rules in reading will greatly benefit you in properly understanding what God is trying to convey with the Word. We are responsible for how we read and what we tell others to be true so we must give upmost effort and attention to rightly reading the Bible.

Even though we barely touched on some of these topics I hope it will be helpful for you to recognize how important critical thinking is. If we have bad logic, can't recognize fallacies, and do not read and understand the Bible properly, a misshapen, malformed, and unhealthy version of Christianity will appear. Sadly we can see it all around is in the form of every variation of false doctrine and heretical systems of belief. As Paul writes to the church at Thessolonica, "Test everything; hold on to what is good." We must be able to properly assess everything we come across and have a sound foundation of truth. And yet as much as we can our minds we must give ourselves to prayer and submission to the one who regenerated our souls and breathed life into us: our great God, the Father of truth and light.

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you being rooted and grounded in love may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, length, height, and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:14-19

By: Tim Snyder

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