Use Your Brain!
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Today's blog article on critical thinking was written by guest contributor David Mahtani.
“No whys. Just no,” I say to my four-year-old as I drive down the street. I don’t have the patience, time, and mental energy in the moment to argue with him or to explain my reasoning.
“Ugh!” he groans in response, frustrated that I won’t engage him or allow him to try to persuade me about why he should have frozen Coca Cola from the gas station we just passed. If you’re a parent or an older sibling, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of similar interactions.
Once in a while, these kind of interactions can be cute. One day, my four-year-old exclaimed that I was going the wrong way. In this instance, I decided it would be easy enough to explain that I was taking a different route, but after I did so, he surprised me by simply concluding, “Okay, but I do not agree.” A four-year-old! After I suppressed my annoyance, I chuckled about it. I had explained what was clearly a fact in my mind, and my four-year-old had calmly responded that his opinion was correct instead! Ought he not trust me and just accept what I said to be true? I’m his parent, after all! We’re older and more experienced. We know better. Besides, it’s more convenient that way. It’s easier—takes less thought.
To develop an argumentative, disrespectful, and critical spirit towards authority is against the fifth commandment. To foster a relationship in which your children trust what you say is healthy. Furthermore, it feels good to receive the honorable expectation of usually being right.
That’s all true, but think for a moment with me about the implications of a constant diet of this kind of training. Is this the way we want our children and those in our community to think—to simply accept what their authority holds to be true? Fast-forward fifteen years, and now the authoritative figure in their life is an intelligent professor, an engaging author, a popular actor, or some random podcast or figure to follow. Have you taught your children to simply absorb what an authority figure claims to be fact?
“Because I said so” has its proper place, but it should be emphasized that our community must be taught logical and critical thinking. If we do not teach our children to be discerning, we will likely teach them to blindly follow who they esteem later on, whether the esteemed is smart, popular, the most educated, or the most doctrinal. They will recklessly inhale the ideas of a sinner.
But hold on a minute. I’m not promoting rationalism here. I’m promoting the age-old concept of Bereanism. Every logical thought or idea must be based on presuppositions or assumed truth, and that assumed truth, of course, is God’s word in its context. And I repeat: God’s word in its context.
Imagine this: the number one thing that your child has been committed to and convicted of as he grows up is that God’s word is absolutely true and God has lovingly given him a mind and spirit to understand it and to think and live on the basis of it. What then could go wrong! Yes, my child may stray for a time because of sin or other influences, but if he keeps on logically and critically thinking about truth based on God’s word, the Spirit will most definitely lead him to truth. No professor, book, movie, podcast, or pretty face can ultimately lead him astray because he will think critically about each idea and compare it to Scripture.
But now imagine this: We have trained our children to accept what is labelled “Reformed” or to simply absorb everything our teachers or pastors say or to hold to political views of a single party or to completely accept the authority of a book or author or creed because the author is simply more intelligent, educated, or spiritually mature. Imagine the danger of that mindset! To place trust and hope in an intelligent but sinful person or group of people! He will be carried about with many winds of doctrine based on who he has esteemed in his lifetime, and there is little likelihood that he will conclude that his parents are actually correct. What’s worse? He may never conclude that logical thought based on God’s word is correct.
I sometimes rudely blurt out to my kids, “Use your brain!” but there are other, better ways to wake them up to the reality of the amazing mind and spirit God has given to our regenerated children. “What do you think?” is a place to start, but more importantly, “What does God actually say?” (That is, not what people say God says.) Next time my four-year-old says, “I do not agree,” I might be motivated to help him formulate a logical argument instead.
That takes time and energy though, doesn’t it? If you want your kids to follow suit, you too must think critically and use your brain!
David Mahtani is the principal at Protestant Reformed Christian/Heritage Christian High Schools in Dyer, IN. He has worked in Christian schools for many years.