How to Think Critically as a Christian

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How to Think Critically as a Christian

Naisitt (1995) defines paradox as “a statement or formulation that seems contradictory or absurd but is actually valid or true.” According to this idea, the bigger the system is, the more efficient the parts must be.”+

The integration of faith and learning is one of the subjects unique to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[1] Adventist educators view it as the inclusion of biblical principles in teaching any content area. As the purpose of education in the Adventist context is to produce students who will “serve in this world and for greater service in the world to come,”[2] it is essential that the school curriculum offers a subject that can accomplish that purpose, hence, the integration of faith and learning. However, the effectiveness of this program in shaping the character of the learners could be influenced by critical thinking skills.

According to Knight,

students in Christian schools must be taught to think for themselves rather than merely trained to respond to environmental cues.[3]

 

Indeed, to think is to pay attention to every statement that one comes across during learning. The Bible says,

 

The simple believes anything, but the prudent gives thought to their steps (Proverbs 14:15, NIV).

 

However, many people think that it might be difficult for a Christian to think critically and act like a Christian at the same time,[4] hence, the integration of the faith paradox. Even though there are misconceptions about critical thinking among scholars, educators can use critical thinking skills to discover new ideas and still act like a Christian.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Are Reason and Faith Compatible?

 

Critical Thinking and Idea Generation

 

Critical thinking is reflective reasoning about beliefs and actions. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false.[5]

 

This definition implies that critical thinking helps educators evaluate a phenomenon to ascertain its credibility. To achieve this, an educator must ask a thought-provoking question, and the outcome of that question is a new idea.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Ways God Uses Education to Reclaim You

 

Faith in God does not mean that Christians should not make use of their minds. The Bible says,

 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Luke 10:27, NIV).

 

The Greek word for “mind” in the context of this verse is διανοίᾳ (dianoia), which means “thought.”[6] As we live in a world of ideas, educators must, from time to time, give some claims made by scholars to ascertain their reliability. It does not mean that we should question the authority of the word of God.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: What is the purpose of Education?

 

In addition, some theories and practices are useful for solving problems in other content areas, which can be applied to education as well to see if the outcome could be the same. To perform this act, the educator must think critically (ask questions), which, in turn, will produce a concept from a different perspective. Certainly, new ideas can only be generated by carefully disciplining the mind.

 

In the integration of faith and learning, Ellen White stated:

 

If all will make the Bible their study, we should see a people who are further developed, capable of thinking more deeply, and showing a greater degree of intelligence than the most earnest effort in studying merely the sciences and the histories of the world could make them.[7]

 

This statement implies that critical thinking will help facilitate the process of acquiring knowledge in Christian education.

 

 

Critical thinking can be used to evaluate education programs, and this can be achieved by following a certain standard. This standard includes the ability of the educator to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) within the education sector.

 

Without critical thinking, the educator cannot analyze the internal and external environments of an organization to identify SWOT. Teachers, school administrators, and other stakeholders within the education sector must think toward figuring out the effectiveness of school programs in the context of the integration of faith and learning.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: The Reluctant Schoolteacher

Thinking will help educators do away with programs that do not contribute to the character development of the learner, which is the main purpose of the integration of faith and learning.

It is of great importance in character building that students who attend our colleges be taught to take up the work that is appointed them, throwing off all inclination to sloth.[8]

Obviously, in most situation, it will be wise for the institution if the students’ behavior is in line with the norms of the school.

 

Critical Thinking and Christian Living

 

Right thinking lies at the foundation of right action.[9]

 

The only way to prove that your critical thinking is in line with Biblical principles is for you to watch your action to see if it lies within your Christian worldviews. Indeed, a Christian can think critically and live like a Christian at the same time by following the following principles: 

Teach Every Subject Through the Lens of the Scripture

 

The concept of the integration of faith and learning is influenced by the view that all subjects taught in Christian schools should be integrative of the Bible principles. This principle is crystal clear because Adventist education welcomes teachers whose personal philosophy aligns with the principles of the word of God. According to Ellen White,

 

the molding and fashioning of the mind should not be left to men who have not comprehended the importance of preparation of that life, which measures with the life of God.[10]

 

While there may be those who have received training from secular universities and have proven sound in subject mastery and classroom management, it would appear that the teachers whose expert power is in connection with the Biblical values are the most important. God is the source of all knowledge. Indeed, the Bible says,

 

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:6, NIV).

 

Of course, teachers must follow the principles of God’s words because they are written in the scriptures.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Adventist Bible Curriculum Transforms Students

 

Critical thinking will also be necessary for locating Bible texts that are suitable for lessons across all subjects at all education levels. As God is all knowing, there are no subjects that do not have a link to the scripture. The process of identifying texts to support any subject is critical thinking in practice. It involves asking questions and figuring out the right answers to the questions. Indeed, this thinking process solves problems. 

Redeem: Don’t Punish

Once people have decided to join the teaching profession as a career, they must also get ready to redeem weak students. Ellen White wrote,

 

The work of education and the work of redemption are one.[11]

 

This statement implies that a teacher also performs the work of a minister. A teacher must live by the principle of remediation. If a child does not perform well in a class, it is the responsibility of the teacher to redeem that child. Jesus is our example in this particular aspect of teaching principle.

 

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things (Mark 6:34, NIV).

 

A teacher should always long to sympathize with weak students. Unfortunately, some teachers find joy in punishing their students; they laugh when their students fail. This behavior is not expected among Christian teachers.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Qualities of a Christian Inclusive Teacher

 

One thing that teachers should know is that students are entrusted to them to acquire knowledge, values, and skills, and anything short of meeting this expectation will amount to a breach of trust. Critical thinking will help teachers use their minds to discern the negative impact of punishment on students. Punishment is sometimes born from anger; a teacher should not teach with anger.

 

Teachers should not allow themselves to be quick-tempered. They should not manifest a temper. They should not harshly punish the children that are in need of reform. Let the teacher first know that self must be kept in subjection. Think of the boundless love Christ has bestowed on human beings.[12]

 

Love Your Students

 

Educators in the contemporary world face crucial concerns. Teachers who are called to teach young people must eschew every element of hatred against the children entrusted to them.

 

Let the teachers bring sunshine, gratitude, and hearts full of tenderness and Christ-like compassion into their work and leaven the hearts of their scholars with the spirit of unselfish love, for this is the spirit that pervades heaven.[13]

 

Indeed, a teacher’s love is visible through his actions. Teachers do things that do not speak volume of who they profess to be.

 

Love does not encourage partiality. If you love your students, give them equal treatment. Unfortunately, many teachers are discriminative; they show kindness to those they feel are close to them and display hatred toward others. This practice is not expected of a Christian teacher.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Seeing Yourself Through Their Eyes

 

Indeed, equal treatment of students should define the teachers’ love. The love of Jesus for us does not know any boundaries. He loves the weak and the strong. No wonder he said,

 

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mathew 22:39, NIV).

 

Do to your students what you wished others to do to your children.

 

Another outcome of love is motivation. When a student experiences the love of a teacher, he or she will devote more time to studies. I remember when I was still in primary school. I had a teacher who loves every student in his class. Although it was not a Christian school, the teacher’s attitude was a reflection of a true Christian. With his behavior, I became interested in attending his class. Love is a motivator for students to learn, and anything short of love will demotivate the students.

 

According to Ellen White,

 

The youth need sympathy, affection, and love, and else they will become discouraged.[14]

 

Indeed, teachers should always meditate on what they can do to increase their love for their students.

 

Good Moral Behavior

 

Another way to live in a Christian way while thinking critically is to live by all the biblical values. By standards, a teacher should be a person with good character.

 

The cause of God needs teachers who have high moral qualities and can be trusted with the education of others, who are of sound faith and have tact and patience, who walk with God and abstain from the very appearance of evil. and who stand so closely connected with God that they can be channels of light—in short, Christian gentlemen.[15]

 

In attempting to mold the character of students, it will be important for the educators to live by those values and beliefs which leverage the establishment of schools. If a teacher wants his or her students to refrain from bad behaviors, it means that those teachers must not be found exhibiting those negative behaviors.

 

Jesus is the best example that every teacher should follow while striving to shape the character of students. Indeed, Jesus is the master teacher. Thus, contemporary teachers must follow his teaching style.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Classroom as a Sanctuary

 

Without a doubt, we all know that students learn through observation. If in the course of training young people, you practice what you know is unethical or unholy, students will imitate you. Therefore, it is incumbent for every Christian teacher to think critically in ascertaining the actions they take while teaching students. A teacher should always give thought to his or her action to ensure that anything that they do is not in conflict with Biblical instruction. 

Conclusion

 

In general, it is true that sometimes it is difficult to think critically and act like a Christian. However, in the context of this study, it is possible that a teacher can think critically and act like a Christian. Let us continue to use our minds in teaching and learning. This practice will help us mold the children entrusted in our hands to become who God wants them to be. The concept of the integration of faith and learning can be made clear when the teacher learns to apply critical thinking skills in disseminating lessons.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 8 Tips for Teaching through Tough Times

 

Teachers in Christian schools, particularly Adventist schools, also need to think intelligently to come up with new concepts to fill knowledge gaps in the literature. To perform this singular act, teachers must learn to ask questions to determine key biblical values that can fit in a particular lesson across all disciplines.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Values Core to Adventist Educator Preparation?

 

Living like a Christian is very important in Adventist education. Therefore, teachers in Adventist schools are encouraged to teach through the Bible, redeem students, love, and have good moral character. These principles define who a good Christian teacher is.

 

There is nothing wrong with thinking critically if it is done in line with the Bible principles. The adoption of critical thinking by Christian teachers will help them live lives that are worth emulating. Young people watch the actions of their teachers and determine if such actions align with who they profess to be. It will be a disappointment on the part of the students if they see that their teachers practice habits that are contrary to what the Bible teaches.

______

Notes.

[1] Taylor, V. and J. Wesley. “Instructional strategies for integrating faith and learning.” Journal of Adventist Education, 2001, Vol. 5. Accessed October 12, 2018, from http://circle.adventist.org/files/jae/en/jae200163050507.pdf

[2] Ellen White, Education (Mountain View. CA: Pacific Press, 1952), p. 14.

[3] George Knight, Philosophy of Education: An Introduction to Christian in Christian Perspective, 3rd edition (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University, 1998), p. 229.

[4] B. Witherington, “Critical thinking—What is it and Why is it Important to Believers?Pathos, April 29, 2019; accessed October 5, 2018.

[5] Freebase, S.V., “Critical Thinking,” Definitions, accessed September 15, 2018.

[6] Luke 10:27, NASB.

[7] Ellen White, Christian Education (Battle Creek, MI: International Tract Society, 1894), p. 106.

[8] Ellen White, The Adventist Home (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1980), p. 88.

[9] Ellen White, Messages to Young People (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1930), p. 175.

[10] Ellen White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1943), p. 401.

[11] Ellen White, Education (1952), p. 30

[12] Ellen White, Spalding and Megan Collections (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1985), p. 184.

[13] Ellen White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1938), p. 106.

[14] White, Fundamentals of Christian Education (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1923), p. 116.

[15] Ellen White, Mind, Character and Personality, vol. 1 (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1977), p. 353.

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About the author

Nnamdi Edu

Pastor Nnamdi Edu is a district pastor for the Rivers West Conference in Nigeria. He received his B.A. in Religion from Andrews University and his M.A.Ed. in Religious Education from the Adventist University of the Philippines, where he currently lives while getting his Ph.D. in Educational Management.