Critical Thinking

There have been a couple of thoughts I ran across this week that got me thinking.

One was whether or not the “world” needs another commentary. This came as a result of the introduction of a new commentary on the Gospel of John by J. Ramsey Michaels as part of the New International Commentary on the New Testament.   This is a series that’s not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth the challenge. One of the observations made regarding the commentary’s introduction centered around the fact that it takes a good deal of poor commentaries for one to reach a level of scholarship that merits recognition among the best of the best.   If you’ve ever read commentaries you’ll know what that means. There are a plethora of them on the market but many don’t merit serious readership unless of course one is simply trying to cover all their bases in preparation for a study group or sermon.  In reading some observations on this new book it was noted and aptly so, that it takes a lot of average ball players to uncover a Willy Mays or Babe Ruth.  That does not mean the average players are without value, it simply means they play at a different level than those recognized as the best of the best.  Think about it the next time you read a commentary and wonder, “Is this the best the author could do?”

Another area in the arena of critical thinking is the role of science in our life and education system. In one of the regular blogs I frequent, Musing on Science , the author makes this observation about the role of science and critical thinking:

Perhaps most important is that (science) is the way that we discover new  knowledge. But for me the most important, by far, is that it’s the only  philosophical construct we have to determine truth with any degree of reliability. Think about that. Because then it becomes a much bigger  subject. In fact, for me, perhaps the most important subject there is.  And the ethical purpose of eduction must involve teaching children how  they can decide what they’re being told is actually true. And that’s not  the case in general. The teaching of a skeptical, evidence-based  assessment of all claims–all claims–without exception is fundamentally  an intellectual integrity issue. Without evidence, anything goes.Think  about it.

For me, this comment is especially relevant when it comes to the study of Scripture. “Intellectual integrity” is essential in order for us to mine the value of the teachings we find in the Bible.  It’s not enough for us to simply sit under someone’s preaching or teaching. It’s imperative that we question with enthusiasm whether or not what we’re taught is indeed true. If you read this blog you’ll know that I’m a strong proponent of truth and accuracy. It’s not enough to gloss over the truth with simple idioms like “the Bible said I believe, that settles it.” We must have the courage to ask the tough questions.  You may recall not too long ago I addressed a statement made in our Sunday morning Bible Study that “Jesus is God.”   Is he?  No really, is he?   Does he ever say he is? Does he describe himself as anything other than the son of Man or the son of God? Does God ever address him as anything other than his “beloved son?”    We can’t just leave those kind of statements – “Jesus is God” – as though they should stand without challenge.

As I grow older I grow more critical. I have to guard against being negative and season my questions with more sensitivity.  But for me it is important to ask questions with boldness and approach the biblical text with enthusiasm.

Happy 4th of July to all!

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Filed under Bible, Bible Study, God's Word, Orthodoxy, Personal thoughts, Reading, Sermons, Thought

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