I’ve been writing about focus lately and how we don’t seem to have this gift. Could it be that one of the reasons is that we don’t really know how to think any more? We live in an era where we can type something into a search engine and get the answer. We have advice columnists and we have numerous others out there with information waiting to help us out.
Now I’m not against those per se. I use Google to find information often, but it is not to be the end-all. When someone comes and tells me something like “Wikipedia is a reliable source.” and I know some people who read this will know one person I have in mind for making that nonsense statement, then I know that we have a problem. While I enjoy wiki for pop culture references and basic information, it is not scholarly material.
As an example, take an alarming trend I’m noticing in Math classes. Sixth graders are using calculators. Now some of you might be thinking “Cheaters have always existed.” I’m not talking about cheaters though. I’m talking about students being mandated by the school to bring in calculators to help them with math on a sixth grade level! These are scientific calculators even!
There’s a reason the kid at McDonald’s gets stumped when you give him an extra penny.
What’s the end result? We don’t know how to think for ourselves. All we know is “X says it! It must be true!” Now X could be a leading authority on the subject, but X is not perfect. They are capable of making mistakes. It is always best to examine the argument yourself and ask if there are any mistakes being made. Don’t just blindly believe.
Instead, we more often make decisions based on our feelings. A person can write a letter to the editor where they get a strong emotional response. People don’t stop to ask “Is that true?” Instead, “I will suffer so much if this policy is pushed!” There will be suffering for anyone on a number of issues. The question is often “Is this right or morally right?” or “Is this wrong or morally wrong?” If there is a war declared, some people will lose loved ones. The question is “Is the war itself right or not?”
This often happens in Christian circles as well. Feelings are said to be from the Holy Spirit and this makes good Christians sitting ducks when groups like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses come by. It’s no longer, “That’s a reasonable case and makes sense.” It’s “That feels true.” We even ask people how they feel about something instead of what they think about it.
The life of the mind is dead in America and if the church is to recover and make a difference, it will need the life of the mind to do so. The church should be at the forefront in intellectual issues as we believe in a God who is the greatest mind of all. We should value the work of the mind in that case. Unfortunately, we are often on the back-burner.
An example would be that we consider a revolutionary idea. Jesus was smart. Let’s not just say a good and moral teacher. Good and moral teachers are often quite intelligent as well. It is no disservice to Jesus to say he was smart. In fact, it is a disservice to deny it. You go read the debates he had with Pharisees and Sadducees and see how smart he was. His followers took after him also. Paul was brilliant in his reasoning in theology.
The life of the mind is a must if we are to recover the art of thinking. Atheists claim that they have the rational position today and that Christianity is irrational. Sadly, their thinking that might be because we’ve given a side that’s anything but rational to them.