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Even if you've been raised to obey, you can learn to critically think as an adult (and you should!)

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

In first grade, I was placed in an advanced learning program at my school. It was a really cool opportunity that focused on developing logic and critical thinking skills. My cohort spent six years together, being challenged in ways we were not in our traditional classrooms. We played games that taught us to brainstorm, problem solve, and think creatively, and then put legs to our ideas.

And yet, though these skills were so honed for me in a school setting, I didn’t critically think much at home. Thinking well was for school and being obedient was for home. Get them confused and there could be consequences.

Outside of school, my mind was for knowing how to keep people happy so they didn’t get mad. So they would hopefully be nice to me. If I didn’t perform well, I was called a “bean brain” or a “nimrod,” whatever the latter meant. I certainly was not being called a mighty hunter and king, though I get a kick out of telling myself this now (Genesis 10:8-12). No, my intelligence was unquestionably being insulted, and since the tone used told me these names were bad, I simply allowed them to hurt my feelings and make me feel small.

The pain of words can last much longer than the pain of sticks and stones. Agree?

I have heard way too many words that were untrue. Once I was removed enough from my cult group to engage those critical thinking skills in my personal life, I found that none of those words or doctrines could stand up to the most mild of questioning. Before, I wasn’t even scrutinizing, I was just wondering what I was missing when words did not align with life: like when my parents died, even though I was told they wouldn’t (that’s a tough one to ignore, though many people have). Or when what I read in the Bible did not fit the interpretation I had been taught: Jesus didn’t overturn the money changer tables because of a lack of tithing after all (see Matthew 21:12).

It amazes me how well-trained I was for each environment: school and home. I learned how to operate in accordance with the requirements of each and to disallow an intersection. While there are certainly particular behaviors appropriate for particular situations—don’t wear footie pajamas to a board meeting (mental note for myself)—the mind is never something to disengage.

The mind is how we learn, how we guard against untruth, how we question and investigate what we are told. The mind is how we know God. Education will not lead someone away from God, despite what I was told. It cannot. If he created it all, then he can’t not be found in it.

J.P Moreland perfectly states,

“Any religious belief worthy of the name should be accepted because we take the belief to be true and do so by the best exercise of our mental faculties we can muster. In the long run, it is better to risk losing control, face our doubts, be patient, and do the best job we can of using our minds to get at the truth. Not only is the Christian faith secure enough to withstand such an approach, but the faith actually encourages it” (Love Your God With All Your Mind, pg. 101).

Once I began using my mind as it was intended—which is in all situations—my life began to radically change: seemingly to fall apart, though in actuality, my life was being reassembled in a structurally sound way. A way that could sustain through the weather of life. I faced my doubts and lost control when I discovered many of my doubts to be founded. I had to be patient with myself as I persevered in my pursuit of truth.

I cannot begin to express my relief that I did so.

I can only begin to express my gratitude...

I am so grateful for my ability to critically think and challenge ideas that don’t hold up to reason.

I am so grateful to know that truth exists and that it can be found, beyond a reasonable doubt.

I am so grateful that who I am and what I do are no longer dictated by false teaching.

This 180 degree turn is an ongoing process. I sometimes hear something spoken to me and think, “Uh-huh...okay......wait a second.” Notice the delay. Unlike the falsity of the sticks and stones analogy, old habits do indeed die hard, particularly for those with traumatic childhoods. Sometimes I have to remind myself to think before I agree, and research before I share. But old dogs can learn new tricks (I am on a roll!).

We can change our defaults.

I promise you: the work is well worth the effort.

Call to Action:

  1. What is something you believe, but you don’t know why? Example, “Do not eat dessert first.” If I still eat my salad, why not?

  2. Take that thought and question it. Genuinely desire to know and seek the answer. If you want tips on how to go about critically questioning and seeking truth, reach out to us!

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