Many Christian young people are rejecting God’s truths for what the secular world promotes as truth because of their lack of critical thinking skills. Teaching them to ask some key questions, examine “evidence” carefully and compare any “truths” to the totality of God’s truths in the Bible has become more and more important in our world of instant “experts”.
There are some important skill sets within the area of critical thinking that we really need to spend some focused time helping our young people learn and practice.
- How to critically analyze “facts” and data. Usually, these facts or data are presented as the result of one or more studies on the topic. There are some key questions we need to teach young people to ask when presented this “evidence” to support someone’s argument.
- Who conducted the study? Is it someone with a background in this area or a corporation trying to sell something? Is it a person or entity with a known agenda? It doesn’t necessarily mean the study is wrong, it’s just a possible red flag that it needs to be examined more carefully for any number of reasons.
- Did the person conducting the study use industry best practices? This has been the downfall of much research – including medical research. When researchers don’t use best practices, the data is usually considered flawed.
- What is the bias of the researcher? Everyone has a bias. Is there grant money that would disappear if the researcher can’t prove their theory? Does the researcher have a known bias against Christianity or a possible competing viewpoint for some reason? Knowing the bias of the researcher can help you determine if they are more invested in finding the truth or being proven right.
- Could any findings be interpreted in another way? Often someone with a little experience in the field can tell you at least one other way the same data could be interpreted differently by looking at it through a slightly different lens. Just because the researcher has “an” answer for the data, doesn’t mean it is “the” answer.
- Are there other equally qualified experts that have done studies using best practices who have come to a different or even opposing conclusion? This is often particularly important in science, where peer pressure can keep opposing studies out of journals and mass media. Just because a scientific opinion is popular, doesn’t mean it is right – especially when there is evidence that the opinion is flawed or even wrong.
- Correlation is not necessarily causation. Just because there may be a higher incidence of mental illness found in Christians, for example, doesn’t mean Christianity caused it. Perhaps people with mental illness are drawn to Christianity because they think God can help them or Christians are more accepting of their issues. You can’t assume because there is a correlation between something and a particular behavior that the behavior actually causes that something.
- Logical fallacies. There are too many of these to list in this post. Basically, these are arguments people sometimes use that sound really logical. They seem to make sense and be true. Yet the logic they are based upon is faulty, often meaning the conclusion is too. The statement may be true, but you can’t be sure based on an argument based on a logical fallacy. There are plenty of secular books written for kids and teens that can help you teach some of these fallacies to your Bible students.
- Enough knowledge of the Bible to spot issues with “problems” with Christianity or God that may be presented. Often the issues that trip up young people are so simply addressed. They just don’t have enough Bible knowledge and understanding to realize the Bible is full of truths to address those arguments. For example, ask any knowledgeable Christian how a good God can let evil happen in the world and they can quickly give you any number of reasons and the scriptures to back them. Often when doubters are given the reasons, they understand God’s truth and the questions or doubt disappears. When we haven’t taught our young people enough scripture, shared with them enough evidences or addressed their questions or doubts, they are easily led astray. It’s so unnecessary. Most of the time a better Bible education would allow them to answer these questions themselves rather than being pulled away by the person asking the question.
There are other skill sets, but these will give your Bible students a lot of help in separating God’s truths from Satan’s lies. Be aware though, that you will need to be careful about the evidences you present them in favor of God’s truths. You can’t use faulty logic or evidence yourself, just because it’s easier than doing some research to find the high quality evidence they need and is available – remember God’s truths are Truth. The evidences are there, you just have to find and use them.
Equipping your Bible students with critical thinking skills can help them avoid being pulled away from God by a bunch of faulty “evidence”. It’s worth your time and effort to help them learn critical thinking skills.