September 2010

What’s wrong with critical thinking?

Posted by Dean Paulson

Throughout higher education, including Christian higher education, critical thinking is a buzz word.  In my years in Christian higher education I have used it to.  What we meant was that we should think carefully and critically and evaluate things.  We meant that we should seek the truth even if culture, family, academia, religion, etc. disagreed.  Truth is truth no matter what the masses think.  So think critically and carefully and believe what is true.

Janice B. Cheaney has an intriguing article in World Magazine issue, Sept. 11, 2010.  The article is titled Critical masses; Education has become as exercise in tearing down without rebuilding.

Essentially what she is arguing is that critical thinking has been used in higher education to tear down people’s belief systems.  Critical thinking is being used in both Christian and secular higher education as a tool that leads to relativism.   The goal for higher education she argues has not been to think critically in order to carefully examine evidence to discover the truth.  The goal has become to think critically so that the conclusion will be that there are so many excellent ideas and viewpoints that we cannot possibly know the truth. In my experience sometimes it goes even one step farther.  Since all these viewpoints are intellectually challenging then they all must be true.

The unfortunate result in both Christian and secular education is that it is now considered arrogant if we declare that we can know the truth.  Even more arrogant if we say we know the truth.

Of course Jesus sees it a little differently in John 8:31-32; “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” NIV


Posted by Ken Schmidt

I am delighted to introduce another contributor to asgraceextends.   Another of my great friends, Scott Davis, will be joining us on this blog.  Let me share some details about Scott.

Scott is a Florida native, he relocated to Louisville, KY to pursue and finish his M. Div and Ed. D (Doctor of Education).  So, we are adding a bit of academic prestige to the blog!  He currently serves as the Associate Pastor for Education & Adults at Cedar Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.  Prior to serving full-time at Cedar Creek, Scott served as the Director of Admissions at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

He is married to the lovely and talented, Marcie Kay Davis.  They have four children (I will let Scott brag about his wife and children).  I will only say that Scott married wwwaaayyyy up.  And, Marcie is the most competitive Settlers of Catan player in the world.

Scott is devoted to the Bible, his family,  theology, the local church, discipleship, and football.  This last area introduces a significant issue in Scott’s life.  He is a Miami Hurricanes and Miami Dolphins fan.  Pray for him.

On a serious note, Scott is one of three men that speak truth into my life on a personal level.  Scott is a godly man who I look up to as I strive to be more and more like Christ.  I thank God that he has placed a friend like this in my life.  He and I talk weekly and he challenges and encourages me greatly.  I am thrilled (as is Dean) to have Scott disciple us through his blog posts.

Thank you Scott, for your willingness to point us to Jesus Christ through some thoughtful posts.

Posted by Dean Paulson

Recently I was thumbing through the college and seminary advertisements in the back of World magazine.  At the same time I was looking at Luke 24:45-47, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” NIV What struck me was that none of the advertisements for these schools, except for Southern Seminary, mentioned the word gospel.  There was scholarship, academic excellence, and cultural impact.  In fact there was a lot of cultural impact and cultural transformation kind of language.

What caught my attention was that many of these advertisements make no mention of Christ at all.  The name Jesus and Christ are absent from these descriptions of what these schools have to offer. My skeptical side says if they can’t say the name of Christ in an advertisement can I be sure that they use it anywhere else on their campus.  Now I know this is pushing it a bit but I still thought it.

  Often the Public Relation departments of colleges and universities are good indicators of what is really being discussed behind closed doors by administrators.  These discussions often revolve around how administrators want the institution to be portrayed.  Usually these institutions want to be portrayed as culturally engaged and culturally relevant.  However, very few want to be known as preparing people in all vocations to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus name to all the nations.

Having worked at a Christian liberal arts college for almost twenty years I feel I can speak as an insider.  The change I have seen across the country in Christian liberal arts schools is a move from training students to preach “repentance and forgiveness of sins” to training them to transform the culture.  The problem is you can transform culture all you want but if sinners do not repent and receive forgiveness of sins they are still headed for a Christ-less eternity.

I guess that leaves it up to the local church.  But I guess that was always God’s design in the first place.  It was his plan that the church would proclaim that there is salvation in only one name, Jesus Christ.  The church needs to be committed to preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ alone.  Made me wonder, what kind of advertisements do our churches have?

Posted by Ken Schmidt

These two verses are from a song by Craig Morgan called “That’s What I Love About Sunday.” 

Raymond’s in his Sunday best,
He’s usually up to his chest in oil an’ grease.
There’s the Martin’s walkin’ in,
With that mean little freckle-faced kid,
Who broke a window last week.
Sweet Miss Betty likes to sing off key in the pew behind me.

Ooh, new believers gettin’ baptized,
Momma’s hands raised up high,
Havin’ a Hallelujah good time
A smile on everybody’s face.
That’s what I love about Sunday,
Oh, yeah.

Once again, a country song has presented us with great theology.  Great practical theology.  How we think and speak of our local church tells everyone what we think of Jesus.  Think about the numerous metaphors the New Testament gives for the local church.  She is the bride of Christ, body of Christ and the family of God.  So, speaking poorly of the local church is saying that Jesus’ bride is ugly.  His body is diseased.  And his family is dysfunctional.  Actually, all of these things are accurate.  At times Jesus’ bride is ugly.  His body is diseased.  His family is dysfunctional.  However, if we only speak of the ugliness, disease and dysfunction, we are telling a lie about Jesus and how he cares for his bride, body and family.  The way some speak of their local church, we would think that there is no beauty in Christ’s bride, no health in his body, and no joy in his family.

If I were to write this song, I would change the title and chorus to “That’s What I Love About My Church.”  I love many things about the local church where I am a member.  Some on Sunday, others throughout the week.  Let me share a couple of amazing things about my church that remind me that Christ’s bride is beautiful, his body healthy, and his family a delight.

First, I love it when the Praise Band begins to lead us in corporate worship through song on Sunday mornings.  I love it because I get to see an 88-year old member play his saxophone with joy, energy and excellence.  I love to see this man on the same stage as the 20-something playing the banjo.  Only in Jesus’ family! 

Second, I love it that one of our elders will tear up whenever he is talking about someone in some type of trouble.  I love the compassion in this man’s heart.  And this is normal in our church.  Whenever there is a need, someone fills it.  This happens on Sunday morning, Tuesday night, at church, at the local elementary school, for a person or for a group.

There are many, many more reasons, but these give you a snapshot.  What a beautiful bride, a healthy body, a great family! That’s why I can’t wait to spend more time with them tomorrow.

How about you?  What are you saying about your local church?  More importantly, what are you saying about Jesus?

Posted by Dean Paulson

The New York Jets are making a lot of headlines these days.  Now it is about the treatment of a female sports reporter.  I am not going to comment on that situation because I have not researched the allegations.  It is interesting to me though, that we can become so desensitized and politically correct that we now lack wisdom.  The question I have is should an athlete have the right to privacy and to be able to shower and change without being in the presence of a reporter of the opposite gender.  Remember, we are not talking about a doctor or nurse but someone who is asking questions.  Now I believe that a woman can be a sports reporter but is it decent and right for them to be allowed to walk around in a locker room when men are dressing.  I would ask this same question in regard to a man in a female locker room.  What about modesty, prudence and wisdom. 

What has happened to wisdom?  The question is not can a women reporter walk around in a locker room in which men are showering and dressing, because she physically can. The question is not can a male reporter walk around a female locker room in which women are showering and dressing because he physically can.   The question is, is it wise.

Proverbs 4:7 says “Wisdom is Supreme, therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”  Wisdom doesn’t ask can I do this but is it best, good, honorable, decent.  Why did our parents have rules like not being allowed to have someone of the opposite sex in our bedroom?  Rules like you cannot stay out all night when you are sixteen.  Not because we had no self-control or that they didn’t trust us.  It was because it was not wise.  It was that simple.  It was not wise and we knew what that meant.    

Poor Sam Wyche, former coach of the Cincinnati Bengals back in the day.  He had wisdom and felt it was indecent for female reporters to walk around the locker room when his men were showering and dressing.  He provided a room so female reporters could still do their jobs and have exclusive interviews with members of the team.  Just not when they were dressing and showering.  For that he got fined thousands of dollars by the NFL.

Does this seem sexist?  Some would call it that.  It seems like wisdom to me.  By the way, do male reporters have complete access to female athletes’ locker rooms?  That is a real question because I am not sure.  If they don’t (which I hope is the case), that would be sexist.

Next time you and I have to choose between political correctness and wisdom, I pray we choose wisdom.  Remember, wisdom is supreme. Get it no matter the cost.

Posted by Dean Paulson

It is interesting to watch a progression in Jesus teaching about loving one another and unity.

In Matthew 22:37-40, the great commandment, he tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind.  And then the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, the issue is not that we have low self-esteem.  Jesus is not saying  you have to love yourself first and then love others after you have learned to love yourself.  No, he knows that our issue is that we are self-absorbed.  Even those who seem to struggle with issues of self- esteem, really are focused on themselves.  Our nature is to love ourselves more than we love God and certainly more than we love others.  Jesus presumes that we love ourselves because that is our nature. He wants us to love others as much as we love ourselves.

However, in John 13:34 he ups the ante a bit.  He says a “new command I give you.  Love one another as I have loved you.” NIV.  Now that is a different deal isn’t it.  Loving like Jesus did.  Sacrificially, willing to lay down your life for another, being patient, kind, not self-seeking,  and not keeping records of wrongs.  These are just a few of the ways Jesus loves. 

That kind of love, the way the Father, Son, and Spirit love each other and how they love us, leads to John 17. John 17 shows us the importance of unity among believers.  Loving one another like Christ loves, leads to a unity that causes the world to know that we are disciples of Jesus. Unity does not mean that there is never any tension or confrontation.  It simply means even in those situations we confront one another in love.

John Piper is his sermon Maintaining the Unity of the Spirit, ( preached May 27, 1984 said; 

“The second stage of love results from the first. It is called patience or long-suffering. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience.” Lowliness is the prerequisite of patience. Haughty people are not patient. The more highly you think of yourself the more quickly you will think you should be served. “Who do they think they are to keep me waiting like this!” But if you have a disposition of lowliness, it won’t feel so inappropriate when you are not treated like a dignitary and when the fruits of your labors are slow in coming. If you have seen the majesty of God’s holiness, you know your own minuteness and sinfulness, and you don’t presume to deserve special treatment. And if you have seen the magnificence of God’s grace, you know he will give you the strength to wait and will turn all your delays into strategic maneuvers of victory.”

The issue is not that we need to love ourselves more.  We love ourselves plenty. One of the great enemies of unity is loving ourselves so much that all that matters is how we see things or feel about things.  When that happens the Spirit of Christ cannot work through us to love others as Jesus loves.

Posted by Ken Schmidt

Excellent video narrated by Tim Keller that reminds me, reminds you that the Bible is not about me, it is not about you.  It is primarily about Jesus.

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