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