Every Time Every Human Speaks

The times I’ve been charged with “teaching Christianity in a public school” make me laugh a little bit.

It’s as though administrators, principals, parents, and students think that Christians have some sort of other belief system, apart from their own, that is worthy of alienation. Of course, we know this is simply the world loving the darkness more than the light, because their deeds are evil (John 1). And we were once in the darkness, too.

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But the whole “stop talking about religion in public” is nonsense for another reason: every time every human being speaks, we are speaking our own belief system. For one person to tell another, “Don’t talk about your beliefs,” is to act like the speaker has no beliefs. But the truth is that we all speak our beliefs, every moment of every day.

To tell a Christian to drop the Bible is like telling a postmodern to stop speaking about scientism, neo-Marxism, or relativism. The postmodern literally cannot stop. It’s what she believes in.

We can talk about “separation of church and state” nonsense all day long, but it will never happen because it is a false dichotomy. Every time every human speaks, he speaks his worldview. Just be honest with each other, and lay those beliefs on the table.

Each of us has a belief system. None of them, on the basis of our own faith, is more or less true than another. In other words, nothing is absolutely true just because I believe it. Instead, all beliefs, and their systems, stand or fall based on their historical, internal, and supernatural veracity. And the Bible is the only one that passes any of the three (and all three at that!).

Thus, biblical faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only worldview that has full historical, internal, and supernatural truth. It stands beneath no other worldview, but it supreme above them all – because Jesus is supreme.

When we talk to those in the kingdom of the darkness, we must love them enough to care for their very souls. The first step is laying our beliefs on the table, explaining them, and asking the unbeliever to do the same. Only then can we have honest conversation that is out of the darkness and into the light.

You Can’t Teach Critical Thinking if You Don’t Believe Anything

Or, “The Great Lie of American Secularism”

“Critical thinking,” everyone says, is a buzzword in education these days. Conference speakers, school administrators, parents, and political leaders all kick the dust around it. Yet true critical thinking remains an enigma. Why?

Because you can’t teach critical thinking if you don’t believe anything.

The logic is simple:

  • Premise 1: Critical thinking is the set of thinking skills involving synthesis, analysis, creation, and evaluation.
  • Premise 2: Each of these skills require a set of definite criteria, i.e. stated beliefs.
  • Premise 3: American secularism devalues any defined criteria, and, in fact, provides none of its own.
  • Conclusion: Secularists can’t teach critical thinking.

If you find these statements controversial, or have never thought of the implications of your own beliefs, take a moment to break these thoughts down.

Critical Thinking Defined (Premise #1)
The first premise isn’t controversial – it’s a simple definition of critical thinking, or “higher-order” thinking skills. Philosophers and educators have agreed on these for thousands of years. The pyramid of thinking skills goes up from knowledge to comprehension to application to synthesis/analysis to creation to evaluation.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Thinking Skills

Critical thinking skills, in other words, are the development and deepening of acquired knowledge with direction in its development. By definition, the skills have to go somewhere. Understanding this, premise 1 stands.

Higher-Order Thinking Skills Require Beliefs (Premise #2)
Premise 2 is where I may lose some people, and where the crux of my argument lies. Beliefs not only help critical thinking, they essentially enable it. There is no true “critical thinking” that cannot take apart knowledge and put it back together within an external control, a worldview.

Remember, the meaning of “integrity” is soundness, wholeness, honesty of life. The key question is, “What is the principle with which we will synthesize and analyze?” Secularists have no principle but themselves, who are ever changing as the weather (remind anyone of Jude 1:12-13?). Thus, true synthesis and analysis are impossible without coherent worldview principles.

In mathematics, breaking down numbers into parts, equations, or proofs requires a controlling principle, i.e. the soundness of our number system. Without this, analysis and synthesis fail in numbers, as in the rest of life.

When it comes to the skills of creativity, we live in a strange culture. To American secularists, “creativity” is its own value, apart from beliefs and morality. Historically, beauty has been valued for its conformity to truth. In a truth-less culture like ours, however, a painting or motion picture or song is called “good” without any baseline meaning for the word “good” itself. As Al Mohler has observed, however, character terms like morality and integrity “lack all content if they aren’t specifically tied to worldview convictions.” Thus, teachers who teach creativity without conviction are like well-wishers who send sailors off in on a voyage to nowhere, saying, “Have a great journey!”

Now we can see where the highest critical thinking skill, evaluation, will go. Without worldview, evaluation also fails. If all the steps before it have flown apart at the seams, we should not expect evaluation to succeed. Evaluation is the culmination of study and thought. Without beliefs, both those preceding skills and the end result are impossible. To put it another way, how are we to evaluate if we have nothing to evaluate against?

American Secularism Believes Nothing (Premise #3)
Of course, it is impossible to believe nothing. Everyone has a worldview. But here we mean, “nothing positively defined outside ourselves.” We truly believe we are the measure of all things. The universe’s buck stops with us. We ought  to command the waves, the wind, the seas, and the stock markets – and we’re mystified when we can’t.

Because of our radical individualism, we believe that no truth exists outside of ourselves. If enough of us agree on something, that can become a cultural “truth,” but that “truth” fails when it face a “truth” from another culture. Again, the war of little “truths” proves that we believe in no Truth at all, only what works for us until culture or personal discernment proves otherwise.

Every secularist has a worldview, but the sine qua non of the secular worldview is that truth doesn’t exist.

Secularists Can’t Teach Critical Thinking
If premises 1, 2, and 3 are true, the conclusion is that belief-less secularists can’t teach belief-dependent critical thinking. Critical thinking is a bundle of skills that depends not only on raw knowledge, but on a coherent worldview – an integrity of thought – that enables and propels honestly critical thinking.

Further, thinking that only aims to support self (the primary secular principle) can never be truly critical, because critical thinking requires the critical evaluation of ourselves. We are the ones who must finally be evaluated, not merely do the evaluating. Without self-evaluation, all of our learning becomes an exercise in narcissism, hypocrisy, and vanity.

Even more, for critical thinking to reach its true end, we must evaluate ourselves now – because we will one day be evaluated by God, according to His perfectly coherent, perfectly true worldview.

The Real Reason for “Atheism”

A few years back, I read Christopher Hitchens’ rather angry book, god is not great. As I reflected on it, it occurred to me that there are no real atheists. There are no true, self-assured atheists. There are only people who are lying to themselves.

“Wait, that sounds crazy! What about Hitler, Nietzsche, Stalin, and a host of serial killers and mass murderers?! What about the worst of the worst?!”

Contrary to humanistic psychology, the Bible teaches that all people have a knowledge of God, then reject that knowledge. Consider:

  • “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.” (Psalm 53:1)
  • “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

Notice in both verses that there is a knowledge of God that is innate within every human that unbelievers then deceive themselves about (“the fool says in his heart”) and reject (“suppress the truth”).

Why Do They Reject?
If self-proclaimed “atheists,” then, have a knowledge of God which they reject, why do they reject Him? The answer lies in their lifestyles, their self-chosen desires, their lusts of the flesh.

The Bible regularly connects self-deception about God to the desire to “do abominable iniquity,” such as violence against other humans (e.g., abortion), perverted sexual desires, envy, deceit, slander, disobedience to parents, and the like.

It is often assumed that beliefs lead to lifestyles, and this is very true. But the connection works in the other way, too. We suppress God’s truth because we want to do abominable evils against Him and our fellow man, then our false beliefs allow us to do just so.

The Evil Circle
Apart from God’s gracious deliverance, our evil desires lead us to believe lies. In believing these atheistic lies, we justify our own evil desires. It is an evil, dark circle of deceit.

Women and men want to kill “unwanted” children, so they invent doctrines that allow it. A young man wants to steal a pair of shoes, so he decides God hasn’t spoken in the Ten Commandments. A young woman wants to feel loved, so she morphs God’s institution of marriage to mean “being in love.”

To put it another way, in the unbeliever, the atheist, the “fool,” desires rule beliefs. Individuality governs truth. Selfishness stomps out the reality of God’s revelation.

For Christians, it is just the opposite. By the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we have escaped the rule of ourselves to be conformed to God’s Word. God’s Word is reality, truth governs and changes individuals, and faith redeems desires toward the all-satisfying God.

Pray for those today who are still caught in this evil circle, and don’t think for a moment that their false beliefs are the strongest force in their hearts. Rather, it is their selfish, dark, evil desires to defame their Maker.

Children Need Deeper Theology, Too

An excerpt from Kevin DeYoung’s introduction to a new theological manifesto for evangelicals, Don’t Call it a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day:

And yet as we [several college students of various worldviews] talked on into the night, I felt like I must not have paid enough attention growing up in the house of God all those years.

I don’t know whose fault it was, if it was anyone’s, but I remember staying awake into the wee hours thinking, “I can’t articulate what I believe and why I believe it.” I felt a bit embarrassed that after all those years I still didn’t have a good grasp on some of the most foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. Looking back, I wish I had been challenged more (or had challenged myself more) to really understand Christian doctrine when I was younger.

I was probably one of the best Bible students in our church, and yet I could barely articulate basic Christian theology past “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.” And if I couldn’t articulate the basics after seventeen solid, earnest years in the church, what must the predicament be for the seventeen-year-old just converting to Christianity, or for the thirty-four-year-old who’s getting serious about her faith for the first time? 

DeYoung speaks from his own experience, but I wonder how many of us look back now and say the same. How much more responsibility do we have for our own children, church members, students, and neighbors? Must not the old faith return if we are to see clearly in the new day? May God make it so for His glory and our good.

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