critical thinking image






Critical Thinking and Faith in God

Does critical thinking lead to the abandonment of faith?

Hebrews 11.1–3

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • September 23, In the year of our Lord, 2018


  1. I read two articles this past week on critical thinking and belief.
    1. This caught my attention first,

      “How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God” (Scientific American Online, May 1, 2012)
    2. That article was based on,

      “Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief” (Science, 27 Apr 2012: Vol. 336, Issue 6080, pp. 493–496)
  2. My hope was that they would present evidence for their conclusion.
    1. One of the things they did was present images to the people in the study.
      1. One image they claimed made people more analytical and unbelieving,
      2. whereas the other made people think that there is a God.
        1. The first image was that of Rodin’s The Thinker.
        2. The second image was that of Discobulus of Myron.
    2. They gave people words that they had to make into sentences.
      1. This is how they tested whether critical/analytic thinking led people away from believing in God and religion.
      2. They would have done much better if they had studied religious and nonreligious people in history and in the present.
        1. They would have found an abundance of religious people who have critical and analytic thinking skills and an abundance of nonreligious people who have critical and analytical thinking skills.
        2. They also would have found an abundance of religious people who are not so good at critical and analytic thinking and an abundance of nonreligious people who are not so good at critical and analytic thinking.
    3. Think of the various people that you have known and know.
      1. You know some believers whom you would classify as thinkers and you know some unbelievers whom you would classify as thinkers.
      2. You also know some believers who just do not think at all and some unbelievers who also do not think.
    4. Think of Isaac Newton.
      1. Most scientists say he is the greatest scientist of all time.
      2. Yet, he wrote more on God and the Bible than he did on science.
    5. Think of the Founding Fathers of America.
      1. Most nations of the past came into being when a savage ruler arose and
        1. many followed him and
        2. he conquered and established a new nation.
      2. However, with the United States of America,
        1. many religious men came together and
        2. created the nation in which we all now live.
          1. Did they accomplish such a great feat with mere intuition?
          2. You get together with a group of people and see if you can build a nation or anything!
  3. The underlying assumption is this:
    1. Thinkers tend not to believe in God.
    2. Believers in God tend to rely on intuition.
  4. Many evolutionary scientists believe that they are the knowing ones.
    1. They believe that their field of study surpasses all the rest.
    2. They believe that if science cannot demonstrate something as true, it is not.
      1. Although they themselves do not practice it.
      2. None of them saw the Big Bang but they believe evidence supports it.
      3. None of them saw the evolution of one-celled creatures to man but
        1. they believe there is evidence to support it.
        2. We did not see creation but believe evidence and testimony for it.
  5. We understand that plenty of preachers do not use
    1. reason,
    2. knowledge,
    3. testimony,
    4. evidence, and
    5. logic, but
      1. they prey upon the unsuspecting or the gullible.
      2. There are others who make constant predictions about the future
        1. that never come to pass,
        2. who make a mockery of biblical belief, because
          1. they do not know how to understand the Bible, but
          2. that does not make religion, belief, & faith inherently guess work.
    6. Can that be said about critical and analytical thinkers?
      1. Yes.
      2. I subscribe to The Scientist online.
        1. I have done searches on their web site for “Fraud” and “Misconduct.”
        2. The one on “Misconduct” had 191 articles.
        3. The search on “Fraud” yielded 575 articles.
          1. My point is this:
          2. Religious and nonreligious people all fall short of the glory of God.
            1. They all have the same problems of living.
            2. They all have the ability of doing great things, good and bad.
              1. They all sometimes rely on critical/analytical thinking and
              2. they all sometimes rely on intuition.
  6. Many analytical thinkers write off those who disagree with their basic beliefs.
    1. You probably thought that science was supposed to be skeptical and
    2. that it was supposed to be open to questioning.
      1. However, there are certain doctrines
        1. that they cherish for which they will not allow
        2. any questioning or challenging of what they teach.
          1. If you do question them,
          2. you are incompetent.
      2. One of those precious doctrines is evolution.
        1. Christians will often refer to evolution as a theory or
        2. that evolutionists acknowledge that it is a theory.
          1. However, that is not correct.
          2. What they will tell is this:
            1. That evolution happened is a fact.
            2. How it happened is a theory.
  7. VII.If you do question basic beliefs, or
    1. if you claim that we did not arrive by evolution, but
    2. by special creation,
      1. then it is because you are not a critical thinker.
      2. You do not know how to do analytic thinking.
        1. You merely rely on intuition or an authority.
        2. You go by gut feelings, which they call faith.
          1. They are objective.
          2. You are subjective.
    3. They believe that they do the hard work of thinking but
      1. that if you are religious you go the easy way:

        “System 1 [intuition, DR] thinking relies on shortcuts and other rules-of-thumb while System 2 relies on analytic thinking and tends to be slower and require more effort” (“How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God,” Scientific American, May 1, 2012).
      2. Therefore, if you are religious you are not qualified to question them.


  1. Knowledge Is Good
    1. Solomon declared something that I think all of us,
      1. religious or not religious,
      2. would have to agree is the truth:

        2 Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge,
        And he sins who hastens with his feet.
        (Proverbs 19.2)

        1. The Bible encourages acquisition of knowledge.
          1. How do you get knowledge?
        2. Notice that Solomon also warned about being hasty with our feet.
          1. The opposite of haste would be discerning, discriminating, wisdom, and thoughtfulness.
    2. Ecclesiastes 12 declares what anyone teaching or preaching knows:

      9 And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs (Ecclesiastes 12.9).

      1. That is biblical faith.
        1. Someone teaches the people knowledge
        2. by pondering what to say and how to say it,
          1. seeking out and setting in orders wise sayings.
          2. That is thinking and it is not mere intuition.
      2. If you think that is easy and does not require effort,
        1. be my guest and next week
        2. prepare two full-length sermons and
        3. two classes, one class lasting 50 minutes and the other 45 minutes.
          1. Then the week after that,
          2. do four more.
            1. Since I have been here for 16 years in 8 days,
            2. that means over 3,300 lessons.
      3. You do not get that much material together just by feeling, but
        1. you have to do what Solomon said,
        2. acquire knowledge through learning,
          1. pondering what you have learned and
          2. seeking out the way you want to say things.
      4. All of us do that when we form conclusions about matters of spirituality.
        1. You have done the work of reading, meditating, and studying.
        2. You have thought on things for years and
          1. then you express yourself in the best way that you know how.
          2. Scientists do not have corner on this.
    3. Acts 6 shows Stephen speaking before the Jewish Council,
      1. reciting Israelite history,
      2. analyzing what that history taught, and
        1. telling the Council what they did not want to hear.
        2. Remember why the Council brought this intelligent man before them:

          8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke (Acts 6.8–10).
    4. Acts 17 shows people doing the work of searching the Scriptures:

      11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so (Acts 17.11).

      1. When you hear a new teaching,
      2. what do you do?
        1. You use the Scriptures to check up on the speaker.
        2. Does anyone just suddenly know how to search the Scriptures?
          1. You have to know where things are located.
          2. You have to know the style of writing.
          3. You have to know the point of that Bible Book.
          4. You have to know the time period of that passage.
          5. You have to know how to interpret the Scripture.
            1. All this before you can really check up on someone.
            2. That requires effort.
    5. Romans 10 shows that we must absolutely operate on knowledge.
      1. Paul wrote about his Jewish brethren and
      2. his great love for them.
        1. Notice what he acknowledged about them, but
        2. where they fell short:

          2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10.2).

          1. Perhaps they merely went by intuition, but
          2. it got them in trouble.
      3. The Bible exhorts us to work to know what we need to know.
      4. The Bible acknowledges that such does not come easy:

        11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. 12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh (Ecclesiastes 12.11–12).

        1. The words of the wise poke you like a goad.
        2. Scholars know how to deliver the right words,
          1. like driving a nail well, hitting that nail on the head.
          2. Writing a book is not easy.
        3. Has anyone grown weary while studying anything,
          1. including studying the words of the wise in the Bible?
          2. It wearied you because it takes more than intuition and feelings.
  2. Logic and the Bible
    1. At my school of preaching (Southern California School of Evangelism, a work of the Buena Park Church of Christ),
      1. we had to take a logic class.
      2. We used Introduction to Logic by Irving M. Copi,
        1. which at the time was a college textbook.
        2. Since we only had a year of it,
          1. we only got about half way through the book.
          2. I can say that not one time did we ever come across something,
            1. applying logic to the Scriptures,
            2. that showed the Bible cannot be true or
            3. that you can only feel whether the Bible is true, but
            4. what we learned in our Bible classes and
              1. what I have learned since,
              2. Scripture agrees with logic or logic agrees with Scripture.
    2. I have other books on logic, but consider two written by religious men.
      1. Logic and the Bible by Thomas B. Warren
        1. I attended a four-night debate in 1980 with brother Warren.
        2. During the day,
          1. one of our congregations in Denton, Texas
          2. held a lectureship where they talked about the evening debate.
            1. One of the speakers there really impressed me.
            2. His name is Ralph Gilmore.
      2. Logic: The Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth by Isaac Watts
        1. You know the name Isaac Watts or
        2. if not, you know of his other works:
          1. I’m Not Ashamed to Own My Lord
          2. Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?
          3. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
          4. Come, We That Love the Lord
          5. Joy to the World
        3. Thinking critically or analytically did not move Isaac Watts away from believing in God, but
          1. it heightened his spirituality,
          2. as you can tell by these masterpieces of lyrics that he wrote.
            1. Lord, give us more people like Isaac Watts,
            2. who will use their minds
            3. to teach us how to think and
            4. to teach us how to express our deep religious convictions.


  1. The end of the article says:

    “In addition, these findings do not say anything about the inherent value or truth of religious beliefs—they simply speak to the psychology of when and why we are prone to believe. Most importantly, they provide evidence that rather than being static, our beliefs can change drastically from situation to situation, without us knowing exactly why.”

    1. Yet, what impression do they leave?
    2. They will use science and psychology together against Christianity.
    3. This becomes a powerful tool in universities.
      1. Notice how they present the two systems of thinking and
      2. which wins in the minds of high school and college students?
  2. Believing the Bible as the truth is not based on good feelings.
    1. Accepting what the Bible says is accepting credible testimony.
    2. Be intelligent with your faith.