by James M. Bramblet
When a young teacher graduates from college and takes a job in a Christian school, he is immediately faced with a change in educational philosophy. A Christian school, if it is worthy of the name Christian, believes in teaching absolute truth. Modern day educational philosophy, however, is built on the principle of relative truth. These two views are utterly irreconcilable, and until the young teacher resolves this question in his own mind, he can never establish a workable educational philosophy.
Either truth stems from the mind of God and is absolute and unchangeable, or it comes from the reasoning of men and will be changing from generation to generation. If the latter is true, there is not much point in memorizing or learning facts, for these things may not be true by the time the child is a grown man. According to this theory, it is much better to teach the child critical thinking, or how to reason, and then he can adjust to whatever happens to be the truth at any time.
Since Bible-believing Christians accept the Bible's teaching that truth comes from God, they do not consider it a waste of time to learn facts or to memorize, particularly when they are memorizing the Word of God.
Young people in colleges of education, even in many Christian colleges, are learning that education should stem from the principle of relative truth. Yet, every book of the Bible proclaims or assumes that God's truth is absolute. The Old Testament prophets continually declared, Thus saith the Lord. In the New Testament, we are repeatedly assured of the things we "know."
The first dispute recorded in Scripture was basically over this question of relative or absolute truth. When Satan approached Eve in the Garden of Eden, he questioned the truthfulness of God's Word by saying, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1)
Eve had learned her lesson well, and she answered in absolute truth what God had taught her. We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
Satan then went a step further and contradicted the Word of God by saying, Ye shall not surely die. He appealed to Eve's human reason and her ego by suggesting that God’s motives were really selfish, and that He was purposely keeping her from independence and from a knowledge equal to God's by denying her this special fruit (Genesis 3:4,5). As we know, his tactics were successful and the principle of relative truth was born.
When Christ was upon earth the Bible tells us, The people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Matthew 7:28-29). He taught with the knowledge of the absolute truth of God, while the scribes apparently taught from the principle of relative truth.
The term "critical thinking" is often used by present‑day educators. I suppose this term means different things to different people, but it seems to me to mean roughly the same as the word "wisdom" as it is used in the Bible. In order to bring the teaching of Scripture to bear on this subject let us think of the two terms as interchangeable.
The Bible speaks of two different kinds of wisdom. These two are the wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 2:6), and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:7). When we teach wisdom (critical thinking) to our students, we need to be careful that we are indeed teaching the wisdom of God and not the wisdom of this world. A careful study of 1 Corinthians, chapter two, will show us the difference between these two kinds of wisdom, as follows:
THE WISDOM OF GOD
1. Based on the authority of God's Word (verse 13).
2. Appealing because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit (verses 4 & 14).
3. Deals with the supernatural (verse 9).
4. Appeals only to the spirit‑filled Christian (verses 8,15,16).
5. Truth must be interpreted by the Holy Spirit (verses 10,13).
6. Results in having the mind of Christ (verse 16).
THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD
1. Based on human reasoning (verse 13).
2. Appealing because of enticing words (verse 4).
3. Deals only with the natural (verse 14).
4. Appeals to the natural man (verses 11 & 14).
5. Interpretation based on the whims of men (vs. 6).
6. Results in nothing (verse 6).
One of the most difficult jobs we face is keeping our Christian schools Christian in character as well as name. The subject we are discussing is at the very heart of this problem. If we yield to the current trend to consider truth as only relative, we will depart from the absolute authority and dependability of the Word of God.