In this post, I am going to examine five kinds of thinking that I believe people engage in. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on how this might be expanded, applied, or even corrected!
1. No thinking.
This is what happens when people simply repeat things, like campaign slogans, one-liners, and other things. People aren’t always revealing a lack of thinking when they engage in such things, but they frequently are. It sounds good, so they repeat it, so they can move on. This is dangerous for the church, for it opens the door to cults and cult-like movements that can be unbiblical.
2. Simplistic thinking.
This occurs often at the “one-liner” level. The person who engages in simplistic thinking often approaches an issue and is willing to engage with it, but only as far and as quickly as it takes to espouse a position. This is not always (or even usually) done maliciously. An example is found in politics, when Democrats accuse Republicans of lacking education (as a catch-all explanation; as an alternative see “evil”), or when Republicans accuse Democrats of wanting to control your every move (again, as a catch-all). Simplistic thinking can be harmful since, on the “defensive” side, it easily lends itself to misrepresentation of one’s opponents, and on the “offensive” side, it reflects very little contemplation of an issue (e.g., “Something bad happened to you; therefore, you must be in sin!”).
3. Confirmatory thinking.
This goes beyond simplistic thinking, but perhaps not by much. It allows the person to think just so far as it makes her position stronger, and no farther. It’s a lot like confirmation bias in this respect. It’s damaging to the church at large since it allows believers to stay within their tradition, whether or not that tradition is even remotely correct. Questions are answered only as far as it takes to confirm the pre-conceived idea. It’s not wrong to investigate an issue and find out you were right the whole time, or even to defend what you believe to be biblical truth. However, it is wrong to short-change the issue by refusing to entertain contrary objections or evidences.
4. Interactive thinking.
This is a decent level of thinking. It moves beyond initial answers to interact with objections, answers, and counter-answers. It weighs the arguments and evidences to see what the best answer might be. From a Christian perspective, it measures things against the biblical record. If what is at stake is a matter of biblical interpretation, interactive thinking seeks to resolve this from a wide variety of sources, arguments, and evidences.
5. Exploratory thinking.
Not everyone is required to engage in exploratory thinking. This is the level that not only engages scholarship but also uses it to stimulate new ideas. These new ideas need not come at the expense of old ones; in fact, these new ideas just can be new ways to arrive at old conclusions. In politics, exploratory thinking can be applied to help solve governmental issues and meet societal needs. In Christianity, exploratory thinking can run from theology to culture to every area of life in solving problems, raising new questions, and answering old ones. It’s a very exciting area indeed!
So, do you have anything to add? What do you think about these levels? Tell me in the comments below!