Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I’m Still Thinking

Written by: on October 9, 2014

This book left me with lots to think about. Ha…see what I did there?

Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder do a great job of giving methods, tools, and examples of critical thinking in this compact book. It is a super quick read but I spent a lot of time reading and rereading these important concepts.

I was struck by the simple way they articulated most peoples lack of critical thinking. They did not come right out and say that most people do not think, but by reading their methods you come to realize very few people take thinking seriously. The Low Order Thinker[1] pretty much describes most people I know. When I look around I see people largely self-serving, frequently relying on gut intuition, and altogether unreflective. To be honest, when reading this section I started questioning if this is the level of thought I fall into. Of course, I want to be of the Highest Order Thinking but I truly believe I have a long way to go.

Our cultures lack of critical thinking is a serious issue, particularly for the church. This is easily highlighted in Christian culture by everyone’s excitement to see the latest Hollywood movies like Left Behind, Heaven is for Real, Noah, Exodus, etc. People line up, pay good money, and watch these epic films without ever questioning their biblical accuracy. The same can be said for the weekly books I get recommended to me by people in my church. Many people readily consume media and literature and quickly make assumptions without asking questions and gathering information. This speaks to what Paul & Elder call the “unreflective thinker,” the person who is unaware of significant problems in their thinking.[2]

I believe I all too often resemble the Unreflective Thinker and becoming an Accomplished Thinker[3] is one of my main goals for this doctoral program. I really see this as major area of growth for me. I can relate to Paul and Elder’s Egocentric Thinking statement that says, “it is true because I want to believe it.”[4] It’s intellectually lazy but I too often allow my agenda to motivate my study and teaching. I want to get rid of this “feel good” approach and learn true critical thinking. This doctoral program will make us face the problems in our thinking, we will regularly practice critical thinking, we will gain intellectual skills, and all of this will hopefully become second nature and internalized intellectual virtues.

This concise book will stay on my desk for a while. I know I need it. Developing critical thinking skills will be hard work but it is what I desire. The art of asking good questions, reasoning, developing intellectual virtues, and critical thinking only become second nature with practice, and I foresee myself getting plenty of practice these next few years.


[1] Paul, Dr. Richard, and Dr. Linda Elder. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools. 6th ed.: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 1999. 7

[2] Ibid., 20

[3] Ibid., 20

[4] Ibid., 21

About the Author

Nick Martineau

Nick is a pastor at Hope Community Church in Andover, KS, founder of ILoveOrphans.com, and part of the LGP5 cohort.

16 responses to “I’m Still Thinking”

  1. Dave Young says:


    I’m in agreement with you regarding “Our cultures lack of critical thinking is a serious issue, particularly for the church”. I wonder why has it gotten this way? Clergy, by in large, are very well educated in America. But why has the church grown to expect everything to come to them “spoon fed” or on a platter. I guess I can consider our American consumerism, but what struck me from reading this book was that we don’t expect critical thinking from our congregations, do we? We expect folks to listen, digest, apply and repeat. I’m pointing at myself brother. I think I’ve been happy with a compliant congregation and didn’t want to risk one that practices critical thinking. Unfortunately that means I’m raising babies instead mature Christ followers… Sorry I went off a bit.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      And just to pile on here… How relevant is the new book “Paradoxology” to this conversation? Could it be that by our fear of encouraging critical thinking, by not intentionally engaging with the troubling questions that attend our faith, have we actually cause people to move farther away from the God we claim to love? Dr. Kandiah seems to think that God is most fully discovered in the difficult passages; I’m inclined to agree with him.

      But it’s a heck of a lot easier to say “the Bible says it, THAT’S why!”


      • Nick Martineau says:

        My Paradoxology book came in the mail today. I was really drawn to Krish’s book when he talked about his son learning more difficult things then the church would ever teach. That is so true…Our kids are learning complex matters in school yet we dumb down the gospel. No wonder we don’t have serious thinkers.

        • Dawnel Volzke says:

          Nick, Jon, Dave and others…have you noticed a trend in the U.S. in the last 10 years that educated pastors are not as welcomed or appreciated in their churches? Denominations are seeking and accepting pastors with less education, often because they are cheaper. There are alarming trends of pastors leaving ministry or reporting that they are discouraged. More and more people lack critical thinking skills, nor understand why they believe what they believe. At the same time, there is less depth in preaching and discipleship – almost as if we are dumbing down the message. These trends are quite alarming…we now have churches filled with less educated pastors, much less theological knowledge being propagated through congregations, and people that lack the knowledge to think critically and to question false doctrine. Where do you think U.S. churches will be in the next ten years if these trends continue? What will the church of the future look like?

    • Mary says:

      Nick and Dave,
      Have either of you ever heard of John Ortberg’s story about the old male member who called OSHA because the worship music was too loud? I was so surprised by Ortberg’s response as I would have cynically written off the guy. Rather, Ortberg said in my own paraphrase “I failed my congregation by not having them learn what it means to be a critical thinker as part of spiritual formation.” Part of our responsibility in thinking is being able to share that kind of thinking with others. Not an easy task.

  2. Brian Yost says:

    I like your application of critical thinking as it relates to current books and movies. So many of the popular books and movies that are widely consumed by the Christian community would not stand up to the scrutiny of critical thinking, yet they shape ones theology. When an idea, belief, or interpretation is put forth in an entertaining and engaging way, many people flip the critical thinking switch to “off”.

    • Nick Martineau says:

      Hollywood/Media has become masters at getting us to switch critical thinking “off.” We are drawn to what is most entertaining or what promotes our agenda. Just think of the masterful job our news channels/papers have done. We all know which station to flip too if we want our political parties agenda promoted. Too bad we can’t just present facts and critically think through it ourselves.

    • Mary says:

      Nick and Brian,
      I think that’s why I like Indie films because they force me to think. I don’t often agree with some of the messages, but at least I feel like something shifted in me when I watch them. The typical Christian films almost leave me feeling grimy. Does that make sense?

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:


    Your post made me think of my high school government class. My teacher, Mr. Christensen always had a weekly standing extra credit assignment where if you would watch the TV show 60 Minutes and write up a reaction to the three 20 minutes stories they cover you could get extra credit. The single reason he did this in every class he ever taught was his desire to help student think critically primarily because he believed most Americans don’t. He used to refer to needing a “good crap detector” because in our world and especially media there is so much crap that if you do not have a good detector you will quickly become delusional based on what we are fed from media. So thanks for reminding me of the ole’ “crap detector” line from my high school days . . . there is just a little better ring to the line as opposed to “increasing your critical thinking skills.” 🙂

    • Nick Martineau says:

      Phil, Sounds like you had a good teacher!

      We have some good friends and their kids are in middle school and high school. They ask their kids to print off all the lyrics to the songs they are listening to and then they have to read them outloud to their parents. I’ve filed that idea away for when my kids get older. Pretty much an exercise in making your kids think about what they are listening to.

    • Mary says:

      Nick and Phil,
      Okay, I’m going to steal that phrase: “the crap detector.” It makes me think of putting on a Sherlock Holmes hat and magnifying glass as I read our books and do our research.

  4. Travis Biglow says:

    Blessings Nick,

    Truly this program will assist us in becoming an accomplished thinker. I can see some changes in myself from some of the books we have had to read. We have a long way to go but at least we are on the right track with some really accomplished thinkers mentoring us.

    • Mary says:

      Nick and Travis,
      I’m so hopeful for all of us that we’ll be a bit better in our thinking over the course of our time together. Even as we do these posts, I can see some changes in me.

  5. Mary says:

    Something I noticed while in Cape Town, and see again in this post – your playfulness is something that not only benefits your own critical thinking but assists the rest of us in realizing that humor can be one of the highest forms of thinking.
    In addition, I see such a hunger to learn in you. In this post as well as what you demonstrated while we were together, you are continually asking the questions, monitoring what others are experiencing/feeling, and then finding ways to draw out the best. I feel fortunate to be a peer with you (albeit quite a bit older peer 🙂 )

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