DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Do We Have a Critical Mind or a Critical Mind?

Written by: on September 17, 2015

2014Europe.0142I think we may be uncovering something of what our D Min faculty wants for us. It LOOKS like we’re learning how to read actively, analytically, and critically. But I think this is a ruse. We’re actually learning to be WRITERS with those traits and skills. Ok – so I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Obviously, to do research well requires critical and analytical reading skills.

What I’ve been asking myself is: “Do good readers make good writers?” At the same time I’m contemplating: “Do good thinkers make good writers?” I guess the answer to both questions is, “Not necessarily, but it helps.” Perhaps the living reality and dynamic is that good reading, good thinking, and good writing are at least kissing cousins – closely related.

I’m trying to think critically about the word “critical.” In church circles where I’ve traveled, having a “critical spirit” is not a godly thing. But I think we need to be careful to see a different type of being critical. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking brings to us a positive application of the word “critical.”  This past week as we studied visual ethnography we’ve been thinking about different/multiple layers that exist in the viewing of a photograph or image. Perhaps multiple layers of thinking are brought to us by Adler/Doren and Elder/Paul. The former write about “analytical reading” while the latter focus on being “critical” in our thinking and analyzing of what we read. Once again, aren’t these two concepts at least first cousins, if not siblings?

I think that thinking critically has to do with thinking with an ever-sharpening mind. Thinking critically has something to do with honing our thinking skills, and the last time I checked it’s not terminal to have to think hard, even when that process forces us out of what feels safe.

Based on Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking I’m thinking critically about our culture’s tendency toward sociocentric thinking. The book points out that in healthy cultures “closed-mindedness is systemically discouraged; open-mindedness systematically encouraged.” Is this process true in America today? I think not.  We might be fooled into thinking that the push in recent years toward “tolerance” means that we are in fact systemically discouraging closed-mindedness. I fear that what is actually happening is that the epicenter of our sociocentric thinking has just shifted.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Yesterday as I was jotting notes for this blog I happened upon a facebook posting from a friend who cited this quotation: “We’ve distorted things to the point where people believe that anyone who opposes mothers killing their babies is waging a war on women. How can we be so foolish to believe such a thing? One must be able to recognize the depravity to which we have sunken as a society when valuing a baby’s life is frowned upon.”

This quotation is from Ben Carson. Before you relegate me to any particular political ideology, let me quickly say that I have no political party loyalty and do not endorse any candidates. I had to quote this because it’s like Dr. Carson also just finished reading Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking, particularly the section on sociocentric thinking, wherein SOCIETIES as a whole do not dare to think critically outside the cultural norms.

I think one could make a case (although space does not allow this here and now) that there are a number of moral issues and behaviors discussed today that enjoy far more societal acceptance than they did forty years ago. NOT to agree with current group-think, in the name of tolerance, is simply not tolerated.

Perhaps it is the call of the Christian to be the best at critical thinking, fearlessly speaking into a culture enmeshed in sociocentric thinking. Perhaps this is the prophetic call on the follower of Jesus, as we seek to live and articulate the norms of the Kingdom of God.

About the Author


Marc Andresen

I have a B. A. in Music from San Diego State University and received an M. Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1977. July 1 2015 I retired after 38 years in pastoral ministry. The passion and calling that developed in the last 20 years is leadership training in cross-cultural contexts, as my wife and I have had many opportunities to teach in Eastern Europe and Africa. I have been married for 38 years and have two adult children, one daughter-in-law and a beautiful granddaughter. My hobbies are photography and British sports cars.

6 responses to “Do We Have a Critical Mind or a Critical Mind?”

  1. Marc, I think you figured out their plan!

    I agree. As I’ve been reading through the books, I’ve noticed a similar thread. It’s interesting how each book compliments the next and concurs with the various authors. I thought your question was interesting. You asked, “Do good thinkers make good writers?” I would suggest that they do. As I read through Paul and Elder, I began to question my own writing and ask myself if my words were making an impact on my readers. I can work on syntax and color my pages with verbiage, but if I’m not communicating with my reader, then I’ve failed as a writer. The authors proposed, “We do not naturally recognize our self-serving perspective” (Paul, 247). When I first read this through, I completely dismissed this as pertinent, but the more I thought it through, the more I realized that it pertains to all writers. The authors are not suggesting that the context needs to abstain from being self-serving, they’re suggesting that the communication method must seek to be self-less. Our delivery must benefit our reader and bring them closer to a conclusion.

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Colleen – I appreciate your insights about being self-serving. I suspect that this aspect of not being totally self-aware as something to do with our fallen nature. Wouldn’t it be grand if God uses this whole process to help us think and write (and live) more selflessly?

  2. From your post I take away the thought that being PC politically correct is not enough in this day and time. There has to be a reason behind being pc. Using critical thinking to get to the core of the subject instead of becoming critical and then establishing your thoughts and ideas is paramount.

    I agree with you that the two concepts we have been exploring are indeed siblings. They go hand in hand as a writer but I also believe they go together as a communicator. The blending together of ideas that was brought up in Adler is starting to come into focus as we continue on in this process.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Pablo Morales says:

    Marc, I agree with you about the lack of critical thinking when it comes to our society. The irony is that many people who stand for many values opposite to Christianity tend to accuse Christians of being close-minded. Yet, they themselves are not aware of their own faulty thinking (sadly, the same is true sometimes of some people that proclaim to be Christians). Like Romans says, when people start rejecting truth and believing a lie, then their thinking becomes distorted and they become fools even though they think they are wise. The challenge to becoming critical thinkers is that we have to first be aware of our presuppositions and then we have to test them. I believe that the first step in that direction is by having our worldview founded in truth – Jesus is the truth.

  4. Pablo Morales says:

    Marc, I forgot to mention something in my previous comment. In light of your introduction, I was wondering if you meant to call your post “Do We Have a Critical Spirit or a Critical Mind?” Is that what you intended?

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      I actually played with whether to use “mind” or “spirit.” I landed on ‘mind’ just to do more of a play on words. I guess having a critical spirit is a function of the mind.

      And I agree: sadly well-meaning Christians often are as guilty of non-critical thinking as are non-Christians. One thing that really bugs me about evangelical Christianity in America is what appears to be a fear of and/or unwillingness to dealing with complexities. I’m convinced God intends us to use our minds to do so, and to be willing to live with the tensions.

      I believe open mindedness is a myth. I just wish everyone would own that. None of us would survive life if we weren’t closed minded. Every time we choose one soap or one hamburger over another we are behaving closed-mindedly. My wife and I got married quite closed minded regarding the covenant of marriage. We reject the notion of being married and fiddling around with others.

      I think we just need to SEE our narrow mindedness, own it, and learn to analyze it critically.

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