Much of the emphasis in classical Christian education is on the development of intelligence and the development of character. When ‘character’ is mentioned one automatically assumes that moral issues are addressed and the essence of personality is enhanced in a positive way. When one hears ‘ intelligence’ one thinks of how smart a person is; how much knowledge does he have? In essence, intelligence is the ability to learn. Learning presupposes that thinking has taken place. People do not learn by osmosis; not by absorbing the facts and information surrounding them. In order for learning to take place, information has to be taken in, processed, and then acted upon. In other words, the mind is actively engaged when learning is taking place.
God created man in the image of Himself. As a rational God, He made man a rational thinking being. Thinking can take place on three levels. Whatever the level of thinking, it always influences behavior. Scripture emphasizes this because “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. (Proverbs 23:7, KJV) The first ‘F’ in thinking is the feeling level. Without the influence of training, education, and self-control, most people will think on this level. When a person thinks on the feeling level, he makes decisions on how he feels or how things seem. Reactions from those who think on this level are emotional. All people think on this level at times. During times of crisis or stress, if a person has not been trained through experience or instruction, this is usually the ‘default’ thinking mode.
The second level of thinking is the fact level. When operating at this level, facts form the basis for decisions, impressions, and thoughts. A classic example of progression from the feeling to the fact level is found during the time of the Middle Ages in Europe. Some of what were seen as ‘truths’ of this time were superstitions based on ignorance and feelings, rather than knowledge of scientific or medical facts. The surge of learning that took place during the Renaissance was a time of advancement of facts and formed the basis for a burgeoning western civilization.
A person thinking at the fact level is able to set aside his feelings and to examine the facts surrounding an issue. It is seeing the truth of a situation and being able to appropriately respond to this truth. When one is operating on the fact level, then facts will influence feelings. There is always a downward progression: facts influence how one feels. One does not ‘feel’ his way into fact-based thinking.
The third level of thinking is the faith level. Facts are always interpreted
within the framework of the worldview of the thinker. Everyone operates on the faith level of thinking at some time. For a Christian, faith thinking
goes beyond the facts that one sees or knows to the truth of God’s word. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith sees beyond circumstances to the goodness and faithfulness of God. For example, a family may lack money to pay a bill. Through prayer and Bible reading, members of the family have assurance that God is going to provide for them. They thank God for His provision, even before they see it. This is thinking beyond the fact level. God calls people to advance to the faith level of thinking. Salvation is dependent upon it.
Romans 12:2 says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How we think and what we think are vitally important. The criteria for thinking is outlined in Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or worthy of praise – think about such things.” The nature of our thinking is indicative of what we will become. Satan knows this and has diligently worked through the ages to obscure fact and truth, and to undermine faith. He would love to keep Christians on the ‘feeling’ level of thinking. A Scripturally-based education within the framework of higher-level thinking is essential to the development of people who are thinking, discerning, and faith-filled. In essence, their minds are renewed so as to love the Lord their God with them.
Progress to Higher Level Thinking
copyright 01/2006, Cheryl Nester. All Rights Reserved.