I Want You to Think For Yourself, to Challenge What You Hear; and to Learn to be Skeptical

This blog wants you to think for yourself, and thus empower yourself. It wants you to develop critical thinking skills and to use them in many situations. I want people who read this to learn how to become skeptical in a healthy way, and to question what you hear. This applies to me as you can question me as well, which I hope you will do. 

“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”

Voltaire

“Thinking is like loving and dying. Each of us must do it for himself.”

Josiah Royce 

“What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.”

Rodin

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Psalm 119:66 NIV

Digital StillCamera

The Thinker 

Auguste Rodin was a French sculptor who lived in the late 19th century and early 20th. By 1900 he was known as the most prominent French sculptor of his time. After he died in 1917 interest in his works grew, but of all the statues that he has done the most well known is one called The Thinker. Let me tell you a little about how that came to be. It was part of a large commission that was based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. The statue which was to be called The Poet was to be done in a doorway called The Gates of Hell. The commission was to represent the famous characters from the poem. The Thinker is nude, and Rodin sculpted it like that to have it in the tradition of Michelangelo. There are 12 versions based off the original plaster mode. If you want to learn some history and interesting facts about The Thinker you can do so here. The Thinker is unique and its deep. You have this statue of a man sitting down leaning over in deep thought. He’s thinking, he’s pondering hard questions. Is it any wonder why The Thinker has come to represent modern philosophy? The Thinker represents a lot of things to different people. In the context of this blog I want The Thinker to represent people committed to truth and asking hard and difficult questions. I want The Thinker to resonate with each and every reader in this unique way. I want you to think hard, and think for yourself. I want you challenge what you are told. And yes as you will read below near the end of this post, I want you to also challenge me as well. 

 

The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills

I can’t emphasize this enough, but in today’s world people need to develop and refine their thinking skills. It takes practice and it takes work but its so needed. Take a moment and step back and contemplate what you need critical thinking skills for today. They vary from a wide range of reasons. From making medical decisions, career decisions, or even parenting. It also can play into minor decisions that can last a long way. Trying to make healthier choices…? Learning how to read a label in a grocery store can go a long way. While there are many facets to critical thinking skills I want to encourage people to develop and fine tune them here and else where. While this blog writes about religion among other topics critical thinking skills are more necessary today than ever. In the realm of religion it can help you avoid some bad places and spare yourself from pain. Critical thinking skills can help people look out for themselves, families, and friends. The cold, brutal reality is that you need to look out for yourself. You have to be responsible for yourself. In today’s day and age that is just how it is.

 

Skepticism is Healthy and Leads to Truth

As part of developing critical thinking skills I want people to become more skeptical to what they read, where they attend church, and I want them to learn how to question. The goal that I have for each and everyone is to develop a new level of thinking that gets you to be a tad bit more skeptical to whatever you hear and read. And yes, as I will write in a minute, that applies to me as well. I want people to learn how to question and and ask questions. I want people in their mind to connect the dots and ask the hard questions when they need to be asked. Skepticism should led to a level of truth that is healthy. Skepticism in many ways is good. But I want people to pursue the truth and let it lead them to whatever they discover. For example from Lon Solon’s McLean Bible to Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington or Justin Pearson’s Sojourn Fairfax. I want people who attend these and so many other churches not to accept anything at face value. I want them to be able to investigate, dig, connect the dots and engage. Don’t be a mere spectator to the truth, but pursue it. Treat it as gold! Be skeptical, as a good church will accommodate and take questions,  a bad one will not. I have written about Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church quite a bit at this blog. The fact that the leadership of that church tries to control the settings of the questions and even the format screams and raises issues that should bother many people. But for the sake of yourself, be skeptical. I want people here to learn enough so that they can avoid questionable and cult like churches. I want people to analyze the child safety policies so to eliminate needless risks by places such as Rod Stafford’s  Fairfax Community Church, who employs a violent sexual offender. I want people to avoid being involved with blogs like SGM Survivors or others. That’s what I want for each and every one of you.

 

Question Me As Well

I have been wanting to write this brief post for a while. If you want to know why I write The Wondering Eagle you can read the following post.Why Do I Write The Wondering Eagle?And in addition if you want to know the work that I pour into this blog I would read the following open letter to an Evangelical Free District Superintendent. “An Open Letter to Bob Rowley (Texas and Oklahoma District Superintendent on Why I Write this Blog, Feedback I Get and More)” If you are pressed for time let me say that I didn’t plan to be a writer. I endured a false accusation from a Care Group Leader at Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington. I am stuck and have seen the dark side of religion, in a way that I don’t want others to. As I write this blog I also want to say the following. You will never hear me be prideful or boast of how strong my faith is or any form of sanctification. Never…that will never happen. I have undergone weight loss surgery in the past, struggled with doubts, made moral failings in my life, sometimes been angry and processing things day by day. I am who I am with all my scars and problems. I am trying to find a way forward. When I underwent a false accusation something inside of me snapped. And that is why I do this. Do I enjoy writing about difficult situations? No… Honestly I think to myself “who am I?” to write about this particular church or another?  I just want to get that out there for those of you who read. I had no plans in my life to do something like this, but an act of spiritual abuse changed my life. And that is why I am typing away at my key board at a few minutes before midnight in my kitchen as I type away. One of these days down the road I would love to turn this over to another person and let them write this…we’ll see what happens. 

I say all that to say the following. As I write about religion you guys are free to question me and I encourage it. I expect it, and as some of you know I take a lot of crap from differing churches. Just go back and look at the comments I take. I take a lot of heat but I expect that to be the case. But ask me questions and feel free to challenge me. I say that because as I write and encourage you to question churches and other that applies to me as well. If I am going to ask people involved in Redeemer Arlington to question Jordan Kauflin, then they also can question me as well. It’s healthy, its fair. And its to be expected. But as I write about questioning others I wanted to take a few minutes and say that applies to me as well. Never take what I say at full value. I am human and I can make mistakes also. But what I write here deserves to be questioned. 

 

Note to Atheists Who Read

As this blog also writes about atheism and doubt I want to direct this last section to that crowd. I am less worried about the atheist crowd when it comes to critical thinking because many by their very nature are skeptical. Its a part of their DNA so many will just do this naturally. I want to encourage those who are in this camp to remain committed to pursuing the truth and to be skeptical. I want them to remain open and committed to pursuing the truth and let it take them ever wherever the truth leads them. While I believe in God personally what I admire about the atheism camp is their commitment to critical thinking skills. They ask questions and they think differently, which I really like. While evangelical Christians deal with the scandal of the evangelical mind, many atheists and skeptics do not have that problem, as they apply their mind and intellectual capacity to most problem sets. But I just want to encourage you guys to keep questioning and keep asking. That’s it guys, please know I love you. 

22 thoughts on “I Want You to Think For Yourself, to Challenge What You Hear; and to Learn to be Skeptical

  1. Be skeptical and ask questions, it is a great way to invite bad treatment but at least you will be able to identify with the old testament prophets. Snide comment aside, once you start to question, the next hard part is even harder, what to do with your discoveries and how to proceed in the best way.

    Liked by 3 people

      • “what do you do when you find out information that is uncomfortable.”
        Bummer, wish you wouldn’t have asked. I’m a verbal thinker so it all comes out and many time ill formed and poorly conceived. Unfortunately I only best find the best path until after I have wrestled with it, i.e verbalized it, but in that process I often alienate some in the process. It is a messy process and I am going through one right. Seeing through the fog isn’t all it is cracked up to be and can be a big pain in the keister because you will likely be a pain in someone else’s keister.

        Liked by 1 person

    • once you start to question, the next hard part is even harder, what to do with your discoveries and how to proceed in the best way.

      Hoo-boy, are you right about that. Excellent point Bill.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ya know…I’ve never been in a church that was abusive at all in my whole life time. I am 52 years old. I grew up in a small well known town called Yakima, Washington (The Apple Orchard of America). At that time, a peaceful place and as a small child, I attended church just 5 blocks down my residential road. There were many church’s in my town.

    In this small town, church abuse was unheard of. But then again, people treated others with manners, kindness, dignity, and respect. There was a bigger sense of virtue in those days. There may have been atheists in town, but most that I knew were Christians, whether they attended church or not, and the notion of a separation of church and state that is permeated in today’s society was not defined in a way that it is now. For example, our football coach prayed in the locker room with all of us players in Jr. High School before a game. When he retired from the school district many years later, he became a pastor of a local church. We also had Christmas plays that depicted Jesus, and we sang Christmas carols about Jesus…in school.

    The word cult was something that only applied to groups like the Moonies, or those strange white robed hippies passing out flowers at the airports. Later, when we got that knock on the door from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were told by our parents that they were a cult. I didn’t know why…until years later.

    I say all this to get to my point that this is how my generation was raised. People, for the most part, told the truth…even in a church setting. Parents raised their children right. Divorce was a rarity, and family meant everything.

    In other words…we didn’t need much “critical thinking”, because there was really no reason to doubt, when truth is told.

    Many years later, when I actually took the time to be in that “critical thinking” mode, it was only due to finally studying out the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion to find out why people declared them to be a cult.

    But in order to do that, I had no choice to first study my own beliefs. And, as I progressed in my “pre-conceived” beliefs, it was a vindication of sorts to know that what I was taught, was right all along. Many many many different denominations believe in what I believe, as to the basics of Christianity.

    I was comfortable in my own skin in regards to my beliefs, and it was all because people of the generation before me…my parents, had values that are scarce today. They had virtue that is just not around today, because God is not a central theme in their lives. Truth was spoken in those days.

    It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I learned of Calvinism when I learned of the abuses going on with the NEO-Cals. Well, knowing the bible as I do, it is quite easy for me to call them out on their own scripture references.

    I used those “critical thinking skills” in order to unravel what they use as their so-called “truth” from bible verses that they use. It’s really easy once you know the SOURCE.

    That last word that I used in the above small paragraph is the reason that I wrote this long comment. Unless we know what the SOURCE states, then we are gullible to believe anything…unless, of course, you are from my generation, then we can believe what we are told, because truth was spoken. I can never accuse my parents of lying to me, that is for sure.

    Ed Chapman

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      • Then we have a polite discussion over a cup of coffee, and break out the college ruled paper, and a concordance. In other words, we talk. We both state our side as to what we believe it states, but not only that, we also have to say WHY we believe that it states what we think. Then the other party gets to either agree, or disagree. And, if a disagreement, then one must explain WHY they disagree, and the other gets to retort just ONE MORE TIME. Have you ever been to a Bible Study, and you come upon a particular teaching that you state in your heart, “That’s not what that states!”? I have. And I have no problem raising my hand for a discussion as to my disagreement, and get people talking. For too long we have been taught the Catholic belief system, even in our protestant world, there is Catholic baggage from both Luther and Calvin. Example…Calvinists adhere to some sort of “confession” that took place over 400 years ago. Why? Do you not have a mind of your own to make your own “confession”? Of course you do. But we are not taught to THINK FOR OURSELVES. We are taught to conform to what dead people thought. Has it ever occurred to anyone that dead people don’t decide for what I believe? Why do we let dead people decide for us, as if future generations are going to be completely stupid that they can’t figure it out themselves? Were they really that smart? Example, Baptism…sprinkling water on a newborn does what? I love research and dissecting. And is our lives really that busy that we can’t take time to study without “confessions” influencing our conclusions? What was taught 400 years ago, 600 years ago, etc., are not necessarily right…but people would rather revere dead people’s conclusions, raising them to a status of God’s spokesperson, instead of studying it out for themselves.

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  3. “I’ve never been in a church that was abusive at all in my whole life time.”

    Ed consider yourself fortunate. Here is my breakdown…

    Was involved in a mega church Elmbrook after the Youth Minister sexually abused a number of people before fleeing to central Wisconsin and committing suicide.

    Was involved in another church (Third Wave) that even did demon deliverance in a small group. The Youth Group for the church even engaged in spiritual warfare in a convenience store. You know..”DEMON aisle six,,DEMON aisle six..”

    Then I had the John Piper stuff and drank that Kool Aid for a while. You can read what I gave my Mother when she was recovering from pancreatic cancer.

    Then I was unsuccessfully recruited into Sovereign Grace and endured a false accusation that threatened my name and ability to earn income.

    Then I got baptized in Fairfax Community Church and stumbled across information that their Care Group Director Eric Nickle was on the Virginia Sex Offender registry. The church mislead its congregation.

    So much of that was from 2000 until 2015. Keep in mind I had a 5 year faith crisis where I checked out of fundamentalism for 5 years. But that happened to someone who is 41. Those experiences guide me in writing all this.

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    • Was involved in another church (Third Wave) that even did demon deliverance in a small group. The Youth Group for the church even engaged in spiritual warfare in a convenience store. You know..”DEMON aisle six,,DEMON aisle six..”

      That one sounds like quite a story.
      High Weirdness/What Were They Thinking material.

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  4. Wondering Eagle,

    I get where you are coming from, as with where people are coming from in spiritual abuse blogs, too.

    My whole point is, that these days, people, pew sitters, that is, just are not interested in reading or studying the Bible, the SOURCE, and in order to KNOW when you are being duped or not, you must KNOW the source, which is where your “critical thinking” is now needed, where it once was not needed.

    This is really a generational thing, if you get down to it. Families are not really making God the center piece of their lives, and for the few that do, they are not really STUDYING their dusty bible that has been sitting in that smelly cardboard box for years.

    When I was a kid, I was taught, “Respect your ELDERS”. I capped that word for a reason. But why would we consider respecting our elders?

    Today’s generation thinks, and are taught, that respect is earned. No, it sure wasn’t earned in my generation. It’s automatically given. For a reason.

    As you may have noticed, I LOVE to debate. Why?

    Because I LOVE to research. I have to go to the source in order to debate. I have to know BOTH sides of an argument. I have to know the talking points of my opponent before I even engage in debating.

    My last point is this:

    There seems to be way too much advertisement of separation of church and state, and even YOU agree with your generational version of it.

    So, what do we have? We have church’s that are teaching anarchy, that our government is the bad guy, yada yada yada. Neo-Cals are in a very real sense, teaching anarchy, wanting to settle things in what THEY CALL a Matthew 18 process (FOR WHICH I TOTALLY DISAGREE WITH ANY CHURCH’S interpretation of Matthew 18 as being some sort of a disciplinary process).

    So, there seems to be no real sense of right and wrong when sexual sins in a church takes place. They want to keep it hush hush, and NOT CALL THE COPS.

    In my views, church abuse happens because pew sitters have no DIRECTION that common citizens have in knowing what to do when a crime is committed.

    You don’t let the church take the law into their own hands. But that is what is happening.

    I am not seeing any spiritual abuse blogs advocate calling the cops as a first priority. And so, they use the word “restoration” as their motives for not calling the cops.

    All that is, is anarchy. People are being duped, in part due to their own ignorance of the source, mainly due to their own lack of interest in the source.

    My real advice, get the cops involved when crimes are committed, and get rid of this generations thinking and interpretation in regards to separation of church and state. This new definition did not exist when I was a kid, as evidenced by my school, who got federal money, depicting Jesus during Christmas. And that begs the question (Critical thinking), when did that begin, and why? Who began a Christian Chaplain in the US Congress, and why? Why is he STILL THERE? Don’t THEY know about the constitution and the separation of church and state?

    The last paragraph is my advice in critical thinking. In other words, today’s FREE THINKERS do not impress me.

    Ed Chapman

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  5. Hey Eagle! Great post. Critical thinking never hurts anybody. Heh, I wish it was a DNA thing. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things that get people focused on critical thinking. I read a lot of sci-fi and encyclopedias as a kid. Had a good education at a private Christian school with a lot of great teachers. Come from a family of pilots and contractors. Some great philosophy teachers. Terry Pratchett. A lot of that influenced me towards adopting a focus towards reason and testing of beliefs.

    And I never stop questioning and asking the hard questions about my beliefs. For example, I lost a $100 on a bet on this last election. That’s led me to look into why I was wrong on my predictions and judgement on the results of the race. Doing that sort of critical thinking has led me to a few changes in how and what I think the way politics in America is changing and unfolding. We’ll see if my predictions are better in the next election or political season. I try to keep the same sort of approach to most things in my life.

    Again, I enjoy your posts man and appreciate the way a lot of us from differing viewpoints can discuss ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I confess that when I hear the words “think for yourself”, “make up your own mind”, etc., I’m afraid that the unspoken part is: “as long as I agree with the conclusions you come to.” Why? Because the people in the abusive church I was part of said those exact things. They claimed to want you to “think for yourself”, but they really wanted you to think like they did.

    The experiences you’ve shared make me think that you really do want us to “think for ourselves”. I just have a frustrating experience with that term.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tina…I really do want you to think for yourself. Challenge me as well…I have no problem with that happening. That is entirely appropriate. Think about it…you’d ask your boss, co-worker, professor, etc.. questions when you need help or when you are no certain. Why should many churches or ministries be hostile to such questions>

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    • “They claimed to want you to “think for yourself”, but they really wanted you to think like they did.”
      That is the real arrogance, the belief there is no other valid conclusion. If you are a thinking person you will naturally agree with them, otherwise you are stupid, evil, or both.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “You obviously do not have a Rational Mind. If you had a Rational Mind, you would agree completely with Me.”
        — attr to Ayn Rand

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    • I realize it’s just some random internet atheist guy saying this, but I’ll vouch for Eagle’s sincerity and openness in his writing. The man does not play word games and I’ve appreciated his open approach since I met him randomly on the internet a few years back. I think he was still going through his faith crisis, I’d recently finished mine. A few years later, he’s a Christian and I’m atheist. Never felt uncomfortable posting here with a different perspective from most.

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  7. I have seen many times where people would blindly follow their leader. The leader would say 999 things that’s absolutely correct and right. And then suddenly at the 1000th message the leader say something out righteous and insane, total falsehood and heretical. And the people’s first instinct is to defend him.

    They would say “Oh he didn’t mean what he said.” or “Here is the proper way to interrupt what he said.” “He is so much smarter than all of us so he must be right.” However when we do that we miss the point. We become defenders of that person, that leader, instead of the TRUTH. And when that happens we are at a dangerous place. Are we following God really? Or a man our leader?

    I will give an example. I really enjoys the sermons from Andy Stanley. I learnt a lot from him. However last year he said that “Parents are selfish when they keep their kids in small churches instead of mega churches. Small churches lacks mentors from middle school & high school & collage to guide the kids of every age group. And they learn nothing useful and grow up hating church. And then mega churches like North Point have to restore their faith in collage.”(paraphrasing). Taking that at face value this is terrible. He just generalized all small churches as lacking mentors and all children hate small churches. It was so shocking to me that I had to listen to it again. And he said what he said.

    Now Andy Stanley apologized publicly almost immediately. Great for him. This is a sign of a true humble servant of Christ, that he owns up to his mistakes. We all make mistakes and we all have selfish desires inside us. But it is ok because we love each other. But my point is we must have a critical mind. Even the best pastors with the best intentions will make mistakes and say the wrong thing. And there are plenty of false prophets dressing up in sheep skin to devour us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have seen many times where people would blindly follow their leader. The leader would say 999 things that’s absolutely correct and right. And then suddenly at the 1000th message the leader say something out righteous and insane, total falsehood and heretical. And the people’s first instinct is to defend him.

      This is similar to how you pipeline an enemy false information in Intelligence Warfare.

      You first have to establish your credibility with the enemy contact by providing true (non-vital) intelligence information. Only when you have established yourself as credible do you introduce the disinformation. Even then, the disinformation has to be plausible, and able to stand up to third-party validity checks.

      And then, if the stakes are high enough and you can pipeline one Big Lie that WILL win the war, then and only then you go with The Big Lie. Because it will destroy the credibility you have built up to this point, it had better be a sure war-winner.

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  8. As for atheists, I wish they would be more skeptical of their own atheism. I am not trying to offend anyone. But I am saying it has to be fair.

    They say everything came from nothing from a Big Bang explosion. That the whole universe was at one tiny point. And the only evidence they have is that the universe is now expanding.

    However how can they know this? They can’t even say that the universe was just at one tiny point. This is like saying that if I enter deep into a cave and saw some leaves inside, then I say a tree must have grown at one point inside the cave. But that is not correct. Why can’t water have washed these leaves from the outside into the cave? Or a thousand other possibilities?

    Question everything. And we will come closer to the truth.

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  9. Pingback: Tony Reinke of Desiring God Wants to Teach You how to Navigate Super Bowl Commercials; Plus Sovereign Grace and the Super Bowl | Wondering Eagle

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