Critical Thinking & Your Special Moment

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            In the wise words of Winston Churchill, on the importance of being the best version of oneself, “There comes in every person’s life, that special moment, when a person is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and afforded the chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy it would be if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which should have been his finest hour.” The premise behind this statement is God is calling every believer to some task and He has afforded each person a special measure to accomplish that specific task and His perfect will. The only question that must be answered is whether or not His gift will be squandered and whether or not God will receive glory in that special moment.

REFLECTION OF STUDY AND NECESSARY PREPARATION

            When looking at Scripture, there are two individuals who stand out among the rest when looking for people who not only were prepared, but who were also willing to take a leap of faith to accomplish great things. These great things clearly could only be done with the gracious hand of the Lord over their lives. These two men were Ezra and Nehemiah and each of them devoted themselves to three things: (1) study of the Law, (2) observance of the Law, and (3) teaching of the Law. These three practices became the very foundation of their ministry, and much can be learned from Ezra and Nehemiah’s example, for the children of God today.

In addition to studying, observing, and teaching the Law, anyone engaged in teaching or ministry must also be proficient in critical thinking. This means possessing the ability to analyze, judge, assess, critique, and apply what is being processed in the brain. Michael Mitchell postulates four phases to critical thinking:

(1) Analysis, which is the inspection, interpretation, and inference of elements and structure, in order to form conjectures and hypotheses.

(2) Argument, which presents evidence in an ordered fashion in an attempt, right or wrong, to sway the audience.

(3) Assessment, which begins with the validation of the evidence and moves to establish a logical argument.

(4) Action, which takes the analysis, argument, assessment and culminates in conviction and commitment as individuals learn something and beginning to live something. Action can be making as small as making decision or can be large enough to changing one’s behavior.[1]

Upon understanding and applying the four phases of critical thinking, next Mitchell explains one must master the four foundations for critical thinking:

(1) Knowledge, which uses background information in order to interact and engage with the subject matter.

(2) Wisdom, which is born of the synthesis of one’s knowledge, practical experience, and application, allowing one the ability to both assess the argument and any possible implications.

(3) Values, which are rooted in a clearly articulated value system and allows one to interact with an argument from a moral perspective.

(4) Rubric, which is the standard and result of one’s knowledge, wisdom, and values. A biblical rubric for both content and process is vital for the ultimate evaluation and conclusion.[2]

After mastering the phases and foundations of critical thinking, Mitchell suggests six necessary steps when preparing for the transformational challenge of biblical-heart-deep teaching: (1) getting the big picture of the text, (2) constructing an outline of the text, (3) discovering the details of what the text says from the analytical outline performed, (4) identifying the exegetical idea and other principles, (5) applying these to one’s personal life with specific goals, and (6) establishing accountability measures for accomplishing your goals.[3]

Intent always precedes content, making one’s preparation paramount to accomplishing any task, but there is another dimension to intent. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim illuminates how, “When it comes to knowing God’s plan for our lives, our intent to obey determines whether or not He will reveal the content to us. Why should He disclose… [anything] when we have no intention of obeying, or are flouting things He’s already clearly revealed in His Word?”[4] In John 7:17 Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, (intent) he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority (content). Leon Morris shows how, “Jesus goes on to affirm that any really sincere person would know this. It is not something that can be learned only by those who are expert in theological niceties. Anyone who really wills to do the will of God will have the spiritual discernment required. Jesus’ hearers had raised the question of his competence as a teacher. He raises the question of their competence as hearers.”[5]

As a teacher and/or minister, Mitchell emphasizes the mind and skill set that constitutes the manner, method, and message of a worthy life as the pillars of personal ministry. The premise behind this analogy is teachers and/or ministers are: being watched, being followed, and being imitated, so Mitchell encourages them to be someone worth watching (I Thess. 1:5; I Cor. 11:1), to do something worth following (Acts 5:12; Matt. 20:34; Mark 10:52; Acts 8:11-13), and to saying something worth imitating (I Thess. 2:8; Luke 6:40).[6]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anthony, Michael J. ed. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Koranteng-Pipim, Samuel. “Intent Precedes Content.” 2012. http://eaglesonline.org/intent-precedes-content/ (accessed March 30, 2017).

Mitchell, Michael. “The Ezra Experience: Thinking Critically About Scripture.” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 8:01. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730810_1 (accessed March 30, 2017).

________. “Ezra Experience Worksheet.” HOMI 601: The Ministry of Teaching, 2013.

________. “The Pillars of Personal Ministry.” HOMI 601: The Ministry of Teaching, 2013.

Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.

Richards, Lawrence O. and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998.

Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. Communicating For a Change. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006.

Yount, William R., ed. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

[1] Michael Mitchell, “The Ezra Experience: Thinking Critically About Scripture,” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 8:01. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730810_1 (accessed March 30, 2017).

[2] Mitchell, “The Ezra Experience: Thinking Critically About Scripture.”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, “Intent Precedes Content,” 2012, http://eaglesonline.org/intent-precedes-content/ (accessed March 30, 2017).

[5] Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 359.

[6] Michael Mitchell, “The Pillars of Personal Ministry,” HOMI: 601 The Ministry of Teaching, 2013, 1-9.

 

Biblical Principles for Teaching

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As Octavio J. Esqueda asserts, “The church and Christian ministry exists to glorify God as its single purpose.”[1] From this premise, understanding how to synthesize and implement the critical biblical foundations for teaching is vital to not only success in ministry, but also in bringing glory to God. The first critical principal is, “God the Father is a teacher because He reveals Himself to humanity… and God’s ultimate purpose of His revelation is that we may know Him and obey Him.”[2] Esqueda shows, “God has chosen to reveal Himself through general revelation and special revelation. General revelation can be found in creation and conscience (Psalm 19) and special revelation is found as God discloses Himself through His Word: the incarnate Word (logos) of God, Jesus Christ, and the written Word of God, the Bible.”[3]

The second principle has to do with the importance of theology, which is the study of God. Esqueda demonstrates how theology is central to the teaching ministry of the church and to every dimension of our lives… and how we cannot serve a God we do not know, and we cannot know God and fail to serve Him.”[4] R. B. Zuck cites three additional factors which define Christian education: (1) the centrality of God’s written revelation, (2) the necessity of regeneration, and (3) the ministry of the Holy Spirit.[5] From this premise, Esqueda argues, “Since the role of the Holy Spirit is essential and God’s work relies primarily on His power (Zechariah 4:6), we would be more effective if we spent more time praying and less time planning or talking, [thus] making prayer the essential element in the teaching-learning process.”[6]

            The final principle that guides the practice of this student is faith and obedience. Esqueda demonstrates how “faith should be our appropriate response to the knowledge of God we receive through revelation and without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). God [also] expects our complete obedience in love [because] obedience is the purpose of God’s revelation.” Deuteronomy 29:29 reveals, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Frank Gaebelein shows, “The hidden things of the future are known only to the Lord, but His people still have reason for great expectations allied with great responsibilities; they have the things revealed. These are within the area of their knowledge and that of their children forever, and that for a definite, specific reason—that they should “follow all the words of this law.”[7]

The Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is a confession of faith and Jesus would add to that loving one’s neighbor as ourselves in Matthew 22:37-40. To be true followers of Christ, one must follow all of His commandments and as Esqueda shows, “The purpose of teaching is our transformation. We need to ‘be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) in order to see life as God sees it [and] only when we adapt our thoughts to God’s can we understand His will.” Ben Forrest does a great job summarizing the two main principles for biblical teaching: “(1) God wants to communicate His message to the world and (2) The goal of teaching is to present ‘everyone mature in Christ.’”[8] When all of these principles are implemented, the teacher becomes the means through which God is able to communicate His truth and love. Teaching should start at a young age and continue throughout one’s life. As parents, teachers, and leaders it is important to realize whenever contact is made with another individual, something is always being taught. Based on this truth, it is vital one’s talk always lines up with his or her walk since the most important lessons in life are often caught and not taught. Forrest then “stresses the importance to always remain relational, intellectual, and practical when teaching and interacting with others because we are the conduits of the gospel message. While we do not possess the power to transform others, we are charged with discipleship, which requires the ability to understand God’s Word and apply it to daily living.”[9]

Within the seven activities template for teaching, Warren Benson demonstrates how, “Our metaphysical and epistemological beliefs and commitments are crucial to the formation of our axiological arguments… [and] the formulation of all three adjudications rests firmly on the Bible, so when these beliefs emerge and are consistent with our scriptural convictions, we are on the way to building a Christian philosophy of education.”[10] Upon this premise, George Knight presents seven hallmarks of a Christian epistemology:

(1) All truth is God’s truth; (2) Christians can pursue truth without the fear of     contradiction; (3) forces of evil will always seek to undermine the teaching of biblical      truth; (4) absolute truth belongs solely to God, which allows room for Christian humility;   (5) the Bible sees truth as being related to life; (6) general and special revelation are   complementary, and (7) to accept truth is a faith choice and necessitates a total      commitment to a new life.[11]

All of these principles remain mainstays in communicating the gospel message and truth remains the dominant principle behind each one. If anything were to be modified in the template, it would the presence of roles each individual plays in the learning process. God calls every believing parent to train his or her children in the Christian faith and this model can be traced back to Abraham (Genesis 18:19), Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:1-12; Exodus 12:25-28), and any Jewish home as the primary place for spiritual training (Proverbs 1:8). A paradigm shift must occur in both the church and the foundation of Christian education for these truths to reach the lost and hurting because Satan hates anything God loves, which makes the traditional family a prime target. Only by opening oneself to the special revelation of Scripture and the general revelation of God’s creation, will the blind truly be able to see. God is continually trying to reveal Himself, but the forces of evil will always stand opposed to the teaching of biblical truth. Lastly, teaching should always lead to transformation because as Benson demonstrates, “A true Christian education should help us understand and appreciate the authority of God’s Word.”[12] It should also allow the believer to be transformed into the image of Christ, thus allowing he or she the ability to align one’s will with God’s.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Benson, Warren S. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Edited by Michael J. Anthony. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Esqueda, Octavio J. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition. Edited by William R. Yount. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

Forrest, Ben. “Theological Principles for Teaching.” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 7:14. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730805_1 (accessed March 22, 2017).

Gaebelein, Frank E., ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Richards, Lawrence O. and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998.

Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. Communicating For a Change. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006.

Zuck, R. B. Spirit-Filled Teaching: The Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry. Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998.

[1] Octavio J. Esqueda, The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition, ed. William R. Yount (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 31.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 33.

[4] Ibid., 32.

[5] R. B. Zuck, Spirit-Filled Teaching: The Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998), 2.

[6] Esqueda, The Teaching Ministry of the Church, 77.

[7] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 186.

[8] Ben Forrest, “Theological Principles for Teaching,” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 7:14. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730805_1 (accessed March 22, 2017).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Warren S. Benson, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, ed. Michael J. Anthony (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 27.

[11] Benson, Introducing Christian Education, 28.

[12] Ibid., 33.