How do You Think?

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How do You Think?

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How we understand the world around us is vital to how we think and act. All of us assume certain things to be true without absolute proof. Everyone has faith in something. These assumptions help us form our opinions and beliefs.

How we think becomes important, for example, when we interact with those who claim something is true when they can't prove it. Some common assumptions are:

• Man evolved from inorganic material.
• Man is essentially good.
• Reality is material.
• When a man dies, he isn't dead.
• Whatever feels good is right ...

The list is almost endless.

For most people in America and Western Europe in the 16th through the 19th centuries, a Christian worldview was dominant. It was commonly understood that God did exist and was responsible for the world in which they lived. His purpose for man was examined in the pages of the Holy Bible, considered the final authority for most arguments.

Today, it is vastly different. Our world is influenced by many other worldviews, including naturalism, New Age pantheism, deism, nihilism, existentialism and postmodernism. With so many dynamic and often conflicting concepts being used to frame man's thinking, is it any surprise that conflict and misunderstanding dominate?

Feeling or thinking?

The world you live in is filled with tensions that are real and growing. How will you respond to the issues in your world?

Radio talk show host Dennis Prager commented on this subject: "I recently interviewed a 26-year-old Swedish student about her views on life. I asked her if she believed in God or in any religion.

"'No, that's silly,' she replied.

"'Then how do you know what is right and wrong?' I asked.

"'My heart tells me,' she responded.

"In a nutshell, that's the major reason for the great divide within America and between America and much of Europe. The majority of people today rely upon their hearts (their emotional feelings)—stirred by their eyes—to determine what is right and wrong. A relatively small minority uses their minds and/or the Bible to make that determination.

"Pick almost any issue and these opposing ways of determining right and wrong become apparent. Here are three examples.

"Same-sex marriage: The heart favors it. You have to have a hard heart not to be moved when you see loving same-sex couples who want to commit their lives to one another in marriage. The eye sees the couples; the heart is moved to redefine marriage.

"Animal rights: The heart favors them. It is the rare person, for example, whose heart is not moved by the sight of an animal used for medical research. The eye sees the cuddly animal; the heart then equates animal and human life.

"Abortion: How can you look at a sad 18-year-old who had unprotected sex and not be moved? What kind of heartless person is going to tell her she shouldn't have an abortion and should give birth?"

Of course our heartfelt emotions are an important part of being human, but these feelings are incomplete as a method of making judgments when they are not guided by and based on godly principles.

The change in institutions of higher learning

Most American universities were established for the purpose of insuring that faith and reliance on God were preserved. For this reason, these institutions were charged with providing trained ministers to serve a nation that claimed to be "under God." A lot has changed in the last few generations in America. Since the 1960s there has been a desire to remove God from the schools and the thinking of decision makers.

Harvard University began in 1636 with a motto of "veritas." This concept, still evident in the seal of the university, suggests that there are three "books" of truth: the book of revelation known through the Scriptures, the book of nature known inductively through the senses, and the book of the mind—which was logic. The pursuit of veritas (the Latin word for truth) was considered the highest quest for a developing young mind.

Mark Roberts, a Harvard professor, reflected on changes in recent years. "When I was in college and grad school, the Harvard seal was omnipresent. On library chairs and notebooks, on sweatshirts and university signs, wherever I turned, there was VE-RI-TAS, following my every move like the eye of God. Harvard was all about veritas, Latin for 'truth.'

"But it wasn't until I was well into my college experience that I learned the truth about the Harvard seal and the motto emblazoned upon it. Yes, the motto did contain the word veritas. But on the official university seal veritas didn't stand alone. It was joined to three other Latin words: christo et ecclesiae. The whole motto translated into English read: 'Truth . . . for Christ and the church.' This official motto, adopted by the university in 1692, was consistent with Harvard's original vision for its educational purpose.

"Needless to say, somewhere in the last three centuries Harvard lost touch with its primary purpose, though the student body continues to include a healthy number of faithful Christians. The predominant view among most Harvardians these days, however, would be that truth is relative, and that there is no certain truth upon which to base one's life. The idea that the pursuit of truth is for the sake of Christ and the church would be considered a curious antique of a premodern (or pre-postmodern) age.

"Though I spent eight years in residence at Harvard, I still believe that there is such a thing as VERITAS, as Truth with a capital 'T.' Moreover, I even believe that human beings should pursue such Truth for the sake of Christ and the church. This pretty much explains why I do what I do, as a pastor, a professor, and a student of Scripture. In fact, I believe with the governors of Harvard in 1646, that Christ is 'the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.'

"Yes, I may be a bit of an antique. But sometimes antiques are worth a whole lot more than newfangled contraptions. When it comes to truth, I think the founding leaders of my alma mater got it right. Truth, rightly understood, is indeed 'for Christ and the church'"

Choose how you will think

Today we live in a vastly different world in which discovery in many of the sciences has distracted man away from thinking the most basic of thoughts. Could there be a creation without a Creator? Could there be design without a Designer? Could there be law without a Lawgiver? Who sustains the complex and vast universe we live in?

These questions demand answers, and this requires some thinking. For those interested in expanding their thinking on science and discovery, I recommend reading the United Church of God's free booklet, Life's Ultimate Question: Does God Exist? and Bill Bryson's bestseller, A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003).

The apostle Paul wrote many years ago: "Because they did not receive the love of the truth . . . God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

I understood long ago that God exists, and have developed a respect for the Christian worldview. It is within this perspective that I strive to do all my thinking. Everyone, especially those hearing for the first time other ideas and worldviews, needs to decide which way he or she sees life. The postmodern concept being widely expressed in universities today that says there are no absolute rules for life has little room for a God who "interferes" in the lives of humankind.

Readers of this magazine understand that we are eager for you to learn how to think vertically—that is, to think about the biblical God of heaven and what He wants us to do. This God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob warns us to be diligent in our thinking.

Paul wrote to the young Timothy: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness" (2 Timothy 2:15-16).

This short article cannot debunk all the spurious ideas that abound, but it can warn of the dangers that exist in our increasingly ungodly world. Those who want to think vertically need to consider some serious matters: Can you trust in God and His Word? Do you need to become converted and be led by God's Spirit?

If this interests you, remember what God revealed to His people: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Hebrews 8:10).

Thinking takes effort and must start with a basic framework. Either you decide for yourself the matters of truth, justice and right versus wrong, or you put your trust in a Creator God who claims to have made you for a purpose. You could be robbed of this great opportunity by a corrupting environment under the sway of the evil god of this world, Satan the devil. Paul wrote: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

"I think not"

Remember the philosopher Decartes? Do you know the rest of the story? René Descartes was sitting in a small Paris café one afternoon contemplating the meaning of life and the human condition. Suddenly he realized—"I think, therefore I am."

He was so excited about his revelation that he started drinking in celebration. After several glasses of wine the waitress came by his table and asked if he wanted another glass. Realizing he was getting drunk, he replied to the waitress, "I think not." And POOF . . . he disappeared. Well, not really. But it makes a good joke!

May you continue thinking vertically. VT

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