I had a conversation with an upper classmen at a Bible college recently, and he was giving me the sales pitch for why his Bible college was so wonderful. He said a line I have heard frequently: “they teach you how to think, not what to think.”
I asked him what that meant and he gave me two other common lines:
1. “Other schools” tell you what to believe and don’t tell you why, which makes you a parrot of someone else’s beliefs. (When I asked him to give an example of a school that did this, he couldn’t…)
2. The teachers present all sides of an issue and let you decide for yourself instead of telling you what’s “right”. (I asked if this was done in freshman courses, and he said “yes”.)
I didn’t say anything to him since we were going our separate ways, but I was really troubled by what he said because it was so utterly untrue.
For starters, the phrase “we teach you how to think, not what to think” was something he picked up from someone else (i.e. a professor or an older student); he was simply parroting reasons he was told to say for why his school was so good. That statement is most likely self-refuting. Slightly ironic?
Secondly, laying out a sea of ideas and then sorting through them only works for someone who has a way to sort through them. 99.9% of Bible college freshmen don’t have a robust theological framework through which to evaluate ideas, which basically explains why so many twenty-somethings who have spent time at a Bible college have a diversity of beliefs that includes at least one major historical heresy (and why emergent church literature sells so much).
Most Bible colleges who claim to teach “how, not what”, do the exact opposite of that by throwing freshmen in the deep end of the pool of ideas, where they have no ability to swim. That leaves them flailing and trying to sort through the pool of ideas, and the only one who’s around to help them swim is their professor…or their own subjective feelings about what they like. Either they become parrots or pick favorites based on their preferences. Neither option involves teaching students how to think.
So how do you teach students “how” to think? You need to give them a framework for evaluating ideas. You need to teach them what to think, in the sense of giving them a biblical framework for evaluating ideas. Someone can reliably evaluate ideas only when they have an objective standard of evaluation. With a robust biblical& exegetical framework, a person can evaluate any ideas and come out with right beliefs.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “The Armchair Objective Thinker” Unger