Thinking Critically vs Skeptically

[Edit 1/2/2015: This is another post in my series, "Do You Want To Be A Christian Apologist?" This is number 17 in the series, which are tagged with the words "Christian Apologetics" below, seen in reverse chronological order. So, let's say you want to be a Christian apologist, someone who defends the Christian faith. Then what must you do? The 17th thing you must do is make a distinction between thinking critically and thinking skeptically and focus on the former to the exclusion of the latter. ]

There shouldn't be a difference between thinking critically vs skeptically, for to think critically is to think skeptically, and vice versa. So why do I write about this? The answer in a word: Faith. Believers can and do think critically, especially the best of the best, like Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne and William Lane Craig. Other notable Christian scholars are Paul Copan, Randal Rauser, Victor Reppert, David Marshall, and Matt Flannagan who regularly engage in apologetics against atheists like me. But they are not truly critical thinkers since they do not think skeptically.

Teaching students to be critical thinkers is very important but teaching them to have a skeptical disposition is more important. Critical thinking should lead to this disposition. The problem is that faith is a critical thinking stopper. It builds up a wall that stops believers dead in their tracks. They dare not go beyond it to the proper conclusion when applying the standards of critical thinking. Now I taught critical thinking classes as a Christian believer. So I know exactly what they are doing. Norman Geisler, one of the leading Christian apologists who defends the indefensible, even co-wrote a book with Ronald M. Brooks titled, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking.I don't know enough about the leading defenders of other religious faiths, but I suspect in their universities they teach critical thinking classes from textbooks they have written too. And I expect we would all agree with what they teach and write, except for some of the examples they use to illustrate a particular logical rule.

So what's the problem? Faith. Faith stunts one's critical thinking skills. It prohibits a person of faith from applying the set of critical thinking skills we all agree about. You can see this by how they argue, which I am documenting here. What believers do is to defend their faith rather than look critically at it, no matter what the intellectual cost. Stephen Law is right: “Anything based on faith, no matter how ludicrous, can be made to be consistent with the available evidence, given a little patience and ingenuity.” (Believing Bullshit, p. 75). If Christian apologists could think logically, without the perceived need to defend their religious sect's faith, they would see they are not thinking consistently critically.

In the hopes I can help nudge them along this road I recommend reading Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn's college textbook, How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age.There are newer, more expensive editions of this book than the one I linked to. But look inside this one then choose which edition at which price you can afford. But get it. You will see what I mean when I say there is no distinction between critical thinking and thinking skeptically. They are one and the same. That's why I argue faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities. I say believers operate by double standards. They do not think critically, in the sense I just wrote about and which this book could help show them. When we say the party of agnosticism and atheism is one of reason and science we mean it. We invite believers to the adult table, where an adult conversation can be had.