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Personal reflections
Thursday, 17 February 2005
CAPS OFF, CAPS ON
Caps On, Caps Of: Making Life's Decisions with our Thinking Caps On, a GCF Market Place Network talk was an interesting session held last night at the Church of Christ of Malaya, 54 Sophia Road. The speaker was Dr Cheung Wing Sum from NIE.

As I understood the thrust of the talk, its main point was that as Christians we don't do enough imaginative, critical or reflective thinking in life, and that decisions which we make in life should be more informed by a thinking disposition. Dr Cheung helpfully unpacked some of that and give practical illustrations and suggestions on how we can apply that in life.

Our physician chairperson during the Q/A session (sorry I didn't get your name) raised an important question about finding the right balance between "the need to be more thoughtful" and therefore to not to fall into the rut of uncritical familiarity, and "the need not to think" which is a necessary condition in order for humans to get on with higher order tasks.

That I felt was an insightful question, and it raised for me yet another dimension which was not introduced at the meeting. Our host for the evening Tim Liu suggested that rediscovering "critical reflective thinking" is part of the post-fall redemptive task. While I would agree with that, I wonder if that is the problem in Singapore where we are famous for doing cost benefit and SWOT analyses, corporate scenario planning, strategizing, meta-analyses, etc??? I have been heard saying many times that those living in Singapore must be great strategic thinkers - when they are eating their lunches, they are planning where and what to eat for dinner!

Perhaps the problem is more nuanced than that. Someone did suggest that we check out our thinking in certain arenas in life. Perhaps the problem is that we are not consistent in our reflections so that we are very actively using our grey matter in one arena in life (eg work) while we dutifully take off our thinking caps in another (e.g. home or church)??? The way I view the problem is that when we go to church, we sometimes check out our brains the way we take our shoes off when we enter someone's home. It's a default setting, possibly a conditioned response, but it is an observed tendency - not without its consequences.

Even then a truly reflective person is not necessarily a better Christian. I could have an amazing reflective thinking disposition and yet allow those gifts to be pressed into the service of a higher evil purpose. I think most successful drug cartel leaders, smugglers, dictators, and even desperate housewives are smart, systems thinkers and one step ahead of competitors. Has Harvard Business School's emphasis on case based learning made better Christians out of their graduates? So is thinking a necessary but not sufficient condition for being more Christ-like? Is it a necessary condition?

The other thought that came to mind was the privilege we have given to cognitive development in the modern world. We live in a culture where it is suggested that the highest expression of our humanity is found in developed cognitive ability, and where other expressions of human ability have been either suppressed or under-represented. Where is the place for God given intuition or the expression of emotion? Questions like that would have ushered the postmodern kneejerk against the rationalistic emphasis of the modern industrial era. Why can't I just buy a Rabbit (that's the car referred to in the talk) because my intuitions tell me it is right?

By emphasizing the need to think more in a culture that thinks a lot already, do we contribute to the loss of holism and the need to train our hearts and intuitions to become more aligned with God's values? Is the thinking ability we have or are encouraged to develop brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all arenas of life? As Dr Cheung rightly pointed out, our Christian values are fundamental, even prior to the development of thinking. So, maybe, and just maybe, the greater need for the moment for Christian graduates (and non-graduates alike) is to be able to think (and feel, and intuit) Christianly and consistently in ALL arenas of life??? The balance is difficult to achieve, the tension is hard to resolve.

O, thanks to the sister and brother in Christ who led worship at the beginning of our session. It was a sacred devotional moment during which time I just didn't want to think but to express my heart to the Lord. Or should I have be thinking about those words and the medium as carriers/vehicles of devotion????

OK, I have been intentionally provocative, and displays symptoms of the educator in me. It's really a generative piece. When we underscore a point, we often overstate it and in doing so under-represent other points that need to be said. That would be true in Dr Cheung's talk, it is true for this piece and I am merely trying to be additive. Still a lot remains unstated which is why I would love your comments.

Posted by calchong at 9:40 AM WST
Updated: Thursday, 17 February 2005 11:09 AM WST

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