Monday, September 19, 2005

Critical Thinking Skills

Magic of Thinking Big

David J. Schwatz

Chapter 5 – How to Think and Dream Creatively


The author starts with defining creative thinking by examples (pg 83):

  1. A low-income family devises a way to send their son to a leading university
  2. A family turns the street’s most undesirable lot into the neighborhood beauty spot
  3. A minister develops a plan to double his Sunday evening attendance

The definition is given on page 84: “Creative thinking is simply finding new, improved ways to do anything."

The author now defines how to develop creative thinking (starts on page 84):

  1. Believe it can be done – He states that “believing something can be done sets the mind in motion to find a way to do it.” On the next page, he goes as far as to say that “believing something can not be done is destructive thinking.” There are two steps in believing leading to creative power (pg 87):
    1. “Eliminate the word impossible from your thinking and speaking. Impossible is a failure word.”
    2. “Think of something special you’ve been wanting to do, but felt you couldn’t. Now, make a list of why you can do it.”
  2. Don’t be paralyzed by tradition – “The traditional thinker’s mind is paralyzed.” (pg87) He talks about the dangers of doing things how they have always been done, even picking up a quote from Crawford Greenewalt of DuPont “there are many ways a job can be done – as many ways in fact, as there are men to whom the task is given” (pg 88). There are dangers in tradition as he states that “new ideas can not sprout”. The author gives a small list of things that are traditional in USA and says to ask people at random about changing them. If those people laugh, they suffer from “Tradition Paralysis”. There are three steps to overcome this (pg 89):
    1. “Become receptive to ideas. Welcome new ideas.”
    2. “Be an experimental person. Break up fixed routines.”
    3. “Be progressive, not regressive.”
  3. Ask “How can I do it better?” (pg 89) – “The successful person knows that it can be done better.” (pg 90). Be constantly thinking of ways to improve things all around you. This is closely tied in with the next point:
  4. Ask “How can I do more?” – “Capacity is a state of mind” (pg 92). There is a two step process for the latter two points (pg 94):
    1. “Eagerly accept the opportunity to do more.”
    2. When you ask yourself how to do something better, the answers will come.
  5. “Big people monopolize on listening. Little people monopolize on talking.” (pg 95) – “The raw materials [of creative decisions] are the ideas and suggestions of others.” There are three steps to learning to listen (pg 96-7):
    1. “Encourage others to talk.”
    2. "Test your own views in the form of questions."
    3. “Concentrate on what the other person says.”
  6. Stimulate your mind – The author suggests that you join two groups: one in your field of work and one in a different field. We are told a story that oak trees produce many acorns (analogous to our ideas) and that the squirrels eat most of them. He then tells us that “if we’re not on guard, the squirrels (negative-thinking people) will destroy most of them.” (pg 99) There are three steps to harness the power of your ideas (pg 99):
    1. “Don’t let ideas escape. Write them down.”
    2. “Review your ideas. File these ideas in an active file.”
    3. “Cultivate and fertilize your idea. Now make your idea grow.”

Christian Refutation

This chapter is full of half truths; that is things that are true on the surface, but have a dangerous root. Creative thinking is good, however, when you are using creative thinking in light of this book, you are looking for ways to get things, i.e., love for the world, so let me restate the already beat to death verse: 1 John 2:15. But we are going to take this a step further. Look at James 4:13-16:

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."

14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

15Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

16But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

I would like to quote John MacArthur’s comment on these verses in the ‘MacArthur Study Bible. “James does not condemn wise business planning, but rather planning that leaves out God.” How many people have worked real hard to plan something just to get to the last day and it was all in vain. I actually had a classmate in college that after four hard years taking every Chemistry class the university had to offer said, “Just watch, after all this, we will graduate only to die in some kind of accident the last day.” Praise God that did not happen! But it could have. I say that to point out that boasting outside the will of God is dangerous. This chapter on creative thinking is similar to that; it has all these steps on how you can get what you want, and God is apparently left out of the loop.

Believe and Achieve

I think I already tackled the concept of belief in a previous post, let me know if more material is needed.


The Roman Catholic readers are bound to enjoy this point! The Roman Catholics say "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God . . ." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 97). I can not affirm this. I believe in the Bible as the sole authority for doctrinal truth. What does the bible say about tradition? There are three verses for it, and three verses against it. In all this, there is, indeed, a firm analysis (in other words, God was not confused about the use of tradition, WE ARE!)

For tradition:

  • 2 Thessalonians 3:6 - Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:15So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”
  • 1 Corinthians 11:2“Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.”

Against Tradition:

  • Matthew 15:3-6 - And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4"For God said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.' 5"But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God," 6he is not to honor his father or his mother.' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
  • Mark 7:8-9 - "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." 9He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.
  • Colossians 2:8“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

Let us now explore how to make sense of all this. First, note where the tradition is stated in the former: Tradition that is in honoring with the scriptures, that is, that which is clearly in or may be deduced directly from scripture, is a tradition that can be honored. Such things include the positions in a church such as elders, deacons, pastors. It includes such things as adult baptism as an external profession of faith (though it is not required for salvation), it does not include such things as the Papacy or Pope, infant baptism as a means of purity, etc.

Look now at the latter list: In these cases, people are appealing to the tradition of the world over the command of God. The first two of those is Jesus talking to the Pharisees. These people created a religious tradition that they followed so tightly, they abandoned following the commands of God for sake of those traditions. As for the last verse, the context of that tradition is not specifically clear, though I would guess (being a Greek city; Greeks were notorious for their philosophy) it was a tradition of following a philosophy. In either case, it had nothing to do with God, or following God.

Now, the position that Magic of Thinking Big takes is that of the trend towards rebellion against societal norms. Remember this book was first written in 1959, near the peek of the rebellion against society. These people took the tradition debate way to far and cast off all tradition in the quest for truth (the modernist movement) and then settled (more recently) onto the views of Greenewalt (as expressed in his quote above) that there are as many ways to do something as there are creative minds doing it (this is the root of post-modernism). When this view of pluralism is applied to various areas of life, it can be very good, but I will warn that it does not apply to salvation and eternity. For Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father but through me (John 14:6).

This being said, there is a place to question tradition, so long as that tradition is not laid down in scripture. Let me explain: I served as head usher at my church for about three years. I took on the job and after a few years I was sick of it because our ushers traditionally had one head usher (me) who was on every single week and then there were several others who rotated around. I decided to create a co-ordinating usher position (still me), but I appointed three other head ushers so that each head (including me) only worked one Sunday. That is how to battle tradition.

For the critics of my approach, I affirm that this method of creative thinking is fine, so long as you are not using it to question the solid authority of the Bible, and you are including the will of God in your planning. When things don't go right, don't blame God, he is sovereign.

In conclusion to this part, anything which places a high priority on gaining material things is bound to lead to problems. Not because material things are bad, but because the love of them produces in you a desire to get them, make them a pursuit, and before you know it, they have replaced God for your top priority.

My thanks to C.A.R.M. for the analysis of Tradition


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