Who Taught You to Think?

Medical ethics?  Family and gender?  Religion and law?  Who taught you to think?

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‘Who taught you to think?’  asks the ‘wall art’ near my home – and asked the preacher at church on Sunday morning.  ‘Who teaches any of us to think?’ I ask myself and, ‘On what do our teachers and leaders and role models base their thinking?’  Some of them, I fear, don’t even know the answer to that themselves.

So society discusses how to deal with medical ethics, family and gender relationships and law and religion, and hardly anyone asks, ‘On what do I base my opinions?  Who taught me to think like this?’  If we don’t know the basis for our own thinking, how can we begin to understand the basis for other peoples’ thinking? And if we don’t understand the basis of each other’s thinking, how can we possibly have sensible discussions or come to conclusions about such important issues?

Most Christians and Muslims think that they base their opinions on the Bible and the Qur’an respectively; but do they?  And who taught them how to think about what they find in their Books?  Where do they disagree with each when they should agree?  Where do they agree with each other when they should differ?  And what resources do they have in their books that will help them, both separately and together, to make their contributions to a pluralistic society?

On what do our teachers and leaders and role models base their thinking?’  Some of them, I fear, don’t even know the answer to that themselves.

I’m really looking forward to our ‘Qur’an and Bible’ seminar series this term, because it will give us models for dealing with such questions.  For each of the topics (organ donation, gender issues and Moses) we will have two sessions.  In the first session, one of the scholars associated with our Centre will give us a presentation on their studies of how the Bible and the Qur’an can be used to address the issues.  The second session will be a discussion of relevant key texts.  We will follow the pattern of our monthlyQur’an and Bible’ study group:

  • A Christian will give a brief introduction to the biblical texts.  Everyone will then be invited to ask questions and to comment.
  • A Muslim will give a brief introduction to the qur’anic texts.  Everyone will then be invited to ask questions and to comment.
  • Some time will be taken to reflect on any similarities or differences between the texts that have not yet been mentioned.
  • The presenters and chair will summarise what we have learnt.

This is a great way for people to learn how others think, and also for everyone to be challenged in their own thinking.  I hope that everyone will come away with refreshed ways of thinking, as well as with a better understanding of why these issues can cause so much tension between people who have been taught to think in different ways.

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Author
Dr Ida Glaser, Academic Director, Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies

Comment (1)

  • Ida Glaser Reply

    Since writing this, I am wondering whether the question should be, ‘Who stopped you from thinking?’ From observation, small children think a lot and ask all sorts of questions. Maybe problems start when we stop this sort of thinking.

    January 23, 2014 at 2:42 pm

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