In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1—NKJV)

First words set the tone. When a tale begins with “Once upon a time…” every reader knows that it is a fairy tale and critical thinking takes a break. When the Declaration of Independence begins with “When in the course of human events…” critical thinking is awakened to action. When the United States Constitution begins with “We the people of the United States…” critical thinking knows it has power. When the Bible starts with the words, “In the beginning God created…” critical thinking learns it has boundaries and values which inform our conscience.

The idea of critical thinking may sound archaic and unappetizing to uninformed ears. I am not advocating being critical in the sense of finding fault simply for the purpose of finding fault. Critical thinking is thinking characterized by careful analysis. It forms “a sound, critical estimate of a problem.” A critical thinker often finds himself set apart from the rest of society—a society which seems more and more intent upon injecting into critical thinking both subjective feeling and wishful outcomes as starting points, as if such subjectivities are “refereeing and overruling” considerations.

“Critical, in its strictest use, implies an attempt at objective judging so as to determine both merits and faults.” It is the result of this process, and the sharing of objective conclusions, which is often attacked as being faultfinding. Nevertheless, without critical thinking every man is like a ship adrift. After all, the Gospel message is quite critical in its assertions about sin, its guilt, its consequences, and its solution.

God sets the boundaries and creates the values of critical thinking in the very first words of His revelation to mankind. “In the beginning” expresses His comprehension of all that is timeless. “God created” expresses His sovereign primacy over all that exists. From these words we know that God is absolute. Any thinking person would have to agree that God is nothing if not absolute. His absolutes then must define every virtue among men, including truth, love, freedom, mercy, justice, etc.—everything that sets humankind apart from all the rest of creation.

This verse is the very root of the definition of the nature of God, and the rest of the creation story defines the nature of man. Every man receives his uniqueness in that he bears the image of God (though marred by sin). He receives his individualism, his value, his property rights, his right to life, his responsive self-determination, and his freedom directly from God. This verse is also the very root of our understanding of Divine Sovereignty, and the rest of the creation story defines the nature of individual responsibility and ultimate human accountability to his Creator. From the intelligent design of God, informed critical thinking receives it boundaries and its values, not to mention its guidance.

Genesis 1:1 is elaborated by the rest of the creation story. From it you derive your value, freedom of conscience, responsibility to manage creation, love of truth, desire to promote human dignity in view of the image of God in every man, property rights, the right and responsibility to work, literal understanding of the revelation of God, individual soul liberty, understanding of the pervasive nature of sin active in every man necessitating the balance of authoritarian powers, blind justice, submission to God’s moral standards, and an appreciation for searching out the meaning of God’s design in everything in creation, including yourself.

Proverbs 1:7 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Make critical thinking your regular thinking, finding your boundaries and values from God alone, and you will live a life pleasing in His sight (Romans 12:1–2). Trust and obey.