Reasons to Believe

Reflective Thinking: A Great Idea

I believe ideas rule the world. I find it very fulfilling to think and talk about the great ideas of history that have succeeded in changing the world. I also love lists. Therefore, knowing me well, my daughter Sarah gave me a great gift for my birthday, a recent special edition magazine from Time Inc. entitled 100 Ideas That Changed the World: History’s Greatest Breakthroughs, Inventions and Theories.

This work includes highlights from the ancient world, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and modern times. Each idea listed is described and its significance explained in just a couple of paragraphs. Engaging images also accompany each particular concept or belief.

The list’s editors drew a number of ideas from the Bible or from historic Christianity overall (including monotheism and Christianity). Ideas from St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, two of Christendom’s greatest philosopher-theologians, also made the list.

Powerful scientific and technological theories and inventions mark the modern times list. These entries include genetics, Einstein’s theory of relativity, the big bang, factory assembly lines, computers, and the Internet. Of course, some of the listings are debatable—but limiting the great ideas to the top 100 would always raise questions and disagreements. The collection does include some controversial selections that clash with Christian truth-claims and values (such as gay identity and the attempts to elevate animal rights to the level of human rights).

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this work—and I’ve come up with what I think is a great idea for using this list to encourage “the life of the mind” in my son.

Michael just graduated from high school. As he prepares for college, we’ve decided to read one entry each night together and discuss the great idea and its implications. For me, it brings together both my love for my son and my love of ideas. It is also consistent with my attempt to pursue the life of the mind to the glory of God. After all, the Christian worldview makes the powerful claim that “all truth is God’s truth.” And even if the idea isn’t true or morally sound we still benefit from knowing how and why.

Since people often ask me for educational advice, especially concerning their children, let me invite you to consider doing something like this with your family. Such a practice encourages critical thinking and develops a depth of understanding that will benefit your children as they engage the world of ideas around them—all while strengthening your relationships.

Subjects: Learning