What is the primary influence on your thinking process? No, I did not ask, "what is the primary influence on your beliefs?" for that is a different question. One's beliefs are the technical details; like, for example, if someone said "I believe that the moon is made out of green cheese"; which is a technical detail of what one believes. This is different from one's thinking process, which refers to the mental steps by which he arrives at his beliefs (i.e. how did he come to believe that the moon is made out of green cheese?). Therefore, I ask again, "what is the primary influence on your thinking process?" We would hope that it is the truth of God, but that is not always the case, even for Catholics.
Take, for example, a recent article in a blog that I will not name, written by a Catholic theologian that I will not name. The article was teaching about a reference in the Scriptures, and one individual in the comments section (who will also not be named) responded with strong disagreement. The commenter criticized this writer's position in the article. It was not, however, his disagreement that was the issue I want to point out. It was the grounds for his disagreement, and these grounds revealed what that "primary influence" was that I mentioned above.
The commenter claimed that the passage must be symbolic and not literal because [get this], the New York Times had published an article that spoke otherwise (and that, apparently, settled the case). Now, I want you to think about this with me for a moment. The Bible says "X", and a Catholic theologian says he believes that is an accurate representation of the facts since there is no apparent reason anywhere in the passage to take it otherwise. Then, another Catholic says that the writer is wrong because a prominent (non-christian) newspaper says "Y". The commenter claimed that the author of the article needed to "get his facts straight" because he clearly failed to consult with some well-known pagans on how to interpret the Bible. Something is seriously wrong with this picture (am I the only one to see it?).
In another place, I came across someone who made the claim that the Bible is "more theological than historical". Why? Does it say that? ["And thou must be awares, all the words of this book art more theological than historical. The history parts are all inaccurate, and thou canst ignore them."] This sounds more like what scientific denials of Christian truth are telling us. Let us ask the obvious: is he saying that the authors of the Bible were able to receive divine revelation to state theology correct, but that they were unable to do simple math and get their timelines correct? Realize that these scientists who attack the truths in the Scriptures are the same ones who are telling us that "that thing" is not an "unborn baby" but merely a blob of tissue. Once someone makes such a blatant error in reality, we ought to look at everything they say as suspect (especially when they claim to know the proper interpretation of the words of God). Who could be more biased about God's word than those who deny His existence?
There is an interesting commentary about this issue in the Holy Scriptures themselves, and it should be a major influence on our thinking. We read in Psalm 50:16-17, "But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you." God does not think very highly of non-Christians even quoting His words unless they are doing so in a state of penitence. If He does not even like them quoting His words, what would He think about them commenting on their proper interpretation? I doubt it pleases Him very much; in many ways God has told us that bad thinking is a "dragon" to be slain. This being the case, then, should we be going to them instead of trusting God to speak through the Church?
Let us imagine for a moment that the pagan scientists are correct in their interpretation of the Scriptures (just for the sake of an argument). What would be the right way to receive their claims? With hesitancy and caution, we should look at their ideas as suspect. Remember, these are the same people that God says "cast [His] words behind" them. The Scriptures say that someone who denies the existence of God is a "fool" (Psalms 14:1); not as an insult, but as a technical term: "one who is deficient in judgment, sense, or understanding". Is that really someone we should choose to guide us on the words of God? Then, later, if God speaks through the Church and tells us the proper interpretation (which happens to accord with the pagan interpretation), then we can believe--precisely because God said so, not because a non-Christian said so.
So then, let me ask the question one more time: "what is the primary influence on your thinking process?" Is it the Church, the Bride of Christ, who acts as His mouthpiece to the world? Or do we allow unbelievers (who "hate discipline" and reject God's truth) to tell us what the Bible means? How can we trust them to interpret the Scriptures? The days are long past when scientists acknowledged that theology is the queen of the sciences. Today, theology is the whipping boy of atheists. Yet, many today will still give heed to unbelieving scientists as though they know more than the Magisterium of the Church. Statistics tell us that a large percentage of Catholics in the pew doubt the truth of many of the Church's teachings, and many of them have been led into this error by priests who teach these errors. Truly a great deception has clouded the minds of many of God's people.
I would encourage each of you to look deeply at your thinking process. Who guides you? How have you come to the conclusions you hold to today? Has it genuinely been in submission to the truth of God, or has something else clouded your mind? The only thing holding you back from answering this question would be pride. No one thinks that he is wrongly influenced in his thinking; that is why we hold the beliefs that we do. Yet, the danger is too great to ignore. It is Lent; time to do some healthy self-examination. Do so for more than a mere exercise. Do so because it will impact all of your thinking in the future, but do so in a spirit of humility. Because you must know this: if you examine your thinking, you must be willing to change. You must be willing to seek "the mind of Christ" in all things (1 Corinthians 2:16).