"Does not the ear test words, as the palate tastes its food?" (Job 12:11)
It is easy to overlook Jesus the Thinker! Much has been written on Jesus the Redeemer, Jesus the Healer, Jesus the Miracle Worker, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Lord, etc., but the topic of Jesus as the greatest thinker of all time doesn't seem to get as much attention. Understanding Jesus, the Thinker, and his use of powerful arguments can turn out to be invaluable in today's hostile world. The gospels dedicate an enormous amount of time and space describing how Jesus engaged the arguments and responded to the attacks that were launched against his truth claims. In doing so, Jesus engaged in a reasoned defense of the faith using critical thinking as one of his primary tools. As Douglas Groothuis so powerfully asserts, "When Jesus defended the crucial claims of Christianity — He was its founder, after all — He was engaging in apologetics, often with the best minds of first-century Judaism." As Christians facing hostile arguments and attacks on our faith, there is much to learn from a careful consideration of those encounters.
Jesus' engagements were undergirded by the desire to attract (not alienate) the lost. Above the strategies and specific critical thinking skills Jesus employed, we find Jesus gently and respectfully seeking to persuade his opponents. He was not out to destroy them, but rather to enlighten them. Dallas Willard is on point when he affirms that, "Jesus' aim in utilizing logic is not to win battles, but to achieve understanding or insight in his hearers." This ought to be our objective as well. We are called to demolish arguments — not people! We must constantly remind ourselves that we are not trying to win arguments, but rather win people over to the truth of the Gospel.
Jesus' pedagogical strategy was very effective. He was able to engage his opponents in the thinking process by making them active participants instead of passive listeners. As Willard explains"
...he does not try to make everything so explicit that the conclusion is forced down the throat of the hearer. Rather, he presents matters in such a way that those who wish to know can find their way to, can come to, the appropriate conclusion as something they have discovered—whether or not it is something they particularly care for.