Letters to Stagnant Christians #9: Confirmation Bias

Letters to Stagnant Christians #9: Confirmation Bias

Listen to understand. Patiently live with moments of perplexity, misunderstanding or oddness. Be determined to discover something new, not merely verify everything you thought you knew. Above all, look for ways that the Word is making demands for change in your life. The more we obey, the more sensitive we become to the Word, and our listening skills increase.

Sometimes our spiritual problems come from unexpected places. We expect that people who disagree with the doctrine, preaching, and teaching of the Word will not grow much, and that is certainly the case. But unexpectedly, some people fail to grow because they agree too much. I think this is your situation.

Now by the term “agreeing too much”, I do not mean that it is possible to agree too vigorously or too often with revealed truth. Like love, it is impossible to love what is good too much, provided we do not love it as a substitute for God.

Instead, I mean it is possible to adopt a kind of “agreeableness” that never reflects on what it is agreeing with. Your default response to every teaching, comment or admonition is “I know”. Every doctrine meets a nod, and a knowing smile. But I fear the problem lies just there: there is not as much knowing behind the smiling as there ought to be.

Lana, it is possible to mistake broad agreement with the church’s position for actual agreement about particular applications of truth in your life. In your case, I happen to know that there are some habits and practices which you have not tackled or changed in twenty years of church attendance. Yet you are able to see everything under the visage of “I know. I agree.” You would likely say that you have found the sermons incredibly challenging and convicting. But you have been able to sidestep their demands for change for decades.

This is where I believe you have managed to fall prey to a particular form of the deceitfulness of the heart. The world sometimes speaks of ‘confirmation bias’.

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