WAIT! DON'T WATCH THE VIDEO YET...READ THE PARAGRAPH BELOW IT FIRST...
There's a point about understanding biblical truth that this video illustrates very well. For you to really get the full impact of the point I'm making, you'll have to work with me on this and follow these instructions:
1. Start the video and watch it until the eight second spot and then immediately pause the player there. Go ahead and do it, then come back to this point.
2. What do you see in the video? The frame of a box? Are you sure it's a box? How sure are you? One hundred percent? Fifty percent?
3. If you stop here and go no further, you'll forever be convinced that what you've seen is a box, but it's not. You have not been watching a box frame on this video. You may be fully convinced you're seeing the image clearly, but you're not.
4. Press play now and watch the rest of the video.
What you've just experienced is called "confirmation bias." It's a psychological mindset which causes us to connect mentally to evidence that reinforces what we already believe while dismissing any evidence that would contradict our existing beliefs. You can google this subject and find out all about the early tests done in the 1960s that revealed the bias and find many examples on the Internet about it.
The reason I'm bringing it up here is because I find confirmation bias is a strong deterrent that keeps people from seeing some truths in the Bible. There are things we have believed for a long time, maybe even all our lives. But what if some of the things we believe are wrong? What if there's another way to look at it that would still recognize the Bible to be the authority on our understanding but would be a completely different viewpoint?
There are some things I believed for a long time that I don't believe anymore. I now see those things differently. Sometimes, when I share those topics, people will say, "But the Bible says . . . !" Of course, I already know that the Bible says what they're telling me. It's not that I don't know what the Bible says. The point is that there may be another way of "seeing" (interpreting) the text than what these folks have previously considered.
The thing about confirmation bias is that it's hardwired into our psyche is such a way that we often have a knee-jerk reaction against any evidence that contradicts our current viewpoint. In other words, we simply will not hear it. We know what we know that we know and we don't want to be bothered with information that goes against what we think we know.
So we react without giving the other viewpoint any serious investigation or sometimes even without a fair hearing. We hurl our stockpile of Bible verses that we already know which (to us) supports the view we currently have. There may be another way to understand those verses, but if we are confronted with a different way of seeing it, we often abandon that verse and flee to the next one that we think will support our existing view.
It's as if when we read the Bible, the verses that support what we already believe seem to be highlighted or italicized while the verses that might disprove and dismantle our current belief are skimmed over, almost as if they are invisible. Our bias serves to reinforce our view by causing confirming evidence to jump out at us while blinding us to any evidence that might threaten our current view.
It's important to see that bias in yourself. We all have it. Recognizing that fact can do a couple of important things in us. First, it can cause us to realize that, despite the fact that we may be very sure about our view, we could be wrong. We would all benefit from holding our viewpoints in humility. To say, "I just believe what the Bible plainly says" is often an arrogant cop-out. When we make that statement, are we implying that the other person is ignorant? That they don't really believe the Bible? It's not a weakness to possess humility when it comes to our understanding. Despite the western world's demand for ironclad, definitive, it-can't-be-any-other-way answers, there is a reason sincere, God-loving, Bible-believing, educationally-equipped students of the Bible have differed throughout history. Maybe if we recognize confirmation bias in ourselves we will be more respectful to those who differ with us.
The second thing it can do for us if we recognize the reality of confirmation bias in ourselves is to open our minds and hearts to learn truth we haven't known. To be open isn't to be gullible. Of course, we are to examine truth in light of the Scripture but instead of doing that we sometimes slam the door of our minds shut the moment we hear something that's new to us. If we aren't changing, we aren't growing. It's that simple.
What if there are some truths the Holy Spirit wants to teach you that contradict what you believe right now? Are you open to that? To replacing something you believe now with another belief the Spirit teaches you? Are you willing to change? Sometimes I encounter people who actually become angry when they are confronted with teaching that is new to them. Their anger shouts of their insecurity in their beliefs.
Others are too heavily vested in the religious culture where they live to change. There's a price to pay when we go against our religious culture. I've learned first hand that when we change, we will encounter rejection from some who don't agree with us. Go with the flow of grace and it just might carry us out "outside the city gates."
Sometimes when we think we are defending the truth, what we're really doing is frantically hugging our sacred cows. Our bias has caused us to idolize our traditions and our traditions have galvanized our inability to learn truths that are new to us.
Don't be gullible. Don't believe what anybody teaches you without studying the Bible for yourself. Many who are wary of teachings that are new to them have never considered that the things they currently believe are held by them because their religious culture indoctrinated them without their having seriously studied the subject for themselves. They have learned by religious osmosis, not by Spirit-led instruction.
I was speaking in Mexico one time and learned that many of the people there had been told by their pastor, "Don't listen to him!" When I stood to speak on the first night, I said, "Your pastor is right. You shouldn't listen to me, but you shouldn't listen to him either. Listen to the Bible. Listen to the Holy Spirit. If what he or I say is biblical, then listen to that. But don't take our word for anything - neither of us."
Who are you listening to these days? Your tradition? Your denomination? Your family upbringing? Maybe it would be a good idea for all of us to recognize and admit that we indeed do have a confirmation bias that causes us to unconsciously connect to the things that affirm we are right and we bypass anything that would suggest otherwise.
May His Spirit cause each of us to hear His Voice and to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ," even if it means that we have to admit that we've been wrong -- very wrong about some things. Don't be so sure you're seeing a box. Sometimes we need to look further into the matter to know what's really there.