Confirmation Bias in the Bible

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Tim. 4:3-4 NKJV)

These verses are as profound and timeless as they are ancient. I read them recently and was struck by the reality that this “itching ears” prophecy is coming true before our very eyes. We don’t want to hear what we don’t want to hear, so we are surrounding ourselves with many teachers and others who will tell us what we do want to hear.

As I work daily with various people and organizations (not necessarily Heralds of Hope), this scenario plays itself out time and again. We tend to like people who tell us what we want to hear. We see it happen in the news reporting, and who gravitates to what medium. We see it in discussions on politics, science, and religion. We see it happen in our churches, organizations, and personal relationships. It’s very fascinating to observe in others; it’s alarming to realize I’m not exempt.

One modern phrase some use to describe this phenomenon is confirmation bias. It is the tendency to listen to, look for, and believe information that confirms what we already believe. Narcissism is another modern term that fits this mentality: essentially it’s the mentality that my beliefs and actions are the measuring stick which determines whether everyone else’s beliefs and actions are right or wrong. If you agree with me, you’re right; if you don’t, you’re wrong. These are “itching ears” mindsets. They are very pervasive. They are very wrong.

Instead, as followers of Christ, we are called to meekness, to be quick to hear and slow to speak. We are called to “prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.” We are called to have a certain distrust of my own self and my viewpoints, to acknowledge our weakness as finite humans. We are called to be students of the Word. May we embrace this high calling with a humble wisdom, as we live in an awareness of our weaknesses.

-Jeremy Sensenig

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