When Bias Competes with Reality

{APRIL, 2015}

I’ve been reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) lately, and have come across something intriguing. Let me share it with you now.

Beginning in Chapter Five, we read the following:

…I had formed most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club for mutual improvement, which we called the JUNTO; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discussed by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.

Here we are given an account of how Benjamin Franklin initiated a club for discussing general matters with his friends. This was to be for their mutual improvement and intellectual advancement. But, there were a few rules. They weren’t allowed to be dogmatic, and they must have the goal of finding out the truth, and must NOT permit their meetings to be reduced to mere squabbling over opinions. This club wasn’t intended as a debate forum, but as a sort of school, in which the students helped teach each other as they engaged in meaningful, friendly conversation. Actually, throughout his autobiography, Mr. Franklin echoes this theme (of the importance of peaceful communication as opposed to arguing) various times. In Chapter Nine, we read:

…in the course of my observation, those disputing, contradicting, and confuting people are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory sometimes, but they never get good will, which would be of more use to them.

I feel that there is so much to be learned from this man’s experiences and observations! Regardless of his personal views about God and religion, I think his goals of searching out the truth, and avoiding disputes are very, very admirable. Maybe we could copy him.

benjamin-franklin-religion

Think about it: how many times have we come to arguing over hot topics? If we’re talking about blogging, then I could phrase the question this way: how many times have we resorted to profanity, name-calling, and trying to make the other person look like an idiot who knows nothing? How many times have we allowed our blood pressure to rise, until our blood is shooting through our veins, our heart is pounding like a hammer, and we start to wheeze like horses because we’re breathing so hard? How many times have we allowed other people’s stubbornness to get to us, to unravel our nerves, to poke firebrands onto our sensitive skin?

I know that I have been guilty of argumentation! Is arguing bad? I would say, it depends on what kind of “arguing” we’re talking about. Are we referring to yelling matches? Comparisons of IQ? Intellectual slapping contests? Or, are we referring to peaceful discussion of a matter with an aim to find out the truth? Which one seems like a better approach?

The reality is, we all have opinions. We all have preconceptions. We all have biases. It doesn’t seem to me that there’s any need to contest that. The real question is not, which of us is biased?, but, which of us is willing to lay aside his/her biases in search of the truth? As we read the Bible, and discuss it with our fellow Christians, is our main aim to uncover God’s wisdom, or is our main aim to prove we’re right? When another Christian confronts us with a differing opinion, is our first reaction to get mad? Do we rush to defend our position? Would it not be better to take the time to listen, before giving an answer? Might we not find it more to our advantage to be open to what God’s Word actually says, than to fly about trying to prove our point? And would it not result most beneficial if we could set aside our own preconceived notions in our approach to understanding the Bible, and be willing to let go of any of our ideas that we find do not coincide with the Scriptures?

That’s not to say that we must never be dogmatic; some beliefs are so clearly supported by the Bible, that it is only proper that our stance on those issues should be unyielding. There are certain creeds that deserve our intellectual and spiritual tenacity, such as the Divine nature of Jesus Christ, and His physical death and resurrection in order to save us from an eternity in hell fire. These are not mere biases–they are a matter of life and death! We cannot, absolutely CANNOT compromise in these areas! However, neither should we argue about them. If other people don’t want to hear the truth after we’ve tried to tell them, let them be. It may be that God will speak to their hearts in ways we never could. There are many areas, however, that seem clear to some of us, but not to others. It would be wonderful if we could converse on those topics patiently, kindly, and with an open heart and mind.

I don’t exempt myself from these admonitions at all. Actually, one of the reasons I’m writing this article, is to share with you what I am learning in my life right now. I wish I could have learned some of these principles earlier–but it’s never too late to improve!

How sad it would be for us, if we let our biases undermine our ability to recognize the truth! I want to propose something: a Truth Seekers Club. This discussion group would have as its aim, discovering what God has to say, and leaving what we have to say out of it, as long as what we have to say interferes with the truth. Sounds simple. There’s just one catch: we’d have to leave our Pride behind.

*************

“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer….But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

2 Timothy 2:14-17a; 23-26

7 thoughts on “When Bias Competes with Reality

  1. Discussing! Sometimes we feel difficult to have this with others. Especially with somebody who does not empathize us.In Japan they often say that you should not discuss on politic and faith to avoid dispute. Because about these matter,people are apt to think their opinion(faith) is the only right answer,other’s one is wrong. I think that we should not aim to defeat others only just to prove our righteousness.We need respecting each other.To tell the truth, I prefer sharing than discussing.
    Your words ‘we have to leave our pride behind.’is a key of this question,I feel.
    In Japan, christians are minority,I feel sometimes other people observe our attitudes,how we christians act. So I have to be carefull when I discuss..especially on faith. Thank you for sharing your thought on this difficult issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sanae, for sharing your thoughts!
      I don’t think it’s just in Japan where it’s said that one should not discuss faith or politics–it’s the same here, too! Despite that maxim, however, I believe that certain things SHOULD be talked about–BUT, I think it is also very important to ask ourselves: 1)To whom am I speaking? (close friend, family, neighbor, stranger, another Christian, non-Christian…), 2)What is my relationship with that person? (close or distant, able to understand each other well or having difficulty in relating to each other…), 3)How might they react to what I want to say? (will they react with anger, irritation, denial, acceptance, consideration, thoughtfulness…), 4)Will my words have a positive or negative effect? (push them farther away or draw them nearer…), 5)Am I just trying to prove how smart I am, or is my motive to be helpful?, 6)Is what I am saying based on the clear teaching of Scripture, or is it just my interpretation of a hard-to-understand issue? (is it a major or a minor doctrine, a matter of life-and-death or Christian liberty…), 7)How deeply should I go into the discussion of this topic–how far can I go before the other person tires of the conversation?, and 8)Will I just be wasting my words, because the other person doesn’t really care?
      I love what you said in your comment about needing to respect each other, and being careful to protect our reputation. You’re right, people are watching. I completely agree!
      Thank you, Sanae!
      With Christian love,
      Jessica
      P.S. Sorry I took so long to respond!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jessica, your article conveys so much meaning. I’ve noticed that it’s hard to share gospel with people directly, but our actions speak louder than words.
    By the way, don’t ever hesitate to ask me questions. Feel free to post it as blog comment or if you want my e-mail, ask Kinuko or Sanae. They both have it.
    I wish you and your family a very Happy Easter,
    In Christ, Irina

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much, Irina, for your reply!
      I think that you’re right about people sometimes tending to reject the gospel when it’s presented to them directly, but being more receptive to our acts of kindness. As the saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” They want to see that our faith is genuine, first of all, and they want to see that we care about their well-being, second of all. So yes, love can be communicated without words. However, the gospel is essentially a message that must be transmitted verbally (or through the written word), since the Bible says, “How can they believe in Him of Whom they have not HEARD? And how can they hear, if no one tells them? And how can anyone tell them, if no one sends them?” (my paraphrase) But, I believe we must exercise caution in our APPROACH. Too often, we (I) have a bad habit of resorting to arguing. And THAT is what needs to change, in my opinion.

      Also, thanks for letting me know about making comments on your blog. At times, I feel insecure about commenting on other peoples’s blogs. I think, “What if I’ve offended that person? What if she didn’t like what I said?” So, I’m sorry for thinking that about you. You were probably just busy, and here I go thinking that maybe you didn’t like my comment! I’m just over-sensitive sometimes, I guess. Please forgive me. I really appreciate you saying that I am free to ask you questions! How wonderful to feel that acceptance and friendship! Thank you, Irina, from my heart.
      In Christ’s love,
      Jessica

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Amen! I love this post, Jessica. And I agreed with everything you said here. “A Truth Seekers Club”, oh, can I join, too?

    And thank you for saying that we all have preconceptions. Coming from the pagan background, I think I should be doubly care about my bias.

    A few days ago, one person left a comment (on my Japanese blog) regarding the Bible translation. He said in Eph 2:6,7, the verb should be translated in the future tense because of the special Greek verb usage here. Well, my first reaction was; Oh, No! It cannot be! For we see that in all the Bible (KJV, NKJV, other Japanese versions), these places were translated in the past tense. But then, I decided to set aside my own opinion and started to search it myself. I also wrote to the central Bible committee in Tokyo, inquiring about this particular verb.

    Jessica, I am learning it in my life right now, too. So we are co-travelers, seeking the truth every day. I am so grateful for our lovely community, sweet sisters who are walking the same path.

    Kinuko

    Like

    • I’m glad you liked this post so much, Kinuko!
      And yes, you are already part of the club! I think most headcovering women are. We’re just a big, scattered group of truth-seekers!

      I hadn’t ever heard that about Ephesians 2:6-7. I’d always heard that since the word “sit” is in the past tense, that means that our position in heaven is already secured. I’m curious to know what the Bible committee in Tokyo says. Could you please let me know?

      Additionally, I have a hard time setting aside my biases, as well. For example, I’m really struggling with the “can you lose your salvation” issue right now. I’m realizing that I can’t just read verses the same way I always have. I need to analyze and examine more thoroughly, and more open-mindedly. If my opinions don’t agree with Scripture, then I need to change my opinions! But I haven’t finished looking into it yet…

      I agree that our sisterhood of covering, truth-seeking ladies is very sweet indeed! I thank God for this beautiful community of Christian, godly women that He has allowed me to be a part of.
      Your sister in Christ,
      Jessica

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dearest Jessica,

    Thank you for your reply.

    About the Greek verb (the aorist) in Eph 2:6,7, it turned up to be a wonderful, eye-opening discovery (on-going-process). At first, my preconception that the aorist=(always just) past tense was challenged and actually broken. During my research, I realized that it is indeed more than just a past tense.

    For example, one NT Greek scholar wrote a post entitled “The Aorist is much more than a past sense “(https://www.teknia.com/blog/aorist-so-much-more-past-tense)
    and said like this;

    “Because time is secondary, the aorist can describe a future event and emphasize the certainty of the action. It is not a common usage, but it does show how we need to keep the idea of “time” in its proper place.”

    So, from this study, I realized that because the faith of Paul was so strong and vivid, he used futuristic aorist verb in order to emphasize the certainty of what he is describing here.

    “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:6)

    It strongly reminds me of the truthfulness of Heb 11:1.

    But I have not understood it fully. And I am still waiting for the reply from the central Bible committee. When I receive it, I will let you know 🙂

    P.S. By the way, I love your new family pictures. You are a beautiful woman of God.

    Kinuko

    Like

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