How Bias Can Blind Us
As part of my research for the book Traveling in the Spirit Made SImple, I read The Latent Power of the Soul by Watchman Nee. Several chapters into the book, I ran across a problem that I see in the writings of many authors. The problem is the bias we develop when we embrace a certain view of the end times.
As Nee described his beliefs about how the soul has its own power to travel outside the physical body. he wraps the discussion in a shroud of suspicion and fear. The reason is that he believes there is great deception growing in the world and that interest in spiritual travel will be part of the agenda of the soon to be revealed Anti-Christ. His conclusion is that we must at all cost, avoid getting involved in such things, because God would never use them as part of His plans, and for us to do so can only lead to ruin.
Nee’s concerns came from the fact that he embraced a view of the end-times known as dispensationalism. This view teaches that as time goes on, the world will become darker, being filled with greater deception and trickery until the forces of darkness overcome the world. This narrative serves as the default view of future events for many Christians today.
When a person embraces this view, any new trends they see developing in the world tend to be viewed with suspicion. Their overriding concern is that anything new that comes to light may be part of Satan’s agenda to overcome the world.
This view predisposes its adherents to a belief that God cannot be the driving force behind anything significant going on in the world (except perhaps sending missionaries overseas and building orphanages) since most of the spiritual activity going on today is assumed to be the work of Satan. Thus, if God were to actually increase the use of spiritual travel in the coming days among the church, a dispensationalist would tend to assume it was the work of Satan.
There is a view of the end times that has a different take on the future, called partial preterism. This view holds that the things that dispensationalists expect to see happen in the future have already happened centuries ago. People who embrace this view also have certain biases of their own which color their perceptions. They tend to dismiss predictions of catastrophe and increased darkness in the world and they attribute most of the increase in spiritual activity today to God. They see Satan as a defeated foe and have difficulty imagining his agenda becoming more influential in the coming days.
Both camps have a bias that blinds them to one set of possibilities. The more strongly you embrace a certain view, the stronger your bias tends to be and the greater your blindness is to the opposing set of possibilities.
I’ve studied the various end-times scenarios that have been put forth and for now, I’m not supporting any of them very strongly. All the major theories have some amount of biblical support, but they all overlook key passages of scripture that discredit their main points. None of them are so strong that I would risk losing my ability to objectively evaluate what God is doing to embrace it whole-heartedly.
The trick here is to become educated about the different views on a given issue and, unless it’s a critically important one, to resist becoming overly invested in any one view, lest you adopt the biases of the view and blind yourself to other possibilities. There are subjects about which we need not negotiate but many of the subjects debated today are not essential to our faith.
If we want to be open to the things the Holy Spirit wants to teach us, it’s necessary to keep our minds free of unnecessary bias.