Pastors are obsessed with sermon series. A nifty title or a play on words and the church eats it up. You can record it, attach a workbook, and sell it as “small group curriculum”. It gives recognition to the church and the pastor is edified. Pick a topic and there is a series for it. Have a book in the Bible you want to study? Let the Pastor do the hard work interpreting it so that you aren’t inconvenienced by reading your Bible or spending time with God. I’m being intentionally harsh. My point is that when we allow someone else to interpret or present Biblical truths to us we become subject to the bias of the person. Rather than spend time praying to God, we read about someone’s opinion on how to do it. Rather than reading God’s word and resting in his presence, we go to church because “God has a word for me”. Your right, he does. It’s called the Bible.
Now inherently, none of this is bad or evil, but a constant diet of someone’s opinion aborts our ability to critically examine the content and grow in our faith. Have you ever bought a car and then started seeing the same vehicle all around town? Do you lean in one political direction and read news stories that agree with that opinion? This is what’s known as confirmation bias. What we think of as truth is shaped by what we perceive it should be. In other words, rather than gathering facts and allowing our opinions to evolve with them, we selectively choose what we accept as truth and disregard what doesn’t fit into that paradigm.
Sermon series are great study tools, but they are vulnerable to the bias of the pastor. Let me be clear, this is not to say that a Pastor is trying to manipulate you. They are simply expressing their opinion in light their interpretation of Scripture. So what’s the danger? That really depends on the message. For instance, a church may need to raise money for renovations or a new parking lot, so they talk about the law of tithing and making about making a vow or pledge. This ignores completely the instruction in the New Testament to give what you have decided in your heart (2 Corinthians 9:7) or that Jesus said not to vow (Matthew 5:33-37). Motivation becomes more important than context and the church becomes vulnerable corporately.
Submission to the truth of the Bible as revealed by the Holy Spirit, in the context in which it’s written, protect us from being swayed by confirmation bias. Luke wrote of a group of Jews in Thessalonica in Acts 17:11
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (ESV)
We should be like Berean’s; testing everything to see if it lines up with God’s word. The Bible is your measuring stick; the “Sword of the Spirit” Ephesians 6:17. Use it. Compare what is being taught with word of God. No one is free from confirmation bias and Pastors are not evil if their biased. We are all biased in some way. But with a steady diet of God’s word, we will be able to discern what is truth and what is opinion. Hold fast to the sound doctrine of God’s word. It is a light in the darkness.
Categories: Sound Doctrine