Confirmation Bias and Why We Need the Bible to Challenge Us

With two of this week’s passages we are reminded that the Bible is God’s word, and that idea carries great significance.[1] What God has to say to us, in its entirety, isn’t always something we want to hear. But it is what we need.

If we’re familiar with Scripture we may turn to passages that we already know and like in order to find some word of encouragement. We may want to hear how God blesses his people and then turn to see what great blessing Solomon received or see how Jesus heals the sick. But how often do we want to read how those who were so close to Jesus, his disciples, didn’t always receive the sort of blessings we want and instead had lives of pain and suffering?[2]

It seems we have a tendency to seek out what we already believe. We aren’t always in search of truth, but we are in search of confirmation–confirmation of what we already think we know.

You can turn on the TV or visit websites that you know will spin the news and report events in the way you like. It can be as innocuous as preferring to listen to your own local commentators while watching a sports game. I know I’d prefer to hear people who get at least a little bit more excited when my team scores. But it can also cause us to stick our heads in the sand. When all we hear and read is a carefully selected to never push us or confront our views, then we get very comfortable and also prideful. We make ourselves the judge of what is right.

When we are so selective in the way we take in information it leads to confirmation bias. With confirmation bias all we do, in the Bible and elsewhere, is look to reaffirm our ideas–which is to say, we try to reaffirm ourselves. But as Christians we must know we are sinners. We make mistakes and get things wrong. We can’t assume we know everything and have it all figured out.

At times God will confront us. He will challenge what we believe. And that’s good. God is God, and we are not. His ways and his thoughts are not like ours. There should be times when we are pushed and have to change our views and actions in order to align with what we read. 2 Timothy 3:16 doesn’t say “all Scripture is profitable to comfort us in down times.” God’s word may do that. But it is profitable for the hard things, too, like reproof, correction, and training.

We just need to be bold enough to first open the Bible and humble enough to listen for the Spirit to continue to speak to us through it and work upon our lives–even when that means we are convicted and challenged.

  1. Those readings from this week: Hebrews 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:10–17  ↩

  2. We see this even in this week’s reading and not only in a book like Acts. Paul writes in 2 Tim 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” How often do we hear 2 Tim 3:16 and never hear a verse just a few lines up?  ↩

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