Otherwise Intelligent

“Judge not, that you be not judged” Matthew 7:1

By Kel Cunard

    Why do people believe what they believe? If we were defending our personal beliefs, we would likely say they are based on reason, facts and at least slightly above average intelligence. After all, we have to at least appear to be humble.

    However, if we were attempting to make sense of the beliefs of others, we might be at a loss for words. We can detect the momentary lapses in the reason in other people, but we have no idea how those who are otherwise intelligent arrived at their quirky beliefs. The National Science Foundation publishes a biennial report on America’s peculiar beliefs: “30 percent of adult Americans believe that UFOs are space vehicles from other civilizations; 60 percent believe in ESP; 40 percent think that astrology is scientific; [and] 32 percent believe in lucky numbers.” You probably know someone who would vote yes on more than one of these topics.

    We may not share the beliefs of these respondents, but we don’t always arrive at conclusions that are any more reasonable. Most of the time, our beliefs and assumptions are shaped by less than reliable forces. Variables such as life experience and educational background shape our personality and preferences. These factors combine with numerous social, cultural and familial influences to lead us to our beliefs. When our beliefs come in contact with the world, we tend to engage in a phenomenon known as confirmation bias – we confirm what we already believe and ignore or rationalize away any contradictory facts.

    This is how we fall prey to spiritual urban legends. No matter how intelligent we otherwise may be, we can ignore a great many factors in order to cling to some dumb and destructive beliefs. In his book Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe, pastor and author Larry Osborne writes

   History is filled with examples of otherwise intelligent people who acted upon amazingly goofy assumptions – and paid a high price for doing so. We, as Christians, aren’t immune. Even a highly moral, deeply sincere, smart Christian, with the best theological pedigree, has no guarantee of protection from the consequences of a bad decision based on flawed assumptions. I like to put it this way: the wisdom of Solomon + inaccurate facts or faulty assumptions = a fool’s decision.

    Over the next few weeks, we are going to confront several dumb things that even otherwise intelligent Christians believe. The most important truth behind all of these misguided beliefs, a fact we all too often ignore, is that God never said to believe them.

    This week we turn our attention to the notion that Christians should never judge. Read Matthew 7. Not only is this widely-held belief contrary what Jesus said; to never judge at all would be an overt act of disobedience. To be an effective Christ-follower, we have to know when and how to judge. And the best place to start is by turning our attention to the “log in our own eye.” Ask the Lord to help you effectively judge the validity of your beliefs and the condition of your heart.

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