Hidden Faithlessness

September 25, 2022

In Jeremiah chapters 37 though 39, it records the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. In chapters 37-38, just prior to the fall, Jeremiah is imprisoned for speaking about the coming judgment and claiming God's way to avoid such destruction was to surrender to Babylon. Neither the people nor their leaders heeded Jeremiah's words and judgment came upon Judah. From the greatest to the least, Judah could no longer deny that Jeremiah's word was true. Their imprisonment and persecution of him accomplished nothing for them except to give evidence of their continued rebellion. The remarkable thing I noticed in these chapters is the repeated denial of Jeremiah's prophecies. Men like Zedekiah and other leaders operated in denial even as they saw Jeremiah's word fulfilled with their own eyes. 

In the world of psychology, such denial is the result of the "normalcy bias." In short: People believe that since something is outside there normal experience, it will not happen. In extreme situations people will do the normal thing rather than the thing that would save their life. People have a really hard time preparing for and dealing with something they have never experienced. When Mt. Vesuvius erupted the normalcy bias likely explains why the residents of Pompeii watched for hours without evacuating. We think. They all died and it was before iPhones and the printing press, so can’t be sure. But we know with better accuracy, when passengers on the Titanic refused the evacuation orders, possibly because they underestimated the odds of a worst-case scenario and minimized its potential impact. The normalcy bias strikes again. In such extremes, the normalcy bias can causes smart people to underestimate the possibility of a disaster and its effects. Another great example is found in Barton Biggs' book, Wealth, War, and Wisdom:

"By the end of 1935, 100,000 Jews had left Germany, but 450,000 still [remained]. Wealthy Jewish families... kept thinking and hoping that the worst was over... Many of the German Jews, brilliant, cultured, and cosmopolitan as they were, were too complacent. They had been in Germany so long and were so well established, they simply couldn't believe there was going to be a crisis that would endanger them. They were too comfortable. They believed the Nazi's anti-Semitism was an episodic event and that Hitler's bark was worse than his bite. [They] reacted sluggishly to the rise of Hitler for completely understandable but tragically erroneous reasons. Events moved much faster than they could imagine."

This is a tragic examples of the effects of the "normalcy bias". Just think about what was going on at the time. Jews were arrested, beaten, taxed, robbed, and jailed for no reason other than the fact that they practiced a particular religion. As a result, they were shipped off to concentration camps. Their houses and businesses were seized. Yet many Jews Still didn't leave Nazi Germany, because they simply couldn't believe that things would get as bad as they did.

The normalcy bias pops up in many areas of our faith. We may have never experienced a miracle but it does not mean they never happen. We may have never heard God's voice but we should always believe he is a living speaking God. We may have never, "done it that way" but if Scripture affirms it then we can't call it “anathema” on the grounds of the normalcy bias.

When the normalcy bias pops up around spiritual matters, it is a smoking gun, undeniable evidence of hidden faithlessness in the heart. Whether you call it, "normalcy bias" or just good old fashion stick your head in the sand denial. The bottom line is such denial places ones experience over the truth of scripture. It disregards the word of God with a flippant “probably not.” In short it is nothing more than faithlessness, hiding behind personal experience. It is a dangerous thing to believe that just because you have never experienced it means it does not happen. This denial is a façade, a thin layer of pretense that can blind us from seeing reality, in the light of scripture. If it is allowed to operate unchecked in our lives both the gifts of the Spirit and/or God’s warnings of judgment are ignored.

We should want to be the type of person who hears clearly when God says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isa 43:19a). As he did in Isaiah’s day. The kind of Christian that responds rightly with obedient courage when God says, “surrender to Babylon”. As he did in Jeremiah’s day. Yet the question is how? How do we become such a people?

The opposite of the normalcy bias is situational awareness. It involves having a real perception of your environment and a comprehension of what may realistically transpire in the near future. A Christian's situational awareness is rooted in a Christian worldview. An awareness guided by the measure of wisdom in the heart and the word of God in the head. We have assurance of our long term future so we can act courageously to respond to situations in the short term. Generally, scripture requires us to be watchful, vigilant in prayer, and always open-hearted to God's leading and exercise clear thinking about the facts of a situation. So whatever comes we can respond in faith, the kind of faith that overcomes our lack of experience. The kind of faith that moves us to act courageously even if you don't like what you hear.



Brought to you by The Remnant Radio, a theology broadcast that exists to educates believers on Theology, History and the Gifts of the Spirit. If you would like to know more about Remnant Radio. Here is a short video.


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