A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation with someone who quoted Ben Shapiro saying, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” The tension between facts and feelings is a topic that’s been coming up quite a bit in discussions recently for me, as I’ve talked with people who are frustrated by how many people today ignore scientific research related to several issues that I don’t want to get into right now. My reason for bringing this up is that listening to these comments prompted a related thought.
Feelings don’t care about your facts.
You can have all the research in the world to back you up but when feelings are involved people (as a whole) just don’t care. You can’t root out deeply help opinions by inundating people with logical reasoning. It’s like if you’ve ever spilled cooking oil on your clothes and then tried to scrub it out with water. The facts just run right off because they doesn’t mesh with what we already hold true.
“As a result of the well-documented confirmation bias, we tend to undervalue evidence that contradicts our beliefs and overvalue evidence that confirms them. We filter out inconvenient truths and arguments on the opposing side. As a result, our opinions solidify, and it becomes increasingly harder to disrupt established patterns of thinking.” — “Facts Don’t Change People’s Minds. Here’s What Does” by Ozan Varol
At its most simple, “Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea or concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true.” Once we get an idea in our heads, we tend to hold on tight to information that supports it and ignore or reject anything that would threaten this idea. These tightly-held ideas can be anything from a political view, to an understanding of how the world works, to a belief about yourself (“What Is Confirmation Bias?” by Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.).
It’s Not Just “Them”
We tend to think that we’re right and other people who disagree with us are wrong. We can easily see confirmation bias at work in others, and many of us are more than happy to point that problem out and offer correction.
This isn’t just a problem with other people, though. It’s a problem with you and me too. We all have confirmation bias about the things we believe. We all filter-out opposing information and gravitate toward the things that agree with us. No matter how rational and fact based we think we are, we’re also influenced by confirmation bias. If we want to understand why it’s so hard to change people’s minds we need to recognize what’s happening in ourselves as well as in them. Read more →
This study all began with perusing the “lambda” section in a Greek dictionary. I came across the word logikos (G3050), which means “pertaining to reason and therefore reasonable.” You’ve probably already guessed that it’s where we got our English word “logic.” This is the word used in Romans 12:1 for “reasonable service.”
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2)
I tend to connect my faith with a feeling more than an intellectual idea. I know “intellectually” that God exists and that the Bible makes sense, but for me personally the feeling of Him being real and present and in a relationship with me seems more important. This has frustrated some of the more rational, logical people I’ve talked to. One atheist who had been raised Christian couldn’t understand why things that seem contradictory in scripture didn’t bother me even though I couldn’t explain all of them. Another person still in the church said that my “spirituality” is almost intimidating because I talk about my feelings for God so much, and that kind of faith seems alien to her. Other people attracted by reason and logic have walked away from their faith when confronted with scientific arguments for evolution or a “big bang” explanation of how the universe came into being.
One of the things I’ve run across in my studies of type psychology is that “feeling” types are more attracted to spirituality and religion than “thinking” types (this refers to a preference for dealing with people or data, not a measure of intelligence). In fact, I read of one study that indicated the more highly educated the person is, the more likely they are to be involved with a religion (sorry — I don’t have the citation yet. I’ll try to find it and update this post later). It makes sense that “feelers” are attracted to a place that encourages group interaction and harmony, but I worry that we may have scared off some of the “thinkers” with our talk of a touchy-feeling God who just wants to love people. It is true that God wants a relationship with everyone, but it’s not true that everyone needs to relate to Him the exact same way. He means to be accessible to all the people He created.
Order and Logic
There aren’t just one or two verses that simply state “God is ordered and logical.” Rather, the entire Bible and the whole of creation is a testament to the way His mind works. We can read Genesis 1 and see the orderly step-by-step way He created the world, then look at creation and see His master-craftsman hand at work in every aspect of the universe’s design. Scientists have been doing this for years, and many come to the conclusion that God is the only explanation for how the universe is so perfectly put together.
“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” –Albert Einstein
“There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.” –Max Planck
“When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.” –Tony Rothman
There are a couple verses in 1 Corinthians that speak to the orderly, logical attributes of God. Paul was discussing who should speak and how meetings should be conducted in the church, and makes these statements:
God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. … Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:33, 40)
God does not author confusion — He wants things to progress in a decent, orderly fashion. Even mildly logical, perfectionistic, or OCD people can identify with this attribute of God.
The Word of Intelligence
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14)
In these very familiar verses, the Greek word translated “Word” is logos (G3056). It is the root word for logikos, which we’re already talked about. It means “to speak,” but it is distinct from other words that specifically refer to sound or noise (lalia, G2981) or to speaking without necessarily making sense (laleo, G2980). Logos means to express intelligence.
Logos, when it refers to discourse, is regarded as the orderly linking and knitting together in connected arrangement of words of the inward thoughts and feelings of the mind. … In the first chapter of John, Jesus Christ in His preincarnate state is called ho Logos, the Word, meaning first immaterial intelligence and then the expression of that intelligence in speech that humans could understand. (Zodhiates)
One of the most well-known names of Jesus carries with it a testament to God’s reason, intellect, and logic. It is a key role of Jesus Christ to express intelligence — to communicate the thoughts of God in a way that people can understand.
Sometimes when people come across something in relation to God that “doesn’t make sense,” they assume that there’s something wrong with the Bible. But that’s just another way of saying that we think our minds work better than the Mind of the One who designed us. It’s really rather absurd to think there’s something wrong with God because we don’t understand Him perfectly. But it’s far more unsettling for some of us to admit that the problem might be on our side.
In John 8:43, Christ was debating with some of the Jews who were following Him. They were offended and confused by some of His words, and this is what He said to them:
Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. (John 8:43)
The word “speech” is translated from lalia — to make sounds — and “word” is from logos. Because they couldn’t grasp Christ’s intelligence speech, it was as if He was speaking nonsense (I’m indebted to Zodhiates’ Key-Word study Bible for analyzing this verse).
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:8-9)
Rather than assume there’s something lacking in God when we can’t understand Him and then reacting with hostility or disgust (by the end of John 8 the Jews were trying to stone Jesus), let’s follow James’ advice.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
The Issue of Feelings
C.S. Lewis is the perfect person to bring in on this discussion. He was a very logical, rational Christian (probably an INTJ, for those of you who like Myers-Briggs). I like this description of him from The New York Times Book Reviw: “C.S. Lewis is the ideal persuader of the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way.”
Now, the thing about Lewis is that for him, getting your intellect out of the way certainly doesn’t mean abandoning reason and just “trust your feelings” or “have faith.” On the contrary, Lewis says that our faith absolutely must have a rational basis.
Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. (Mere Christianity; III, 11)
That’s why it’s dangerous to try and base your faith on emotions alone. Feelings for God are all well and good, but feelings can change — we might “fall out of love” or fall into a season of doubt. But we can’t afford to give up on God when we don’t feel close to Him anymore. We have to keep choosing to seek Him because we have decided He is the only way to go.
Lewis went on to say in this chapter of Mere Christianity that we need to “train the habit of faith” daily by reminding ourselves of what we believe. He says, “Neither this belief no any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.” And if it’s not, we’ll be one of those people who just drift away from Christianity without even coming up with a reasonable argument for God not existing.
A Logical Sacrifice
The Bible tells us to “Pray without ceasing” and “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thes. 5:17, 20). It’s a succinct instruction from God to do precisely what Lewis was talking about. God wants us to constantly be seeking, questioning, learning, and asking Him to help us understand His words.
This is another reason to stay close to the Source of the Living Water that we talked about in last week’s post. We need Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, involved in our lives. He is the Logos, and He is well able to shore-up our faith with reason and wisdom and good-sense.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in My name, that one will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)
And then, having this foundation of knowing God exists, that He is more intelligent than we are , and that He sacrificed Himself for us, we can go back to Romans 12:1 and understand why it is logical for us to present ourselves in service to God. He created us, and “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He died to buy us back from sin, and we belong to Him not only as His creation, but as His to redeem (1 Cor. 6:20).
Since I just quoted Acts 17, let’s take a quick look at the apostle Paul. He was probably the most highly educated of the apostles, since he was trained as a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5). It took direct divine intervention to show Paul that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:1-19), but once he was convinced of this fact he turned all the energy and emotion he’d been using to persecute the church into preaching the gospel. And he did so in a manner both firmly grounded in reason and full of zeal. He preached to groups of people from every walk of life, including presenting a reasonable argument to the Athenians and quoting their own poets and thinkers (Acts 17:16-34). He wrote most of the New Testament, epistles full of deep inspired reasoning that even Peter described as “things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul wrote the letter which tells us it is our “reasonable service” to devote every part of ourselves to following God, which is exactly what he did.
We are all made in God’s image, but no one person or type of person is “enough” to fully reflect all of who and what God is. I’ve seen this talked about in discussions of gender — man and women embody different attributes of God. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 12 describes different spiritual gifts, and different types of people that are all necessary parts of the church. If everyone was the same, the church would be lacking essential attributes.
But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. (1 Cor. 12:18-19)
The same, I think, can be said of personality types. Aspects of God are reflected in introverts and in extroverts, in people-oriented feeling types and in fact-oriented thinking types. And God Himself is accessible to everyone — He wants a relationship with the logical, questioning mind just as much as He wants a relationship with the more stereotypically “spiritual,” emotional people.