Our brains play tricks on us. Some of these tricks are scary.
For instance, how many times have you looked at something without seeing it?
Visualize the following.
Husband looking around pantry, shouts to wife: “where’s the peanut butter!?” Wife: “in the pantry on the middle shelf”. Husband: “no it’s not, I bet you hid it again.” Wife sighs, gets up and walks to the pantry. “My darling (knowing smile), you are looking at it, look there it is, right in front of you.” Husband: (other husband, never me), that’s weird, how did you do that?
Did you take the red pill or the blue pill?
It’s all about perception, selection and the way our brains process information. The reason we look without seeing, is that we filter stuff through our preconceived ideas, – our Gestalt, – our Schemata. I will prove this to you shortly. First we need to ask, ‘is the status quot, the current Church gestalt limiting our walk with God?’ Can we believe our own belief?
The good news is that God wants us set free by knowing the truth. Knowing implies thinking.
Do not be afraid to think, God gave us the greatest thinking machine ever, it sits between your ears, use it. Do not just accept everything you are told, even from the most trusted source, people make mistakes, its normal.
In order to think, we need something to think about. We need input before we can output. The problem is, our brains filter the input and distort the output. Just like the invisible peanut butter, we do not see what we are looking at or believe the real truth, rather a censored version based on our filters.
One of these filters is called Gestalt. Gestalt is a Germanic word that means “tuned in” or status quo.
To demonstrate, look at the Wikipedia picture below.
Most people see a white sphere with black spikes like a medieval morning star.
In reality, there is no sphere, just differently shaped black spikes on a flat white surface. Our brain creates the sphere. This is a great example of Gestalt. Our brains automatically “join the dots” to make the input make more sense.
Here’s another trick. Look at your watch/cellphone for 3 seconds then look away. Do not look again. Whats the time? Is the time digital or analog? Does it have numbers, roman numerals or lines? What color eyes do your three best friends have? Do people’s eyes sit towards the top, middle or bottom of the head? You think you know stuff, but do you really?
This makes me nervous, I mean, what other tricks is my brain playing on me?
Schemata or First-Mention.
I heard about a principle called ‘the principle of first mention’. I looked it up and could not find it as taught. The closest was the word Schemata, which speaks about preconceived ideas. It means we see what we are conditioned to see, not always what is actually there. Hence Gestalt.
Regardless, the principle says that when we hear something for the first time, we tend to filter any subsequent mention of that subject, through the way it was first taught to us. We also tend to build on that first concept and resist any attempt to change it. Even if its totally wrong.
For instance, try telling a five-year old that Father Christmas does not live at the North Pole. Martin Luther experienced strong denial when he challenged Church thinking on salvation. Bruno was burned at the stake when he challenged Church understanding of the universe.
Lets test this theory. When you hear the word tithe, what is your first thought? Most people think money? The fact is that tithing in the Law-of-Moses had nothing to do with money. How do you feel about that statement? Denial? Confusion? Relief? Weather positive or negative, the point is that people respond when the status quo is challenged. This is good, it makes us think.
Click here for more status quo challenges to Church gestalt.
The truth is that your reality is not as firm as you thought it was. Not everything you believe is biblical. In order to find the truth, we need to look and listen differently. We cannot afford to see or hear based on our gestalt.
So which pill do you want, the blue pill or the red pill?
The noble-minded Bereans.
When Lord Jesus taught about the sower in Luke 8, He describes the good soil as those that listen with a good and noble heart. In Acts 17 we see this principle in action.
Paul managed to escape to Berea after getting into trouble in Thessalonica. In contrast to the Thessalonians, the Bereans are described as noble-minded. They found salvation simply by giving Paul a chance. However, they did not accept or reject him on his word alone, they verified his message by researching scripture themselves.
Here we see maturity and intelligence leading to growth. They never clung to the past or bound demons with superstitious fervor.
Based on their actions, and our Lords words, we learn that “good and noble” suggests the following:
- Listen without fear or superstition. Listening is not the same as believing.
- Do not accept or reject without investigation. Give it a fair chance. Proverbs tells us that wisdom is found among multiple counselors.
- Do not council only those that agree with you, inbreeding is icky and weird.
- Verify from scripture and by The Spirit.
- Try not to filter what you learn through your gestalt. Do not cling to the status quo. Very often the status quo is the vessel that got you to the next port of growth. You cannot grow unless you take the next journey.
Hopefully this approach is biblical and convincing enough to challenge your status quo.
The next step in using our brains is to understand how thinking works.
Here is the nutshell version of how people think – (non-exhaustive, without the nuts).
Many Churches teach us to think the way the denomination or the leadership thinks. We are expected to submit without question. Those that question have “submission issues”, or have a Jezebel spirit and are “divisive”.
I am not promoting arrogance or division. Our Lord said that “a kingdom divided against itself will fall”.
The truth is, we should challenge anything that limits God’s kingdom, whether Church thinking, Church leadership or congregation member.
Here is how thinking works.
Thinking is currently understood in three ways.
1) Deductive reasoning.
2) Inductive reasoning.
3) Abductive reasoning.
Deductive reasoning or logic.
Logic gives one answer from a set of premises. For example, if x is 3 and y is 4, then x + y is 7. Not everyone agrees, but maths uses logic.
Another example; all cats are mammals, therefore some mammals are cats.
Logic works if you have enough information and the premise is correct, if the premise is flawed however, the answer is unusable.
For example, penguins are black and white, old movies are black and white, therefore penguins are old movies.
Logic has limited application in the Bible, often it cannot be used. For example, Pharaoh’s dream. Pharaoh dreamed of cows, the cows represented years. If we use logic, all bible cows represent years. However, Pharaoh also dreamed about heads of grain representing years. The rules of logic do not fit this application, we need another form of thinking.
Most disciplines use inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning uses information to find the most likely result. Inductive reasoning is normally expressed in probability.
For example, if I feel sick and everyone around me has flu, chances are, I have flu. I could also have the black plague or any number of scourges, however, flu is the most likely, hence inductive reasoning.
Well conducted studies seldom emphatically state a fact. This because inductive reasoning allows for uncertainty and dynamic. Read any paper or study and you will see language like, “the data suggests —“, or “there is an 80 – 90% chance that —“.
Because God is qualified to call black = black and white = white, many believers have a problem with inductive reasoning. They also want everything nice and neatly packed away, they want recipes and not relationships. Scripture shows that God seeks relationship over recipe, relationships are messy and rife with inductive reasoning.
We use Abductive reasoning when data is lacking. It can be described as a best guess.
For example, my chocolate is missing, it was in the kitchen. I saw my wife and daughter in the kitchen. However, my daughter likes chocolate more than my wife; it more or less makes sense that my daughter ate my chocolate (further investigation needed.)
Occam’s razor is useful in these situations. Occam’s razor says that when we have more than one idea about something, we should choose the idea that makes the least assumptions, (assumptions are not facts).
Let us adapt this to an age-old debate. In the creation debate in Genesis 1. We have 1) the bible that tells the truth, 2) science that measures the facts and 3) people who interpret the facts and the truth.
Which one of these three has the highest chance of being wrong?
By the way, assumption is the lowest form of knowledge, avoid at all costs.
The Zombi Church and how to avoid it.
Audio Adrenaline has a song called “Some Kind of Zombie”. It describes believers as the Living Dead. This song and many Zombie games and stories show us different kinds of Zombies.
Which kind are you? The Living Dead or the Dead Living?
We are told to renew our minds, not switch them off.
Do not be intellectually dead while living.
The bible tells us to love The Lord with all you heart with all your mind and all your strength.
Test all things, hold fast to what is good.