Cognitive Bias and Theology

We are more accustomed to thinking of syncretism as an errant imposition on the biblical text from culture. The point often overlooked is that even church and denominational subcultures are shaped by various dynamics in their surrounding culture(s). Who possibly knows the all the ways Christian organizations reflect the values and priorities of the numerous cultures in which we belong?

Furthermore, the inertia of tradition moves us along. We filter out certain texts and theological conclusions; or perhaps, we will overemphasize ideas beyond what is found in Scripture. In effect, our traditions and “Christian” subcultures create biases and impose significance or meaning into a passage.

The above is an excerpt from How Cognitive Biases Produce Theological Syncreticism by Jackson Wu. Wu’s article distills a paper by Aaron Chalmers that identifies how different cognitive biases affect how we interpret the Bible and how we can guard against them. This article is very important because it draws pertinent insights from cognitive psychology to help us better hear the Scriptures on its own terms.

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