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Lake Robinson Baptist Church

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Christians and Lazy Thinking

People, by nature, are lazy thinkers.

This is not an insult but a fact. Studies suggests that what we have already learned has strong neurological connections. To learn new things we must build new connections between neurons which causes discomfort or what we may call "brain strain". These connections are strengthened through repetition; practice, homework, meditation, and memorization until they are strong enough to be easily accessed.  

It is hard to learn something new or to think differently. When presented with a problem we usually rely on those old neuron connections to come up with a quick solution. If we are forced to create new neurological connections to solve a problem it takes more concentration. There are many things that can hinder this such as distractions, temptations, and fear. For instance, schools have been providing breakfasts and lunches for students under the theory that if they are not distracted by hunger they learn better. It has been proven that students with poor eyesight improve performance after getting glasses; if they are concentrating on the subject matter instead of trying to see they learn more.

One of the biggest obstacles to problem solving, proper decision making, and thinking is the biological make- up of our brains. We automatically have a bias based on what we have already learned.

Yale Professor Shane Frederick developed the "Cognitive Reflection Test" which demonstrates this practically. The test question is "​A bat and ball together costs $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?"

  • What is your answer? If you answered that the ball costs $0.10 then you are wrong and guilty of using lazy thinking in this instance. The correct answer is $0.05.  
  • If you said the ball costs $0.10 and the bat is $1 more then the bat would cost $1.10 by itself making the total $1.20.
  • If you said the ball is $0.05 and the bat costs $1 more then the bat would cost $1.05 by itself making the total $1.10

The above example reveals one of the biggest problems with "lazy thinking". When relying on what we already know instead of looking at something analytically we often come to the wrong conclusions.  

Examples of lazy thinking are prevalent in our society. Take the recent election for instance. Most people supported the candidate based on their biases (the old tried and true connections). Those biases are often strengthened by surrounding yourself with people who believe exactly the way you do and getting news from sources that echo those biases. The result of this is people repeated talking points without actually understanding the points they are making.

Take these same biases, the echo chambers which reinforce those biases, and now add an emotional investment to those biases. Maybe these biases bring social acceptance, a sense of identity, or perhaps a person has invested a lot of time or resources into it. Let's say that a person has become active in one particular political party, has donated his time to campaign for the candidate, and gave money to the candidate. It is now almost impossible for this person to critically look at the candidate.

Now take the biases, the echo chambers, the emotional investment and add "evidence" to it.  For instance, if this person is a Clinton supporter the evidence she won the popular vote emboldens their view. If  this person is a Trump supporter the evidence that he won the electoral vote emboldens their view.

But what has this to do with church, religion, or God?

Lazy thinking with its strong neurological connections along with their biases and emotional attachments do not have a cut-off switch when someone goes to church, prays, reads the bible, or gets saved.

Here are a few questions:

  • What do you believe?
  • Why do you believe it?
  • What led you to this conclusion?
  • Can you defend it?
  • How do you know the will of God?

Many people may know what they believe but have not analyzed it to make it their own beliefs. They are much like the political crowd which echoes the voices around them but have no idea why they believe it.

God does not want you to turn off your brain. Psalm chapter 119 is the great chapter on the Word of God. Five times in verses 15, 23, 48, 78, and 148 we are encouraged to meditate "in" the scriptures. This means we are to do more than just read the scriptures and commentaries. We are to mediate in them, ponder them, and think in them. This means that we examine them closely before reaching a conclusion. This results in having to think analytically about them. Before we can do this then we have to forget everything we thought we knew.

Our prayer life is more than just talking to God but listening and meditation. In Psalm 5:1 David asks God not only to hear his words but to consider his meditation as well. God often speaks to us as we meditate on the scriptures while in the Spirit. We often look for the answers to prayer in "signs" or evidence that reinforces our bias. We ask God something, we have a bias towards it, and then we see a sign that we believe reinforces it. This is dangerous because we will be convinced that this is God speaking to us when it actually may be completely wrong based on our biases. We often miss the will of God and answered prayer because of a failure to think and analyze.  

Paul tells the Philippians to "think on these things". The answer to worry is to think on good things. The more your thoughts are on the positive things the stronger those connections become. The less you think on your problems the weaker those connections become.

Paul also tells the Philippians to work out their own salvation. This is working out what God has worked in us. This is personal and it takes the ability to personally knowing the will of God for your life. We often miss the journey of sanctification because of lazy thinking. It is easier for someone else to tell us how to live, how to dress, where to go, etc.

There is also amusement which means without thought. We often do not think because we have turned off our brains with the constant thirst for amusement and entertainment. There is a constant stream of television, movies, music, social media, and other stimulus that hinders us from thinking. Some studies suggests that smartphones have hurt our ability to think.

​How often are you really thinking? Here is the average Christian:

  • Believe whatever is said in church
  • Bible reading is shallow that rarely feeds the soul
  • Prayer life limps along looking for signs that God has answered
  • When they do think its about problems which makes them seem worse
  • Do not have any personal convictions but follow the crowd
  • Are afraid of opinions and thoughts that do not align with the crowd
  • Must be entertained even in church
  • Preaching that entices thought cannot hold your attention

Christians, God has given us a marvelous brain which should be used for His Glory.  

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