Denominational loyalties and Confirmation Bias

Many years ago, I read a sermon by a relative who was also a pastor in a local church.  Somehow, the message drifted into the scenario concerning mega-churches and charismatic pastors in Singapore.  He said that many pastors in mega churches were not accredited or ordained, and as such has no real legitimacy in teaching the scriptures, unlike his denomination, and obviously hinting that he was ordained, with a Rev. to his name.

And recently I read something similar in a blog on Ecclesiology and the lack of it.

…. A group of Christians coming together at a member’s home for worship and bible study, is not a Church. A group of Christians coming together to have a memorial “Lord’s Supper” is not a Church. A Church is where God rules and reigns through the ordained ministers, elders and deacons He gave to His Church! No ordination, no Church! God may be present of course, since God is always present where two or three Christians come together for prayer (Mt. 18:20), but that is not the Church. God after all is omnipresent, so just because God works salvation through sharing of testimony does not make the gathering where the testimony is shared is the Church.

….. They have no real offices and no ordained ministers, thus they are not real churches. Since they are not churches, their baptisms are invalid and their “Lord’s Supper” sacrilegious, a mockery of the true sacrament instituted by Christ. To partake in such “Lord’s Suppers” therefore is sin.

(http://puritanreformed.blogspot.sg/2016/04/ecclesiology-and-lack-of-it.html)

 Wow! Wait a minute!  Sacrilegious?  Mockery?  Sin? Am I reading correctly from the last para above?

The above do not sync with my own Confirmation Bias, but definitely are minor issues that do not  disturb or distract me, even when it involves people I know.  Only when issues are critical or essential would I examine the different views against orthodoxy, my own interpretation of scriptures and deliberate which is more convincing, defensible and sound. Denominational or institutional bias related to interpretations of scriptures, and unconscious and subconscious opinions which bothers on preferences for certain principles, and practices, could lead to prejudgment towards alternatives which might even be more substantiated and demonstrated.

It happens all the time. And Confirmation Bias within institutions with the GroupThink consensus and coherence phenomena prevents us from fidelity and adherence to truth.

My senior pastor Joseph Prince openly acknowledged his indebtedness to Hagins and the WOF teachings – which many evangelicals would raise alarm bells. Yet his signature emphasis on the Gospel of Grace is refreshing and radical.

While Prince’s adoption and adherence to the WOF aspect of prosperity is devoid of guile and / for gain (attributing it to be part of our legacy and inheritance in Christ to be blessed), very few outside NCC perceive and discern the distinction and difference.  With a broad brush, NCC and Prince has been painted as “birds of the same feather” with the shady aspects of the WOF.  This unfortunate Collateral Damage brings unwanted and unwarranted discredit to Prince’s Gospel of Radical Grace!  I suppose his Confirmation Bias along denominational loyalties and legacy has blindsided Prince to some degree, or he is just echoing the cultural societal preference of American believers towards wealth and health.

Even though Prince’s version of prosperity is not out of guile or gain, his teaching is flawed, in my opinion.  This is where my own Confirmation Bias pops up, and prompted me to dig further and deeper into the scriptures and the experience of the body of Christ. Hence, my blogs on the matter to share my own opinions. My profile picture is a call to discernment against distortion from the pulpit.

One Sunday, Pastor Prince spoke on tithing, which was a position the church used to hold.  I was prompted to write to him via another pastor about Prince’s incomplete treatment of a passage which was used to imply that God has a high regard for tithing. A few weeks later, he alluded to giving, in two separate sessions in New York and Dallas; and in both occasions, appeared to have come round that tithing is not mandatory. Initially I had wrestled much whether I should write.  So it appeared that indeed, it was a prompting from the Holy Spirit.  Since then, the term tithing is absent whenever the offering bag is passed around, though there were attempts to be creative in the use of phrases lest members are tempted to license in not honoring God with our substance! Salute to my church for using their parachutes! And for tweaking and rebooting this confirmation bias!

At least NCC is bold to change when faced with strong scriptural exposition and explanation. (NCC also instituted weekly Communion in accordance with NT evidences, from monthly routines.) Someone had commented that I am a rare breed, to comment on NCC’s sermons. And I hope I can continue to do so. As a son of my heavenly Father, I’ve become a brother to His other children, and I am also my brother’s keeper.

It is daunting and unpleasant, and could be misunderstood and misinterpreted as being disloyal. But I love my Lord more, and the unchanging truth of His Word! Once, Pastor Prince spoke out to the bible policeman and fault finders in the church, telling them (me?) that the pew is not meant for such people! (see my blog titled Bible Policeman). And once, Pastor admitted that the pulpit is not always right, and there are specks and spots (was it in acknowledgement and response to people holding up the mirror of the Word?)

Indeed, the Word is a mirror to each of us. And the Body of Believers can also hold up the mirror FOR each other, and especially for the church workers, lest we miss or misinterpret His purpose, plan, precepts and program for us all.

So I need to check whether my Confirmation Bias squares and sync with scriptural truth and teachings, and are not according to denominational traditions or mere opinions.

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