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Did Confirmation Bias Deceive the Prophets?

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Did Confirmation Bias Deceive the Prophets?

Confirmation! It’s rare that I see anyone release a prophetic word on Facebook without scads of people typing out “confirmation!”

What does confirmation mean, really? Merriam Webster defines the word as, “confirming proof,” such as finding proof of a theory or “the process of supporting a statement from evidence.”

I submit to you that massive confirmation bias in the prophetic is watering down the all-important quality of discernment in the Body of Christ. See, confirmation bias throws discernment out the window. Confirmation bias negates discernment in favor of a common belief.

What is Confirmation Bias

Maybe you’ve never heard the term “confirmation bias.” First, let’s look at the word “bias” and then we’ll tie it together. Bias is an inclination to believe a certain way, or more flatly put—a prejudice. 

We all have biases. I prefer chocolate peanut butter ice cream to fruit flavors. I would prefer to watch basketball than golf (yawn!). Biases, which are bents or tendencies in our thinking, are not altogether bad until we apply them in dangerous ways. For example, racism is a deadly bias. Discrimination for any reason is an evil bias. 

Confirmation bias, then, is “a bias that results from the tendency to process and analyze information in such a way that it supports one’s preexisting ideas and convictions,” according to Dictionary.com. 

Pursuing Wishful Thinking

Put another way, confirmation bias happens when your own personal desire affects what you believe. It’s like wishful thinking, which is a form of self-deception, and there’s nothing prophetic about that. 

Confirmation bias leads to a potentially dangerous error when applied to the prophetic. That’s because confirmation bias opens the door to a spirit of error to flow over a people group—not just the compromised prophet but also the people who believe the prophecy. Confirmation bias can cause us to lose our objectivity, miss the truth God is speaking, and lead others into error.

“This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views or prejudices one would like to be true,” reads an article in Psychology Today. “Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it.”

A Deceptive Domino Effect 

Applied to the prophetic, it looks like this: One prophet prophesies about a person, place or thing. That prophet is cheered on, getting thousands of likes and shares. Another prophet agrees with that prophecy and suddenly “hears the same thing.” The second prophet confirms the first prophet’s word. 

Suddenly, people everywhere begin to prophesy the same thing. They are all hearing the same prophetic word, or some variation of that prophetic word. Others start reporting dreams and visions in line with that prophetic word. And pretty soon anybody who doesn’t agree with that prophecy is on the outside looking in at the confirmation bias. Anyone who doesn’t agree is called faithless or Jezebel. Finally, when it looks like the prophecy is not going to come to pass, more spectacular prophecies and theories emerge.

This is not a new trend in the prophetic, but it’s a troubling issue that’s rising rapidly and is coming to a head. I preached in 2019 at the Global Prophetic Summit about a reset in the prophetic. Part of that reset is rooting out the confirmation bias because confirmation bias causes people to violate 1 John 4:1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Not All Prophecy is Confirmation

Beyond confirmation bias, there’s another issue in prophetic circles we need to explore. Some believe all prophecy is confirmation, but that’s not accurate. I know people have spoken prophetic words over my life that were news to me. And I’m not the only one.

When God prophesied to Gideon about leading an army against the Midianites, it was news to him. When the angel Gabriel prophesied to Elizabeth and Mary about sudden pregnancies, it was news to them. 

Prophetic announcements are often just that—announcements of news we haven’t heard before. Although our spirit will confirm the truth of a prophetic word, it’s not always confirmation in the sense that we knew it already.

So where do we go from here? We have to dig deep and allow the Lord to show us our bias. We have to check our motives for prophesying, and for believing prophecy despite clear evidence that God never said a thing. We need to show grace to the prophets who fell into the trap called bias and believers who agreed with the bias need to forgive themselves and commit to hearing from the Lord for themselves with an unbiased ear.

The problems we’re seeing in the prophetic movement are not new. I have been writing about these issues for 20 years and will continue to write about them. If we’re not careful, we’ll move from confirmation bias to absolute prophetic witchcraft. But we can turn this around. I believe in the value of prophetic ministry with every fiber of my being. We must not discredit the entire movement over a few loud, biased voices. 

Be assured, as one who has stood in the office of the prophet since 2001, God is still speaking through prophets today. And be equally assured of this: God wants to speak to you directly. You are your own best prophet.

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