You’ll Find What You’re Looking For

CNN’s Belief Blog recently asked a variety of religion and faith leaders to predict the way the forces of faith and faithlessness would shape the world in 2012.  Here’s a sample of the responses:

  • “The year will see an increase in the number of people ‘coming out’ as nonbelievers” – Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association
  • “Hindu Americans will continue to become better advocates for themselves, particularly in the public policy arena” – Sheetal Shah, senior director of the Hindu American Foundation
  • “There’s no question the worldview of most younger Christians already differs from previous generations regarding social justice, cultural engagement, and politics…” – Cameron Strang, publisher of Relevant Magazine
  • “Women everywhere who have been oppressed by their religions will rise up as they have already done in Egypt…” – Sally Quinn, founder and editor-in-chief of Washington Post’s “On Faith”
  • “’All American Muslim’ will become a bigger hit than “Jersey Shore” ever was…” – Maysoon Zayid, co-producer of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival

What Stands Out?

The question here isn’t whether any or all of these predictions might come true in 2012.  But notice carefully that when asked to predict the most important religious trends of the upcoming year, each contributor’s answer naturally gravitated to his/her particular frame of reference.  Why didn’t Roy Speckhardt predict the likelihood that Hindu Americans would become better advocates for themselves? Or why didn’t Sheetal Shah focus on the coming out of more Americans as non-believers?  It’s because we often find what we’re looking for.

From a Philosophical Perspective

Cornelius Van Til, long-time professor of apologetics at Westminister Seminary, championed the concept that there is no such thing as epistemological neutrality.  In other words, we all interpret life through the lens of our chosen source(s) of truth.  We always operate from a particular set of beliefs or presuppositions. In simpler terms, all facts are interpreted facts. Because Cameron Strang has a particular set of presuppositions about generational trends, when asked to predict the most important religious story of the upcoming year, he naturally answered from that frame of reference.  Maysoon Zayid came up with an entirely different answer because her frame of reference is so dramatically different.  You find what you’re looking for.

A Word of Caution to Counselors

Let’s be sure that the grid we bring to the counseling room is as robust and biblically comprehensive as possible.

This principle plays out dramatically in the counseling room.  If you believe mankind’s deepest need is greater self-esteem, you will typically interpret your counselee’s story through that particular grid whether the data naturally pointed to the issue of self-identity or not.  If you believe every counseling case always comes down to the issue of idolatry, your sessions will invariably focus on that particular issue.

Wise counselors spend significant time reading God’s Word and studying sound theology with the goal of expanding our pre-suppositional base.  If all facts are really interpreted facts, let’s be sure that the grid we bring to the counseling room is as robust and biblically comprehensive as possible.  Allowing Scripture to direct our gaze will help us find the things in our counselees’ lives, and in our own, that matter the most.

Steve Viars
Dr. Viars has served as a pastor and counselor at Faith since 1987. He is an author, national speaker, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.