“Echo Chamber”: an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.
Are you in an echo chamber?
If you’re American, chances are you currently find yourself in a political echo chamber.
If you’ve read my blog posts during the election, you know I’ve been both a devoted Republican and a devoted Democrat. I’ve lived within both echo chambers and BOTH caused me to compromise on Christian values. (Yes, BOTH).
It wasn’t until I made a concerted effort to throw off political labels and seek out information from “both sides” that I could truly call myself independent. This election, I refused to engage in political jokes and memes and chose to represent Christ as best as I could, no matter who won. Because no matter who I voted for, as a Christian, work still needs to be done to fight for social justice and moral order.
And I couldn’t realize that until I left the echo chambers behind.
But what about denominational echo chambers?
This might ruffle some feathers, but what if we decided to leave those behind too?
I say this as someone who loves theology. I am nondenominational, but I hold to Reformed Doctrine. With most doctrines, I have a way that I believe is right (and I have the verses to back it up). With others, I may not have definitive answers, but I know the guys that do. When I have questions, I turn to people like Matt Chandler, John Piper, Robby Gallaty, etc to see what their thoughts are. I certainly have preferences, to say the least.
All that said, I don’t think it’s healthy for Christians to enter echo chambers. On the contrary, if we are to have a defense for our faith (1 Peter 3:15), and if we are to test the things we hear to see if they’re true (Acts 17:11), we need to make an effort of stay outside of echo chambers.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear them or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” – 1 Peter 3:14-15 (CSB, emphasis mine)
“The people here were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, since they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11 (CSB)
Lately I’ve been listening to this podcast. I won’t name them yet (because I haven’t heard enough yet to truly vet them out), but I found them when I was trying to learn more about being the “Spiritual Gifts” debate (Cessationism vs Continuationism. I’ve included links to a great resource if you’re interested in learning more).
As I began to listen to their catalogue, I found their premise interesting. They interviewed Christians from across the board, not to debate with them, but to give them a place to make their arguments as to why they believed the way they did. They even corrected an error in my thinking when they spoke about a well known Pentecostal denomination, one I had previously shrugged off as having bad doctrine.
I learned this denomination actually has a very strict doctrinal “code”, if you will, that all their churches must adhere to. Whether or not I agree with the code is a different story, but the fact of the matter was that they had a thought out list with scripture to back up their statement of beliefs.
See, my own “Reformed Echo Chamber” would have told me all Pentecostals were heretics. “The entire denomination was doomed”, so to speak.
But I consider myself a Continuationist now BECAUSE of Pentecostals. When I first learned Matt Chandler was one, I questioned it for a bit, but remained a Cessationist. It wasn’t until someone I work with told me about encounters they had with seeing people healed right in front of them (not that Benny Hinn nonsense, like a REAL healing), that I really started researching it, searching the scriptures, and, once again, seeking out teachers I trusted.
That was when I found out John Piper was ALSO a Continuationist. It led me to discover Sam Storms, who wrote “Practicing The Power“. While I haven’t finished reading that book, it all but cemented my belief that the gifts still continue today. I still believe at times they can be abused, but as Matt Chandler puts it, pastoring can be “abused” at times, but we don’t discount that gift completely. Why would we do the same with the other gifts?
All that to say, it took me stepping outside my echo chamber of “reformed doctrine” to see that.
So, how do we step outside of our echo chambers? Here are some practical steps:
- Make a friend from the “other side”. Whether it be a Republican/Democrat or someone you disagree with on some tenet of theology, make a friend who disagrees with you. Invite them to sit down with them over a cup of (socially distanced) coffee and politely discuss why you both believe what you believe (and let them go first). And the biggest piece here…LISTEN. Don’t listen to debate. Listen to LISTEN. Who knows? They may end challenging you.
- Know why you believe what you believe. One of the first things I did as a baby Christian was make a promise to myself to treat the Bible like a book I’d never read before. Why? Because I knew I believed a lot of false doctrines growing up and I didn’t want that seeping into my new life with Christ. (Truth be told, I can look back and see that was the Holy Spirit guiding to me, because I don’t know how else I was able to get a sense about false teachers as a baby Christian with no friends for a good year or so). Do RESEARCH. Why do you believe women should or shouldn’t be pastors? Why do you believe spiritual gifts are still around or aren’t? Is it because you have verses to back up your beliefs? Or is it because someone told you that years ago and you just stuck with it? Test what others tell you against the Word (even me!).
- Break out of echo chambers. This one is the hardest (and I caution you to read this carefully). If everything on your social media only has ONE view, all you are listening to are people who agree with you and never challenge you. Purposely follow people who challenge you. Purposely put views in your sight that cause you to question. Questions aren’t dangerous. They will either have you change your mind or strengthen your previously held beliefs.
The Bible is inerrant. It can stand against our questions.
I know this was a long one, but if you’re reading this, I highly encourage you to examine yourself. Where do you find yourself in an echo chamber? Is it politics? Is it denomination? Is it something else? It’s okay to have opinions and preferences, but if you are calling people who disagree with you, people who are also made in God’s image, “demons”, that’s a red flag that you’ve allowed yourself to be influenced by an echo chamber.
Step outside. It’s really nice out here.
Grace & Peace,