Abnormalcy Bias

Abnormalcy Bias
By: J.B. Hixson, Ph.D.

Most people are familiar with the term “normalcy bias,” or as it is known in the field of psychology, cognitive bias. The concept was introduced in the early 1970s by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman after studying perceptual bias in problem-solving.

In short, normalcy bias is a coping mechanism that blinds people to the truth even when it is right in front of their eyes. It is sometimes called “analysis paralysis” or “the ostrich effect” because it prevents people from recognizing the seriousness of a situation.

According to psychologists, people tend to underestimate the likelihood or impact of a disaster or other crisis. This phenomenon has a firm grip on the cerebrum of most people. For example, the notion that a powerful global cabal is conspiring with Satan and his evil celestial beings to take over the world and usher in a New World Order is too far-fetched. The concept is so far outside their “normal” view of life they cannot allow their minds to go there; but it is true (Psalm 2:1-12).

I would like to suggest that a different psychological phenomenon is gaining traction within the world of Bible prophecy enthusiasts. You might call it, “abnormalcy bias.” Here’s how it works.

As we witness the prophetic events of Scripture unfold before our eyes in unprecedented ways, we tend to assume the end of the world as we know it is upon us. “This is it!” we exclaim. “The Lord is coming back any second!” We rally together with other students of prophecy and begin making plans to bug out. While it is wise to develop a well-thought-out preparedness plan (Proverbs 22:3), I sometimes wonder if the pendulum of awareness has swung 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

Although many people stick their heads in the sand and ignore the signs of the times—normalcy bias, some overreact and work themselves up into a panic, skittering about frantically as they herald the impending apocalypse—abnormalcy bias. There is a fine line between preparedness and panic. We are called to be awake and aware (1 Thessalonians 5:6), but we must never be anxious or alarmed (2 Timothy 1:7).

It is one thing to eagerly await the return of the Lord with excitement and expectancy (Philippians 3:20); it is quite another to devolve into hysteria. I hear from people regularly who are emptying their bank accounts, selling their possessions, and heading for the hills. This is a sure sign of abnormalcy bias.

Once you awaken to the world as it really exists, a world under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19), you so desperately want the Lord Jesus to return you see signs of His coming behind every earthquake, weather phenomenon, and economic upheaval. This leads to the unintended scenario where God’s people, well-intentioned though they may be, quit before their job is done.

When the Lord comes in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17), will you be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)? Or will you emerge sheepishly from your underground bunker, ashamed that you did not do more in the waning moments of this age?

God has us here for a reason. The Church is His divine design for advancing the message of grace and bringing the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. The more the signs of the times point to the soon return of our Savior, the more we should work urgently to fulfill the Great Commission. Now is not the time to circle the wagons; now is the time to rescue the masses!

Let me encourage you to be on guard against abnormalcy bias. Do not become so fixated on the eastern sky that you ignore the fields in the foreground—fields that are white unto harvest (John 4:35). Look up. Yes! Be watchful. Yes! But be busy. May the Lord find us faithful, not fearful.

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