Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Lately it seems that the fields of economics and psychology have been asking many of the same questions. We are both wondering why people make certain decisions. It seems to me that economists have grown weary of their traditional models of explaining everything in dollars and cents. According to a story I heard on NPR’s “This American Life,” even their most complicated algorithms fail to adequately predict the economic behavior of the public.

Even psychology used to attempt to explain things in much a simpler way than it does today. Behaviorists thought that all behavior could be whittled down to stimulus-response schedules with reinforcement and punishment thrown in. Through their experiments, we learned a great deal about how animals learn, but applying similar principles to humans has shown to be problematic. It is just not that simple. People think about more than just rewards. Furthermore, we tend to think differently from person to person much more than animals. Then it gets very complicated.

I think we also try to think of God with the simplest terms. Many images come to mind, but they fail to describe God. Yet we seem to operate with these images in mind.

For example, we think that God will forgive us if we are good. Yet when we are not good, we expect punishment. Fortunately for us, the Bible does not support this view. Isaiah 55 says that we may turn to the Lord and receive mercy. He freely pardons.

May be it would be better to think about God like someone you just randomly met walking down the street. When you randomly meet someone, there are quite a few things about that person you can extrapolate from the situation and how they look. Despite those few things, the vast majority of information about that person is still a mystery.

Although I constantly want to learn more about God, I know there will always be some mystery in my thoughts of him. He is both simple and complex, here and there, today and tomorrow. What a mystery!

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