Polemics Terms: Proximity Bias
Proximity Bias is the phenomenon of individuals believing that being close to a particular false teacher, false teaching or misbehavior somehow changes the acceptability of the teacher, teaching or behavior.
Proximity Bias is an inconsistent jump in logic that is common among followers of particularly prominent teachers.
Attenders at NorthPoint Community Church answer critics of Andy Stanley, regarding his attacks on Scriptural sufficiency, that if they could only be there experience the church on Sunday and understand their heart, it would somehow change the critical perspectives of Stanley’s online video messages.
Fans of Hillsong Church and its various pastors, like Brian Houston or Carl Lentz, ask discerning Christians who have criticized the Word-Faith and compromised doctrine of Hillsong if they have ever worshiped there. They believe that if only the critics would worship at Hillsong locations in person, it would change their views about what is broadcast in audio or video around the world.
When discerning Christians point out the doctrinal problems of Latter Rain, New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and Kansas City Prophets-affiliated Mike Bickle and explain his false prophecies, they are asked if they have ever worshiped at International House of Prayer (IHOP). Somehow, they are convinced that feeling the “vibe” or the “spirit” of IHOP in person would somehow change the content of the church’s message.
Even sincere and ordinarily sound teachers can fall into this. When concerned Christians questioned the wisdom of Apologia Church flaunting Christian Liberty in relation to alcohol consumption, a prominent apologist accused them of “judging from afar,” implying that being closer to the church would somehow change the facts presented in video.
Reality dictates that subject content and context of a false teaching does not change just because someone appears personally at a false teacher’s gathering. This is a trait of cults, to imply that personal experience can change facts. It is also an assault on basic logic, because unless a discerning Christian is criticizing something pertaining to subjective experience – and are instead focusing their criticism on objective facts like audio, video or verified quotation – then personal encounters with the false teacher or false church doesn’t actually change the substance of the criticism.
For example, if prominent false teacher, Joel Osteen, teaches heresy (and he does), the friendliness of the congregation or warm reception of the greeters or celebratory attitude of the worship experience at Lakewood Church doesn’t change the fact that Osteen teaches heresy.