A Sound Mind

Cognitive Bias is a systematic error in thinking which affects how we process information, distorting our perception and causing us to act irrationally. This bias is rooted in incorrect beliefs about ourselves, others and/or the world which cause us to want Reality to be different than it actually is, hindering our ability to rightly engage the world. This corruption in our minds makes us vulnerable to even more deception, causing more irrational behavior.

To the degree we’re free of Cognitive Bias, the healthier our mind is, the freer we are to think, reason and make good decisions. A sound mind honestly and (therefore more) accurately perceives the world and responds more rationally, coherently, consistently.

The challenge here is that we’re all limited and incomplete in our understanding (1Co 8:2); we’re unable to focus on everything we perceive all at once, and our world is also extremely complex, very difficult to interpret optimally. So, God has ingeniously designed our minds to focus our attention on what’s important, to categorize and generalize our perceptions based on past experience in order to simplify this complexity. We learn to develop mental shortcuts based on what we already know to help us efficiently process new information and make important decisions in real time — otherwise we couldn’t function well. This is God’s design, and might look like Cognitive Bias, but it’s different.

Cognitive Bias is when our internal agenda, what we want Reality to be like, causes us to deal dishonestly with the facts, to apply different rules of evaluation, different standards depending on the situation, in order to protect our own distorted version of Reality. It reflects a fundamentally dishonest worldview, a tendency to love deception rather than the truth. (Jn 3:19)

Cognitive Bias is the root cause of a reprobate mind (Ro 1:28), a corrupt mind (2Ti 3:8), a carnal mind (Ro 8:7); it’s a condition we build into ourselves over time which cripples our ability to understand and obey the truth.

The danger in Cognitive Bias is that what we believe about our world impacts what we can actually perceive about it; believing lies distorts our perception so we can no longer even see the truth. When we neglect to align ourselves with the Reality in front of us, we blind ourselves; this is self-deception, the worst kind of deception. (Ja 1:22) Yet it’s how we all start out (Ti 3:3), and it’s the natural state of most everyone we know. The masses of humanity are unaware, deluded, passively content in the darkness, thoughtlessly traveling the wide road to destruction. (Mt 7:13-14)

A sound mind isn’t actually very common; it’s the precious gift of God. (2Ti 1:7)

To deliver ourselves from Cognitive Bias and develop a sounder, healthier mind, while working within the limitations of our current mental framework, we must determine to love the truth and pursue it at all costs. (Pr 23:23) We must acknowledge that we very likely still have biases which cause us to react irrationally and be on the lookout for them, even inviting others to point out any hint of inconsistency in our behavior. This is the path to freedom. (Jn 8:32)

The key is to start paying attention (Ps 119:9), training ourselves to notice and carefully observe more of what is going on around us, and also within us, and train more of our focus on that part of Reality which appears anomalous, contrary to our world view, opposing our beliefs and presuppositions — our bias. We must be on the lookout for signs that we’re misinterpreting Reality.

When we notice an irrational response, a desire to believe a certain way which appears to be inconsistent with Reality, reactions which don’t align with the facts in front of us, we must ask God for repentance, to open our eyes to see and believe the truth, and deliver ourselves from the snare of deception. (2Ti 2:25-26)

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3 thoughts on “A Sound Mind”

  1. I like the blog, but it would be more helpful to me, not sure about others, if your clear and concise definition is provided upfront, rather than putting it in the third to the last paragraph. That way, the reader understands the definition, and then you can explain what can prevent someone from having a sound mind.

    Also there seems to be one aspect of this that is missing from the blog. In terms of spiritual truth, as opposed any other type of truth, I suggest referencing the only verse that specifically mentions the term, sound mind, which is in second Timothy 1:7.

    This verse brings up some questions, considering that you start the third to the last paragraph with “To deliver ourselves from cognitive bias and develop a sound mind… ” So the question is, Can anybody deliver themselves from spiritual cognitive bias with their own mind?

    If Paul is saying that it is God who gives us a sound mind is he speaking about believers or does this include unbelievers? If God has not given a person saving faith in Him, does that mean by definition that this person cannot have a sound mind? If so, is there anything they can do about it other than to pray and would they feel the need to pray if they had cognitive bias?

    If a believer is the only person to whom God gives a sound mind, does God automatically provide that permanently for each believer? Or only to those who ask for it? Or does He give a partially sound mind that still has some degree of occasional cognitive bias? Can a person have a partially sound mind? It seems like it is all or nothing to me. Something is either sound or it isn’t. For example, is there such a thing as partially sound doctrine? Are the “those” in second Timothy 2:25 believers or lost people or both?

    If it is automatic, can we lose it and end up with permanent cognitive bias/reprobate mind? I would say, no, for believers. If you can lose it, this means you never had it. These are some of the questions that are not specifically addressed, as far as I can tell.

    1. Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful response!! I think these are great questions.

      The Greek word translated “of a sound mind” is σωφρονισμοῦ (sōphronismou), meaning self-control, self-discipline, prudence. The word appears only in 1Ti 1:7, as Paul admonishes Timothy to not be afraid, etc., so the discipline seems to me to be focused more on mental/cognitive/reasoning self-control more so than physical / emotional, suggesting the “sound mind” translation (rather than merely “self-control”).

      Given this, since self-control itself is evidently on a spectrum and not all-or-nothing, and since both believers and unbelievers can have various levels of self-control, I would say the same applies to being of a sound mind: we can grow in the soundness of our minds, our ability to control our thought processes and avoid the various types of Cognitive Bias that we all are prone to committing.

      And as lost people can exhibit various levels of self-control and soundness in the physical and secular areas of the mind, I would say this applies to the spiritual as well; I think there are degrees of spiritual soundness of mind in the lost, in the same way that there are degrees of moral depravity. I would say that all men, even the lost, if they seek soundness of mind from God and attempt to pursue honesty in their thinking, that He will help them grow in this area, even if they aren’t saved and never do get saved.

      As to how both believers and unbelievers might cooperate with God in developing a sound mind, at the same time that He is “giving” us a sound mind, this seems equivalent to all of the other ways God provides for spiritual growth, graces which He gives us but which we also need to work out for ourselves. How this works out practically is the mystery we’ve been working through for months. It is clear to me that we can both progress by becoming more sound in our minds, and we can also regress and get worse through negligence and/or laziness or ignorance.

      So, I see this concept of “sound mind” on a spectrum of mental health, and I think God will put into believers a tendency to become more and more healthy over time, as a general rule, though they may deteriorate in certain areas for a season, and that unbelievers will generally deteriorate in their overall mental health over time, though they might get better in specific worldly areas in certain seasons of life.

      I think how exactly it all works is definitely a mystery, but I think the core responsibility is clear: we should seek to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, seek grace from God to develop a sound mind, and we should encourage everyone else do to the same.


  2. Tim, Andy

    One thought. Saul/Paul. Saul is high IQ and probably Mensa quality of mind thinking. Yet, despise his rigorous mental processes — he rang false until slowly the new man, Paul manifested… Galatians 1:15 – 16
    But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me … immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood…..

    Since one day we will Know as we are currently Known — a strong indication that we have a lot of room to grow in.

    One question of late that I ask myself, is, Do I believe the Word of God when I do not walk in certain aspects of it. Whether the physical realm such as they shall lay hands on the sick and they Shall recover — or measuring myself against Loving Kindness to comprehend where my flesh is too strong. I find as Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”, indicates to myself, I must continue to draw near to Jesus regardless of where I “am” in life – He alone has the words of Eternal Life. [If this is off topic, take liberty to remove the post.


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