As we begin to understand the biblical definition of sin, which is to break God’s Law(1Jn 3:4), and to comprehend what this implies, the first question we’re likely to ask is, “Which laws do I have to keep?” (Mt 19:16-18a) It’s a perfectly legitimate question.
Yet even though it’s a natural question to ask, this may not be the best question; our initial inclinations aren’t always good. (1Co 2:14) In this case, the very act of asking reveals a problem, that we see God’s law as negative, an imposition, something to be avoided, contrary to us, opposed to us, that we’re averse to. As if God opens up His treasure chest to us and our first response is, “How much do I have to take?”
The part of us asking “Which laws am I required to obey?” isn’t the good part of us, the saved and redeemed part: it’s our carnal mind(Ro 8:7), the part that’s still at enmity with God, that’s not subject to His Law. (Ro 7:23)
Our new man delights in the Law of God (22), and longs after His precepts. (Ps 119:40) The better we understood God and the nature of His love for us, the more we trust that every one of His laws are precious beyond measure (Ps 19:10); we stop avoiding them and start searching them out diligently, trying to obey as many as we can. (Ps 119:4-5) The question our new man asks is, “Which laws am I allowed to obey?”
KeepingTorah brings us closer to God (Is 55:7) by exposing unrighteous tendencies in light of God’s holiness. (Ps 119:105) As we meditate on and obey the Law it renews the spirit of our minds. (Ro 12:2) That’s the goalof Torah (1Ti 1:5-8); there’s a great reward in obeying all of it (Ps 19:11), and this reward is God Himself. (Ps 37:4)
Rather than trying to find ways to discount and dismiss any part of God’s Law, we should be asking God to incline our hearts unto His testimonies(Ps 119:36), to open our eyes that we might behold wondrous things out of His Law (18), to make us understand the way of His precepts so we can share Him with others (27), and to make us go in the path of His commands because we delight in them. (35)
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 rulesof 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 lovethe 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)
God defines the carnal mind as enmity against God(Ro 8:7); it’s the disposition of hatred itself, being alienated from the life of God. (Ep 4:18) It’s not merely having enmity against God: the carnal mind is enmity itself. Enmity, animosity, hatred … this can’t be reconciled to God by definition, so God doesn’t try to fix this part of us: He crucifies it. (Ro 6:6)
Call it our old man(Ep 4:22), or the flesh(Ro 7:18), it’s the part of us that’s unlike Christ, in love with darkness, walking in lies, committed to sin. (1Jn 3:9) Christ isn’t redeeming this part of us; He’s delivering us from ourselves. (Ro 7:24-25)
The substance of this carnal mind, this contrary disposition, the body of this death (Ro 7:24), this evil nature within us, is the holding to, clinging to and trusting in the lie that God isn’t good, that He isn’t treating us the way we ought to be treated, that we know better than God what’s good for us. (Ge 4:13)
Every single sin, from the very first one (Ge 3:5), is rooted in this same simple lie: we keep on choosing this deceit as if it were true (Ps 119:118), acting it out in innumerable ways. This is our carnal mind, our flesh, our old man; it will never change (Ps 81:15), so it must die.
How do we participate in and cooperate with our own deliverance, in destroying this body of sin? (Ro 6:6) We come to know, believe, trust and obey God, acting in truth — only this sets us free. (Jn 8:32) We’re transformed by the renewing of our minds, how and what we think (Ro 12:2), continually realigning ourselves with the goodness and love of God. (Ep 3:17-19) We do this by humbly an prayerfully continuing in God’s Word. (Jn 8:31)
In other words, we relentlessly pursue the truth, we buy the truth, at any price required, and we never sell it (Pr 23:23), never settling for the lie, never preferring it, and we obey the truth we know, all of it. All truth is rooted in God, in Christ (Jn 14:6): there’s no darkness at all in Him. (1Jn 1:5)
The primary source of truth we have is Scripture, particularly Torah: God’s Law — this is God’s plumb line (Is 8:20), identifying, revealing and exposing the carnal mind. Just as Christ is the perfect incarnation of God (Jn 14:9), Torah is the consummate written embodiment of God’s nature and character. (Ps 119:18)
Both the carnal mind and the spiritual mind are identified in particular by their response to Torah: the carnal mind cannot be subject to Torah (Ro 8:7) and the spiritual mind delights in Torah. (Ro 7:22) It’s that simple: two natures at war within us. (23)
When we believe the lie that God isn’t good we act this out by distrusting His commands and insisting on doing things our own way, deciding what’s right and wrong for ourselves apart from God. (Ge 3:22) This brings us into captivity to the law of sin operating within (23), taken captive by Satan at his will. (2Ti 2:26)
The part of us that does this is the body of lies we’re harboring within us, all manifestations of this same, basic concept that God isn’t good. Whenever we find a law in Torah that we don’t love and obey as well as we can, we’re walking in the lie. Finding this within us, in any way shape or form, is to spot the carnal mind, to identify it.
When we find darkness within the protocol is straightforward; start obeying the truth as well as we can, walking out the truth of God’s goodness, holiness, justice and faithfulness with whatever will we find within to do so, asking God to quicken us with His Word (Ps 119:50), replacing the lies with truth (Ps 119:29), giving us repentance to acknowledge the truth (2Ti 2:25) that God is good, that His judgements are right(Ps 119:75), aligning our hearts with His Commandments (Ps 119:32), and with Himself.
All lies are malignant cancers, but feeling distant from God, alienated from Him, mistrustful of Him, bored with Him, doubting He loves us, that He’s faithful and just and good — this is ground zero, the fountain from which all other sin springs. This is violating the law of love, not loving God with all our might. With laser focus we ought to level the light of scripture on this darkness, meditating in the truth until the lies disperse and vanish. (Ep 3:19)
This isn’t a one-time thing: it’s a life-journey, one hour at a time, and God is always ready to show us the next step, whenever we’re ready to take it (Php 3:15) as His love is perfected in us. (1Jn 4:12)
The carnal nature in us, our old man, presumes we already know all we need to know; we don’t seek truth since we think we already have enough. It often operates in a vacuum of desperate self-deception (Re 3:17); the less we know the more confident we are in our understanding: in the extreme, it’s being utterly confident while knowing virtually nothing. (Pr 26:16)
We can detect this well-known principle operating in us, called the Dunning-Kruger effect, when we find ourselves over-estimating our own ability or knowledge, or underestimating that of others. Simply ask, what do I reallyknow about this? How well do my ideas hold up under the scrutiny of experts who disagree with me? How well do I understand their best counter-arguments? Do I have training and experience demonstrating my capability under stress? What are the true boundaries of this area? Is my confidence based on facts or presumption? Whenever we find ourselves smugly confident, unwilling to listen to and deeply consider the claims, opinions or skills of others, we’re deceiving ourselves. (Ja 1:22)
Were it not for the restraining grace of God, our sin nature here would put each of us well beyond hope (Ro 7:24), for one who thinks he already knows has closed his mind (Mt 13:15) and can’t learn. (Pr 26:12) But this presumption is simply priderooted in lies; we can learn from anyone, we can always improve if we’re poor in spirit and love the truth. As we perceive this arrogance operating within, it’s time to humble ourselves, soften our hearts, and repent. (Ja 4:10)
Rather than thinking we’ve arrived (Php 3:13-14) and are superior to others (Ro 2:19), God tells us all to be not wise in our own conceits (Ro 12:16c): helping each other seek and find the truth (a), esteeming others better, focusing first on fundamentals, along with the lowly. (b) Generally, when we’re missing it big, we’re missing the basics. (Mt 23:23)
This isn’t to say that we can’t be confident in our knowledge of God (Je 9:24), that we must always be doubting everything. (2Ti 1:12) There is room in faith and humility for confidence and certainty. (He_10:22) While that is true, it is also true that we don’t know everything about anything. (1Co 8:2) We can be both confident and teachable, grounded in the truth while ever seeking more of it.
If we think of our mind as the engine through which the totality of our thoughts are produced, the source from which our willful contemplation springs, we understand this is a mysterious, marvelous thing. (Ps 139:14)
In the physical, our mind is evidently our brain, the organ or vessel through which our soul expresses and reveals itself in thoughts, ideas, and imaginations: an incredibly complex, biological machine comprising chemicals and electricity through which the metaphysical and physical interact; it’s how our souls engage the universe, at least for now.
As with any organ or vessel, it’s designed for a purpose (Mt 22:37), so there’s an ideal state which enables it to fulfill this purpose.
It follows then that a mind may be soundand healthy (2Ti 1:7), or it may be corrupt(1Ti 6:5), reprobate(Ro 1:28), broken and twisted such that it cannot rightly fulfill its purpose.
A mind may also be inconsistent, holding contrary beliefs and opinions, we might say double-minded, resulting in a pattern of instability and unpredictability (Jas 1:8); or a mind might be defiled(Tit 1:15), dirty and polluted with things that ought not to be within it. A mind might also be weak, feeble(1Th 5:14), untrained and incapable of strenuous activity, or simply blind(2Co 4:4), unable to rightly perceive reality at all.
In particular, our mind might be carnal, at war with God, harboring hatred of God: it is enmity against God. (Ro 8:7a) We contrast this with a spiritual mind, aligned with and submitted to God, rightly engaging and integrating metaphysical reality with the physical. (Ro 8:6)
Distinguishing between a carnal and a spiritual mind lies primarily in attitudes or beliefs with respect to Torah, God’s Law: the carnal mind always resists some aspect of Torah; it cannot submit to the whole of Torah (Ro 8:7) — rather, it relentlessly insists on having its own way, in some way. This is the only means whereby we may reliably distinguish the carnal mind from the spiritual. (He 4:12)
Each time we willfully choose a path contrary to God’s definition of moral reality in Torah, we literally corrupt the physiological, neurological circuits of our own brains; we build in patterns of pathology into the very wiring of our own nervous systems, making it more and more difficult for us to reason and think clearly.* (Pr 5:22)
As with any notion of health, mental pathology is a matter of degree. So, no matter what state we find ourselves in, there’s something we can do to move to a better place — and we should. (Is 55:7)
God calls us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ep 4:23-24), transformed by a continuous retraining of our thought patterns so that we might prove God’s will (Ro 12:2), such that we might have the mind of Christ (Php 2:5), to have His thought patterns flowing freely and regularly through ours. This happens as we hide God’s laws in our hearts, meditate on them, and take heed to our ways to ensure that every thought pattern aligns with Torah. (Ps 119:9-11) As we abide in Him like this we actually do have His mind at work within. (1Co 2:16)
My old man is being crucified with Christ; God’s destroying my selfish, sinful nature and freeing me to obey Him. (Ro 6:6)
So I’m to put this old man off, with his lying desires (Ep 4:22), and put on my new man, the part of me being renewed in knowledge after God’s image. (Col 3:10)
This gives me a key to what this old manactually is: my carnal mind(Ro 8:7), my wrong thinking, false paradigms and mindsets in which I walk with selfish motives, unable to please God. (Ro 8:8) I live in God as He gives me understanding. (Ps 119:144)
So I find the old man to be nothing more than a personification of the selfish lies I’m holding on to. This demystifies him, exposes him, makes him vulnerable and helpless. He’s insidiously strong, no doubt, but in the power of God his strongholds are going down (2Co 10:4), one lie at a time. This process is certainly mysterious in some ways, but in principle it’s simple.
I put off the old man by hiding God’s Word, the sword of the Spirit, in my heart(Ps 119:11), meditating on it regularly (Ps 119:97), continually exposing myself to truth (Jn 17:17), noting where I deviate from His Way(Ps 119:9), and asking God to make me understand (Ps 119:27), order my steps in His Word (Ps 119:33) and set me free. (Jn 8:32)
I also engage with others in community doing the same thing, listening to what they’ve learned, encouraging them and being encouraged by them as we edify one another, praying for each other (Ep 3:14-19), helping each other see our blind spots and pursuing Godtogether.
Putting off the old man isn’t like taking off a coat; it’s more like climbing a mountain, or peeling an onion, step after step, layer after layer. It’s a growth process, walking in the light, building an eternal relationship, connecting with God’s heart, seeking His face. (Ps 27:8) It’s a life pattern of spiritual exercise, a discipline, a journey. (Php 3:14)