COGNITIVE DISSONANCE – Sowing Confusion to Distort Reality - Bible Study Special
COGNITIVE DISSONANCE – Sowing Confusion to Distort Reality
“O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:1-2).
INTEGRITY AND TRUTH
Integrity is the state of being whole or undivided. As some of you know, I’m a Star Trek fan and on the show whenever they encounter a space storm, they’re always yelling, “Structural integrity is down to 30%, Captain!” which means the ship is going to break apart. So, if a ship has good structural integrity, it is solid and isn’t falling apart. Similarly, having integrity of heart or mind means that you are “structurally sound” in your devotion, purpose, understanding, or behavior. Integrity as it relates to a foundation means it isn’t crumbling or falling apart – it is solid and good for building upon.
God desires us to get on the only foundation in this world that has true and lasting integrity—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All who are truly saved are standing on this unshakable foundation that will see us through all the fires of hell here on earth and into eternity and beyond. This foundation is THE TRUTH, THE WAY, AND THE LIFE. Never before have we so needed a “way” marked out for us as the paths of the world have become twisted and broken. We’ve never needed Life more as we exist in a culture that is increasingly not only choosing things that lead to harm and death, but openly celebrating them. And never before have we so badly needed truth as lies and distortions and confusions swirl about us, confusing our vision like a kaleidoscope. The devil is constantly sowing confusion and deception into the information we take in, to distort our perception of reality. God is the ultimate source of truth and His Holy Spirit leads us in the truth.
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13a).
We can rely on the Spirit of God when we cannot rely on anything else - when authorities and powers speak to us and it troubles our hearts, the Spirit is warning us. Listen to the Spirit's leading and wait on the conviction of the Truth. The weapon of the Spirit is the Word of God. Know it.
The Gospel of Jesus is our foundation: “Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed’” (Isaiah 28:16).
Once we are on that simple foundation, God wants us to build our knowledge and understanding of His truth in integrity (being whole, undivided in devotion, behavior, belief) through His Word. To do this, we must learn from His Holy Spirit, Who teaches us through God’s Word about God’s will and His Truth.
“God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
If you have integrity, you are without confusion, ulterior motives, divided loyalties, or conflicting beliefs that weaken you.
PART 1 - GENERAL ANALYSIS OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
A technical term for “confusion” and “conflicting beliefs” is “Cognitive Dissonance.” It means: “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change”. A person suffering from Cognitive Dissonance can believe opposite things to be true at the same time, and yet be completely oblivious to the fact that they contradict each other. It sounds silly, but it is incredibly common as we shall see, and increasingly so in our society.
Cognitive Dissonance is the antithesis of integrity of the mind or heart. It can prevent people from coming to a foundation of truth, because their perception of reality is so distorted, they can’t recognize truth from lies. Their foundation might even be shifting in real time as the Cognitive Dissonance in news and from politicians or pop stars is painting a fractured or warped reality into their hearts and minds, like a Picasso or Dali painting.
Imagine trying to build a house on shifting sands in a world where the laws of physics randomly turn on and off.
Or think on this illustration: you’ve purchased a furniture kit in a box that was advertised to have everything you need to put the chair together. But when you open it up, there are dozens of parts mixed in that don’t actually belong and can’t be used to construct the chair. Not knowing any better, you work day and night to put it together, but never make any progress.
In like manner, Cognitive Dissonance prevents progress in our understanding or growth in the truth and keeps us from establishing a firm foundation. Sometimes it comes from our own misunderstanding of something, while other times Cognitive Dissonance is purposefully sown into our minds and hearts by manipulative people.
Here are a few examples:
Perhaps you are a feminist, yet you support Sharia Law, OR you hate child abuse, yet you support abortion, OR perhaps you are a “follower” of Christ, yet you employ political or violent means to achieve the “Kingdom of God.” These are examples of people who lack integrity—many of whom are suffering from Cognitive Dissonance, not realizing the inconsistency of their beliefs.
We’ve seen more examples of Cognitive Dissonance in the last 3 months than in the previous 3 years. Just a few contemporary examples: Remember when we couldn't assemble for church because of health risks, but we could assemble for protesting and rioting? We could shop in big corporate stores, but we couldn't shop in small businesses because they were somehow unsafe? We couldn’t go to a political rally because it was a spreading center for the virus, but we could protest and riot and they said there was no evidence that the virus spread that way. And on, and on the Cognitive Dissonance has gone, spreading confusion and uncertainty and preventing people from working on solid information.
This is a very timely topic for Believers as we wrestle with the confusion and distraction coming from powers and principalities in our world. There is so much confusion in the world.
And is it any surprise? We’re being inundated with Cognitive Dissonance—in books, movies, television, news—everywhere! Characters in stories, politicians, experts, and the like, say one thing is true (A) and then do something completely opposite (B) as if they are both compatible (A=B). This sows confusion and disrupts our progress towards constructing a truthful worldview because “A” does not actually equal “B”. But if we don’t pick up on that, and we accept what they say, our sense or reality has just been warped by degrees.
Why is this done? Because people are easily manipulated if they don’t have integrity— they can’t construct a framework to understand the truth. Their minds are filled with inconsistent, unanchored thoughts, leaving them incapable of recognizing the firm, logical foundation of truth to build their understanding upon. Instead, they must rely on their emotions to “know” what is true and right—situation by situation. And emotions are not only easily manipulated but often contrary to the truth. When a crisis comes, they have no foundation to weather the storm and are swept away in the mob, trial, or hardship to their ruin by their flesh, “ like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great” (Lk. 6:49).
Instead, strive for integrity—seek the true foundation and build upon it: “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” (Lk. 6:47-48).
May we say with David, “I will give heed to the blameless way. When will You come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me” (Ps. 101:2-3).
May we seek the integrity of God in our hearts and minds so that we may be wise as serpents at the schemes of the devil to destroy us in the storms of life. Even so, Amen.
PART 2 - COGNITIVE DISSONANCE IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
God desires us to get on the one true foundation—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All who are truly saved are standing on this foundation.
“Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed’” (Isaiah 28:16).
Once we are on that simple foundation, God wants us to build our knowledge and understanding of His ways in integrity through His Word. To do this, we must learn from His Holy Spirit, Who teaches us through God’s Word about God’s will and His Truth. Through this process, we root out the Cognitive Dissonance that has been sown into our minds and hearts by satan’s world.
But, Cognitive Dissonance can still prevent us from building anything structurally sound or lasting upon that foundation. Sometimes this Cognitive Dissonance comes from our upbringing or our education and is so entrenched in our way of thinking that we don’t recognize it and can’t understand the truth that people share with us. Other times, the devil plants it in us through his servants teaching, advice, or instruction.
Think of some examples of Cognitive Dissonance in the Church: Salvation by grace but also works of the law (the Catholic Church, and the Galatians, would like to claim both), We are slaves of God, but we are also most definitely sons and He our Father. Pastors will say, “We must have faith in God’s provision, but we need you to give us what money you have.” Where is the integrity in these things?
“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:1-5)
Paul is dealing with Cognitive Dissonance in these churches.
They are unable to build their understanding, knowledge, or wisdom on the foundation of truth because they believe conflicting ideas to be true at the same time. Their efforts are vain (like the furniture kit).
Paul uses leaven to illustrate the effect of Cognitive Dissonance: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
The Gospel is unleavened bread, but the Corinthians were adding leaven into it. And that little leaven destroys the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Leaven and unleavened bread are not compatible. Leaven makes unleavened bread unusable. It is no longer whole, it is mixed. And you will not have integrity.
So where does this leaven come from? As we’ve said above, it can come from our own misunderstanding of things, but other times it is from people who have sown it into our hearts and minds:
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7).
Here at Galatia, there are people trying to sow confusion into the Church – probably by quoting Scriptures from the Old Testament. Bringing the Law into the Church.
People are mixing man’s “wisdom” with God’s wisdom. And if this is what you are using to build on the foundation of the Gospel, you create disorder and harm.
“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:13-17).
What you build on the Foundation of Christ really matters. It needs to be compatible with Him.
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Hay and stubble are incompatible with precious stones. If you are mixing the two, you will produce nothing beautiful or useful, but something more akin to a head-scratching, modern art exhibit.
Similarly, if you don’t realize that works of the law are incompatible with faith, you are living out this fractured life in your behavior and you are teaching this leaven in the unleavened bread of the Gospel, sowing confusion in others. I see so much confusion and Cognitive Dissonance coming from Christians on Facebook. Everyone is confused about even the basics of the Gospel, because of other confused people and malicious people trying to manipulate Christians and prevent their works from doing any good.
Cognitive Dissonance interrupts our growth like a jeweler trying to make jewelry. And they are using straw to set diamonds. It will not produce anything of value and you will never achieve anything lasting.
We are supposed to grow on God’s foundation in our understanding and in good works for the glory of God.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Paul warns us about the Cognitive Dissonance of mixing things that don’t belong into our lives in Christ:
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?” (1 Corinthians 10:14-22)
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16a)
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (Ephesians 5:6-8).
Speaking of the rich: “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you” (1 Timothy 6:18-21).
“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).
May we be in God’s Word with sincere hearts. May we pay attention to what we believe in integrity. May we recognize what has been sown into our hearts and minds by the devil - those seeds of confusion - thoughts and desires that prevent our growth in understanding of the knowledge of God.
Examine what you believe in the light of God’s Word by the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Is there leaven in you? Is there confusion?
“God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Even so, Amen.